Sound Transit has released their fourth quarter ridership data which wraps up 2016 as well as the January 2017 numbers.

Average daily ridership for Link in January was:

  • Weekday: 66,060 (+89.0%)
  • Saturday: 49,853 (+134.7%)
  • Sunday: 31,741 (+63.0%)

Other weekday modal ridership stats:

  • Sounder: 17,057  (+2.5%)
  • Tacoma Link: 3,072 (-7.2%)
  • ST Express: 63,144 (+0.7%)
  • Sound Transit Systemwide, +27.0% Weekday, +34.7% Total Boardings

The complete January Ridership Summary is here. The Q4 numbers are here.

Also released were station ridership stats for Q4:

  • University of Washington: 9,300 daily boardings
  • Capitol Hill: 6,800
  • Westlake: 10,200 – up 37.8% over Q4 2015
  • University Street: 5,100 – up 88.9%
  • Pioneer Square: 3,900 – up 85.7%
  • International District Chinatown: 5,300 – up 65.6%
  • Stadium: 1,100 – up 37.5%
  • SODO: 2,000 – up 53.8%
  • Beacon Hill: 2,700 – up 35%
  • Mount Baker: 2,300 – up 15%
  • Columbia City: 2,400 – up 33.3%
  • Othello: 2,400 – up 26.3%
  • Rainier Beach: 1,900 – up 26.7%
  • Tukwila/International Blvd: 2,700 – No change
  • SeaTac/Airport: 5,200 – down 10.3%
  • Angle Lake: 2,800

My charts below the fold.

48 Replies to “2016 Ridership Wrapup + Jan 2017”

  1. Are they going to release station pair data? I am curious how many trips from Husky Stadium and CHS are just between those stations.

    1. I was wondering the same thing. Just listing southbound versus northbound boardings would answer that question (i. e. how many board northbound from Capitol Hill).

  2. Random comment.How are the good folks at Seattle Transit blog going to respond to the car tab ” controversy”? In addition what’s the plan to push back against the fools in Olympia calling the car tab tax unconstitutional? And Eyman is lurking on the horizon with more really shitty ideas. What’s the plan to swat this shit down before it catches fire? I called my State Senator today.

    1. Yeah, I think ST has a PR mess on their hands. Seattle Times keeps running with the story. It will play well, especially in areas that aren’t getting any trains.

    2. The only real way to fix it is for sound transit to propose the solution.

      One way to fix the car tab mess it to use Kelley blue book value. At this point ST3 is paid for it might take longer to pay off some construction bonds but the money will still come in the door. Plus with the property values going up in all the taxing districts there is a good chance it wont slow anything down. ST3 made some pretty conservative assumption about the economy.

      1. I’d say first move is to get with your own State reps, House and Senate, and see what they plan to do about this problem. If anything can be done to make the car value assessment fairer- worth some State effort to do it.

        Wish I could say I can’t believe that nobody’s touched this problem since first time it wrecked transit. But for transit itself, I hope nobody thought it would be easy to keep this many people and their localities on board for thirty years.

        However, we do have a precedent. A subway to build through Downtown Seattle. Which a lot of suburbanites would agree to pay for decades before they could get train ride one from home. Most of whom are still riding Tunnel buses from their homes. And none of whom have “bailed”.

        And many of whom joined the majority vote for ST-3. So might be a good idea to have some plans of essentially running LINK corridors with express buses, and whatever lanes and signals they need. Configured for fastest possible rail conversion.

        My only real hesitancy about taking 41 and 255 out of the DSTT years before their rail replacements arrive.

        Would fight harder to keep them- it’ll be awhile before any ground gets broken on Convention Center project- if I didn’t think I’d be fighting the agencies running the Tunnel now. Though 2018 isn’t next week. Or next shake-up.

        But we should be on the lookout for chances where this phased approach could work. I was surprised how many far-future train riders accepted very non-standard buses as a down-payment.

        Mark Dublin

      2. I think going with Blue Book value makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if the state changes the way it calculates car tabs accordingly very soon.

      3. Well….to bring this thread back to being at least halfway on topic, what the by-Station ridership data would suggest is that a move to reduce ST revenue by recalcing the MVET schedule would probably hurt the peripheries of the system more than it would hurt the core.

