Sound Transit’s ridership continues to rise, fueled mostly by light rail expansion, according third quarter ridership numbers released by the agency last week. Ridership across the system was up 6.5% over the same quarter in 2016.
In an accompanying press release, Sound Transit lauded current year-to-date ridership in 2017, up 26% on Link and 12% across the entire system compared to the same time period last year.
“The ridership gains within our region are very significant in contrast to recent ridership reductions in many other regions, with Sound Transit services seeing some of the strongest growth in the nation.”
All transportation modes posted ridership increases, except ST Express bus service which declined 0.6%. ST Express posted the same ridership decline last quarter and once again, ST attributes that decrease to low fuel prices, “which tends to depress bus ridership.”
Light rail ridership continues to climb, showing strong growth of 13.5% during the third quarter compared to the same time period last year. Overall this year Link ridership is up 26%.
ST attributes the increase to two 2016 service expansions, including the opening of Angle Lake Station, with roughly 1,100 parking stalls, at the end of the third quarter last year.
However, Link ridership slightly underperformed for Q3, with the 6,352,260 boardings “slightly outside the quarterly target” of 6,591,656. Ridership did meet the current year to date target.
Boardings at the Tukwila International Boulevard and the SeaTac / Airport Stations continue to decline, 6.3% and 13.2% respectively comparing third quarters of 2016 and 2017. All year boardings at both stations have decreased compared to similar time periods in 2016.
According to the third quarter ridership report, “The decline in average weekday boardings at SeaTac Airport Station is attributed to the station no longer being the southern terminus. Many boardings that were previously seen at TIBS and SeaTac are now occurring further south at Angle Lake.”
Eight of the 16 Link stations in the Seattle area saw a double-digit increase in boardings this quarter compared to the same quarter last year. Rainier Beach saw the largest percentage increase of boardings at 17.9%.
Sounder ridership was up slightly, 2.7% in last quarter compared to last year. However, the weekday average was up 5.7%. All the ridership growth on the Sounder came from South Line, which was up 6.4% in daily boardings, while the North Line posted a decline of 0.2%. ST credits the growth on the South Line to two new mid-day trains added in September 2016.
A slight increase in Tacoma Link ridership of 3.2%, compared to the third quarter of 2016, is attributed to an increase in special event services.