All ST service was higher or flat (ST Express decreased by 13 riders/day) in April of 2017 than a year earlier. With University Link opening in March of 16 this is the first full month with U-Link numbers. However Angle Lake didn’t open until September of 16 so it is not fully apples to apples.

Average daily ridership for Link in April was:

  • Weekday: 71,328 (+17.3%)
  • Saturday: 50,154 (-4.0%)
  • Sunday: 33,215 (+2.4%)

Other weekday modal ridership stats:

  • Sounder: 17,172 (3.8%)
  • Tacoma Link: 3,279 (3.5%)
  • ST Express: 64,080 (2.6%)
  • Sound Transit Systemwide, +20.8% Weekday, +19.7% Total Boardings

My charts after the break.

29 Replies to “April 17 Sound Transit Ridership – One year of U-Link”

  1. Isn’t it amazing how fast good news becomes boring? 71k boardings? Ridership up 17%? Yawn.

    But ill take it.

  2. Anyone have any guesses on how high Link ridership can or will reach before Northgate Link opens in 2021?

    1. ST estimated 83,000 boarding per day prior to the opening of Northgate Link in an SIP.

      At first that seemed optimistic. But with the continuing ridership growth and Center City planning, 83,000 could end up too low.

      My current projection for the final summer prior to Northgate Link (2021?): 95,000.

  3. It’s the first average weekday 70K+ month! Yay!

    Except for possibly a winter month, I think we should expect the 70K mininum to be the new minimum standard.

    If 520 truncations and other One Center City changes happen, I think an 80K month is likely in 2019 — but not until and unless those changes are implemented.

    In 2021 when Northgate Link opens if it’s on top of the 520 truncations, ST Link will easily be looking at 90K and maybe even 95K or 100K, depending on North Seattle bus route changes.

  4. I’m curious; for those of you who (like me) think about this stuff a lot, did the U-link extension exceed, meet, or fall short of your expectations prior to opening? I think it probably exceeded mine, but only by a little.

    1. It fell short of mine by a bit, due to the huge backups on the Montlake exit ramp and the persistent elevator problems.

      1. Oh, I agree, in terms of quality. I was more just thinking about ridership numbers.

    2. The Cap Hill Station is pretty good, though getting TOD there seems to be taking inordinately long. And zoning on Broadway needs to be increased by a couple of stories.

      UW Station on the other hand is a complete disappointment. From station siting to bus integration, the entire project was a miss, thanks in large part to the UW being a truly awful community partner. And the entire area around there and up Montlake is well overdue for investment. Continuing on this complaint, I had the unfortunate experience of riding the 65 last week in the afternoon from NE Seattle to UW Station. Because of road work on campus, 65 was detoured southbound on Montlake, which is a total parking lot in the afternoon. The driver let me off halfway down Montlake and I walked the rest of the way to the station – and beat the bus.

      1. husky, I think US Station for a north-end terminal was always considered so temporary that no extraordinary measures, like the medics say, are worth a lot of effort.

        Also, first southbound train turned LINK into the first rapid transit Seattle has ever had. UW Station is a construction site. Whose aggravation won’t be remembered a month after next segment of service opens.


      2. Mark, you may be right on the buses and we have to suck it up for a while. But even then, if you were going to build a new station there, wouldn’t you locate it on the side of the highway where 99% of trips terminate? The current station location is useful exactly 6 times a year…

      3. Let’s not get carried away in our condemnation of UW station’s usefulness. There’s a major employment center and patient destination (UW Hospital) literally across the street from the station, and it’s decently convenient to Hec Ed (which gets used much more than 6 times a year) and to many of the buildings at the South End of the main UW campus.

      4. Husky Stadium serves a large community (as William says) and will serve an even larger one once the UW starts their build-out on the E1 lot north of Hec Ed/the IMA; it’s just a lousy terminal station and that status will be removed in a couple of years. I’d say that the City bears at least as much responsibility by doing absolutely nothing to address the Montlake issue for buses, and WSDOT for bollixing up the 520/Montlake interchange so badly that more than once when I have been forced to drive it, the backup from the north end of the Arboretum to Montlake has taken a full hour to traverse. Hopefully that will improve dramatically once the project is complete, but getting through Montlake from U Village south is a clusterfudge right now with no mitigation having been done to help that.

      5. Hi Frank,

        The UW’s campus master plan has several million square feet of new construction planned over the next couple of decades for the E1 lot. If I recall, it will include new classroom and lab space in addition to housing (they are also planning more infill at the south end of the U District).

        Whether or not this is all built is a function of many things, not least the Legislature, and it will not all be built at once, but it shows the thought process for necessary expansion of the UW Seattle campus.

        The most up-to-date summary I could find (from last month) is here: , which should give you a decent idea of the conceptual massing they are looking at.

    3. In both ridership and my personal experience, U-Link has slightly exceeded my expectations.

      Reaching Capitol Hill and crossing the ship canal was always going to add a bunch of riders, but I do think the extension would have been substantially more useful with another 2 or 3 stations, and if UW station wasn’t in such a terrible location. The station spacing problem is partially, though not entirely mitigated by the speed in getting from UWS to CHS.