        I’d base that conclusion on two things:

        1) ridership and ridership growth won’t be as great on the periphery, and thus the potential for federal matching funds won’t be as great. This the periphery segments should be impacted more by the reduced revenue stream.

        2) property values are rising faster in the urban core, potentially at least partially offsetting the reduction inMVET revenue.

      4. Everybody, the State changed the depreciation to be something close to “Blue Book” in 2008, but ST already had bonds sold backed by the old formula, so the courts ruled that they couldn’t impair the bonds by changing method.

        I think that’s why they say ST can’t sell bonds with the other method until 2023

    1. Probably. What isn’t clear to me, though, is whether those numbers are for weekday ridership. My guess is they are. Stadium has low weekday ridership, but relatively high weekend ridership — but not this time of year. I think you would have to do an average to see where it ranked. It would still likely be at the bottom, but a bit higher than this.

      I think the station makes the most sense for baseball. For football (of either sort) you are just as well off with stopping at I. D., where you have a more pleasant approach to the game. I would assume, therefore, that there is a very strong bias towards spring and summer for that stop. If they add an arena down there (for basketball and hockey) ridership would pick up. There are some office buildings to the southwest of the baseball stadium (e. g. Real Networks) but that looks like a long and unpleasant walk (obviously not enough to generate much in ridership).

      Of course the stop didn’t cost much, so I don’t see much loss. It is also possible that some of the distant suburban stations will come in below it, eventually.

      1. It’s also adjacent to the Greyhound terminal – which probably couldn’t have been built there without it. But much of the area is a desolate wasteland – much of it taken up by Metro bus bases and Metro parking garages. WS-DOT could allow some development on the land between 4th Ave and 3rd Ave which might improve the streetscape. Also a more direct pedestrian route over the train tracks, rather than that needless and inefficient spiral…

      2. They could also allow some development on top of the Metro bus bases.

        This station could also wind up being a key transfer point after the tunnel gets closed to buses.

      3. I think the spiral is necessary if Royal Brougham is to intersect 4th at-grade… and probably also to avoid running into the I-90 ramps.

      4. They could at least add stairs as a shortcut for those physically able to use them.

    2. Not forevermore. Once Boeing Access Road station is built, Stadium station will never again have the lowest ridership in the Link system.

      1. It’s hard to know how driverless technology will affect demand, but the BAR Station will be the go-to station for many Renton residents. Seeing how popular drop-off and pick-up is increasing, I would not be surprised if BAR Station does better than predicted because of heavy use by Renton residents who arrange rides to and from the station.

      2. Ha, maybe so. Might all depend on how useful BAR is for bus transfers, both from South King to Seattle and from BAR to various Boeing airport destinations.

    3. Many unmanned light rail stations in other metro areas get much less demand than 1100 boardings on an average weekday (assumed 2200 in total entrances and exits). The more remarkable thing is that all other stations are well above this!

  3. Wow, those are incredible numbers but makes complete sense with ULink opening. The one curious thing is the decline of boardings at SeaTac.

    1. Angle Lake opened; people started transferring to/from the A Line there, and people started parking there instead of paying airport garage rates or getting dropped off.

      1. I wouldn’t have thought the number of people transferring from cars or buses would have made much of a dent compared to the number of people transferring from planes – and the opening of the two new stations should result in more airport travelers taking Link from the airport to the U-district and Capitol Hill. But, maybe that’s just because of the times of day I’ve been riding. Perhaps during morning rush hour, the number of people transferring from the A-line to Link (now, doing the switch at Angle Lake) is much higher.

        Yet another factor is that the total airline passenger volume seems to have increased significantly over the past few years, with pick-up and-drop-off lines getting longer and ever longer, as a result. Many times of day, it is often a much shorter wait time for a Link train than for an Uber or parking shuttle.

      2. Some personal perspective on Angle Lake. ‘Til I can get anything out of Olympia that isn’t stuck in traffic if it isn’t across the Nisqually River at 6AM, my fallback used to be to drive to Tacoma and park at the Dome. Giving me choice between 574 to Sea-Tac LINK, or Sounder. 594? At least previous two don’t terminate at I-5 and Spokane Street.

        This past year or so, Tacoma itself has been so trafficked-in I can’t keep schedule out of there on anything. Will give Sounder a break due to construction and freight traffic. But not for chronic mechanical “issues” with trains. Wonder if, like mumps or measles, “issues” are also contagious. Too bad Sounder platform has elevators.

        Far from complaining about the fifty mile drive each way to Angle Lake. Seriously, two-lane back road motoring is my only recreation. Also have the luxury of three hour one-way travel time. Could say that at least the view out of every mirror proves I’m not in the way of anything else.

        I was just fine with my car-tabs too- so must have left due to the same economic developments that have destroyed I-5 as an Interstate Highway, let alone a transit corridor. As well as half a lifetime of land use planning. I’ll be harder on transit critics when transit-friendly officeholders “call out” that strong housing market for the damage it’s inflicting.

        And also start calling other things by their name. An eight hour fire-engine proof overpopulated city-sized parking lot is a death trap. Fact that one over-speed truck driver can precipitate same or worse next rush hour proves that no terrorist has to waste a firecracker anymore. Just go on twitter and take credit.

        Mark Dublin

      3. Yeah, what William and Al said makes sense. SeaTac is down about 600, but Angle Lake has 2,800 new riders. The A alone could account for 600 of those riders switching. Drop offs also probably add a few as well. Paying for parking at SeaTac sounds crazy, but the more I think about it, there probably are a few who do it. It is probably competitive with parking downtown, and depending on traffic, faster than driving.

      4. At one point, there was discounted short-term parking being offered in the SeaTac parking garage to ride link to evening events downtown, such as Mariners games. Perhaps, with the opening of Angle Lake Station, this offer was discontinued.

      5. Another factor could be that Uber and Lyft got the okay to start picking people up from the airport in spring of 2016. That would definitely take some business away from Link.

      6. Maybe – but taking Uber or Lyft from SeaTac airport all the way to Seattle is still very expensive, especially after adding the airport pick-up fees. And, you still have to wait up to 20-30 minutes while your driver inches forward in the line of cars to get to the pick-up spot. Even if one doesn’t live within walking distance of a Link Station, taking Link as close to home as you can, and ordering an Uber from there is way cheaper than picking up the Uber right from the airport. Uber and Lyft probably took more business away from taxis than from Link.

    2. When I add the three Pacific Hwy stations together, I see a 25.9 percent increase (from 8500 to 10700).

      It’s hard to identify a singular cause. Some is the Angle Lake opening. Some is the U-Link opening (better access for UW students and staff in the area). Some is just system growth.

      As great as growth mostly due to U-Link is, a more significant trend is the double-digit demand growth in the Rainier Valley. Either UW and Capitol Hill are now more popular from this area, the new housing in the corridor is adding riders or buses are losing riders to Link. This is more significant because it shows that ridership can grow without adding stations or parking in a mostly residential area.

      1. UW station is a big deal. The 48 takes a long time, especially at rush hour where it stops at every stop along the way, and now it doesn’t go to Columbi City so you have to transfer at Mt Baker. If you take Link that’s 20 minutes in and another 20 minutes on the 71/72/73X or longer if it gets stuck in traffic and you can’t use the express lanes because they’re going the other way. So a lot of people probably switched to Link when UW station opened.

      2. Al is right – the RV growth is significant. If I remember correctly, it was closer to 5% growth last year.

        I’d imagine it’ll drop back to <10% growth next year as much of the bump is people switching from bus routes (as Mike says), but it'll be growth off of a larger base.

  4. I remember back even a year or two ago when I’d be the only person waiting in Beacon Hill station for a NB train … now it’s rare to see less that 10 whenever I use that station

  5. There would seem to be a strong case for skipping stadium station except on game days…

    1. That’s probably overkill. Northbound trains have to slow for the tunnel signaling anyway, and southbound trains aren’t going that quickly so <1 min would probably be saved. Greyhound riders wouldn't be happy if they had to walk further.

    2. There’s still few other use cases of that stop besides fans going to events. There is a Greyhound station there, and a few people (e.g. janitors) might need to work at the stadiums on non-gamedays, and might ride the train to work.

      1. Being weekday ridership the numbers almost certainly do not represent event ridership. Ridership on event days would almost certainly be higher.