      At least for me, Metro’s NE Seattle restructure has been positive, though even more frequency would be welcome, as well as reliability improvements for Route 62.

      The opening of U-District and Roosevelt Station, and to a lesser degree, Northgate station in 2021, should mostly compensate for the awfulness of UW Station’s location- I wouldn’t be surprised if UW station boardings fall substantially then- Roosevelt Station will be a better transfer experience for many people, and U-District Station will be closer to much of upper campus and all the housing and business in the U-District.

      For me, the biggest benefit of U-Link has been the increased reliability in crossing the ship-canal. I no longer have to worry about getting stuck waiting for a boat to pass under Montlake or University Bridge, or in a traffic jam in Montlake, Eastlake, or near/in downtown.

    4. The ridership is pretty similar to what I expected. College students make temporary patterns so there is no legacy to suppress their trip change; I knew they would go to Link quickly both at UW and Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill Station boardings are healthy but not surprising; they are below every San Francisco BART Station except Glen Park, for example. There are still more riders coming for Capitol Hill Station. Angle Lake boardings however appear better than I expected.

      I agree with others that the station operations are a complete failure. If a vehicle broke down like those elevators and escalators do, there would be national outrage!

      1. Yeah, ST really needs to listen to the complaints about the elevators and escalators. We are building stations for the very, very long term, and bad, slow elevators and too few of them to begin with, along with unreliable escalators do not make ridership happy. There’s nothing more obnoxious than to get to a station thinking you’ll be in plenty of time for the next train only to miss it because an elevator is out of service or the down escalator nearest you is out of order. Particularly if you arrive at a time of ten minute headways.

    5. Last night was the first time I’ve used Link after a weeknight Sounders game. Totally packed.

      However, I saw rampant fare evasion by fans. Fewer than 50% of riders were tapping ORCA cards and I highly doubt many were buying paper tickets. Disappointing, but hardly surprising given group/crowd behavior.

      1. I would imagine that fare enforcement is next to impossible on crushloaded trains.

        Maybe once buses are kicked out of the tunnel, FEOs can stand at station exits and check ORCA cards of disembarking riders, like they do on LA Metro.

      2. Lots of people buy day passes, especially for games – in fact, Sound Transit has signs urging game day riders to do that, to cut down on big lines at ticket vending machines after the game. So I would guess that many of the people without ORCA cards were still carrying their paper passes from earlier.

  5. I live right off the 74 and 372 and needed to get downtown a few months ago so I took the 74. It took forever! Then I remembered that it used to be the only way to get downtown from UW and that I used to sit in jam-packed 70s buses stuck in traffic on Eastlake to get to a Mariners game or anything else downtown. Link made a huge difference there (+ the Metro frequency improvements).

    That said, I still drive to First Hill in the evenings and pay for parking. Anything in the First Hill/Capitol Hill area that isn’t walkable from Link requires a 3-seat ride from NE Seattle. No thanks. I’m hoping that Madison BRT will accomplish what the streetcar failed to do in that area.

  6. At least at UW Station, I beleive I’ve seen signs advising people heading to major events to speed things along by purchasing day passes if they don’t have an Orca card. It’s possible that a lot of the people you saw had bought a day pass on their way to the match.

    In general, I’m surprised by the number of people I see buying Link tickets instead of using an Orca card, but I guess if you’re only use a few times a year and aren’t transferring to/from a bus, maybe it seems easier and cheaper.

  7. I will never understand how cap hill and UW got built without any orca readers at platform level. They have them in the tunnel…the whole thing sucks if you need to get from downtown toALUWMC

    1. The ones in the tunnel are for transferring to/from buses. None of the other stations have platform readers. The platforms are fare paid zones, but the DSTT platforms aren’t until the buses leave.

  8. Stadium has readers that are at the end of the platform near the entrance. The distiction of dare paid or non paid is an excuse for st laziness. After all they found$800k for their party.

    1. But that’s because Stadium (and the stations in Rainier Valley, which have a very similar layout) doesn’t have a mezzanine to put the readers in.

      Really, how could someone get to the platform at UW or Capitol Hill without walking past some readers?

      1. This – it’s like asking in other systems why there are no turnstiles on the platform. There should be no way to access a station without passing at least one reader and probably several. UW must have 15+ readers located at various points including at elevators, entrances, and the mezzanines. I’d prefer to see the readers situated like they are at Airport station (and the platform stations), where you have a clearly defined boundary between the fare paid area and non-paid areas, simply because it’s not possible to “forget” to tap when you have that. That said, when you have direct elevator access to platforms you have to add readers at the exterior entrances to the elevators. Perhaps when the buses are out of the tunnel they can create a boundary with readers in the mezzanine where turnstiles would be on other systems…I assume they’ll remove the platform readers once the buses are gone.

      2. Yes, some clear physical boundary with an ORCA card reader within arms reach is needed at every station.

        While the SeaTac Aurport station gates are a good to do this, the barriers are in the wrong place! They should be after the TVMs and not before. They also should have an ORCA reader by every entry gate. On a related note, there is often a line of visitors waiting to buy tickets there. ST needs to add machines!

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