        Assuming RT’s, this station is accounting for about 3% of Link ridership. While that is small, it most certainly is not insignificant. And remember that there are many Metro routes that don’t break the thousand boardings mark in their totality.

        Additionally, you wouldn’t want to make this stop an event day stop only. There is something to be said for consistency, and who wants to be forced to remember the Seahawks/Sounders/Mariners/whatever schedule anyway? Best leave that to the sports fans.

      1. WaMu theater also hosts events, in addition to the two stadiums.

        It’ll be a low preforming station outside of major events, but the time savings of skipping the station seem pretty negligible.

    3. There is also some functionality that is important, as it’s terminus of the SODO bike trail. See this 2010 discussion (well before U Link was finished).
      It’s important to focus on the entire regional transportation system (cyclists and pedestrians included). Indeed, I recently took light rail to SODO, had lunch at Cafe Con Leche, walked to Outdoor Research and walked back to Stadium. To have to backtrack to SODO would have been silly.

  6. I’m surprised Capitol Hill ridership is only 6,800. Its predicted to be 14,000 by 2030, while that’s 13 years away, I suspect these ridership predictions were made well before the great boom. I’d have thought we would be at those numbers about now.

    1. The 6,800 is just boardings. That’s 13,600 assumed for both directions. Was the 14,000 forecast just boardings only?

    2. CHS will increase significantly as Link goes farther north. I expect a big jump with Northgate Link, as getting to Capitol Hill from Roosevelt or Northgate is a pain. As someone who will use the Northgate stop a lot (until NE 130th is built) I plan on visiting Capitol Hill a lot more often. Even the stop on 45th will add some riders, as it eats into fairly robust 49 ridership.

  7. Why is Tacoma Link ridership dropping and pretty significantly too? It seems Downtown Tacoma and Tacoma in general is greatly improving as well as more people living in Tacoma and commuting into Seattle.

    1. I know for me, it doesn’t go far enough to be too useful. I tried walking to the Commerce St Transit Area Zone D in the mornings to catch the 590 to Seattle and then return on the Sounder in the evening and transfer to Tacoma Link and walk back home from its last stop — did that for a few months. I ended up deciding I was better off just driving to TDS and parking.

      The Tacoma Link is actually pretty fast. If you can catch it when the Sounder gets in, it’ll have you to Theater District as fast or faster than driving, but then if you have to add a 15 minute walk (up hill) onto it, it’s not so competitive, nor is it competitive if it leaves exactly when the Sounder gets in but before you can get on it, which happened shockingly often. Pierce transit isn’t usually useful either.

      When I was trying to make use of Tacoma Link, I noticed that most evenings there would be 3-6 people including myself who’d transfer from Sounder to Tacoma Link, then walk up the hill towards Stadium District and the Northern part of downtown. I also have noticed recently one guy who used to do that using the park’n ride at TDS. He probably gave up on it too.

      The problem with Tacoma Link is the same problem Central Link had for awhile: (1) it’s only one line that’s (2) not serving areas that would use it most.

      What Tacoma really could benefit from is a couple frequent bus lines that have decent connections to Sounder and the 590/594 buses. Expanding Tacoma Link will also help (both Tacoma Link’s ridership and transit in Tacoma in general), whether or not expanding a streetcar is the best use of money being a separate matter, but as one who lives and owns within a couple blocks of a future station, I’m all for it.

      1. The extension should help a lot. At least it’ll go all the way to the Stadium District and the Medical District.

        Though I think the “U turn” was perhaps not the best choice for the first extension — if they’d headed straight west out Division and 6th it would have been way more useful. It’ll end up functioning as two separate lines for ridership.

    1. Now if they’d only do the Broadway Line extension, which should have been done first! But they won’t.

      1. I think they are finally moving on that ( I agree, the Broadway extension should have been done before those other extensions. The bus that runs between there is stuffed, carrying more riders than a lot of light rail lines (including ours, before U-Link). The next phase won’t go to UBC, but at least connect the rail lines, and go as far as Arbutus. If all goes well, it should be done in 2025. So they go from approving funding to completion in about eight years, while it will take us over twenty to get the most important addition to ST3 (Ballard rail). Even with the misplaced priorities, I am once again jealous of Vancouver transit. Even with ST3, we won’t be close to having as useful a system as them, and who knows if we every will.

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