The Puget Sound region’s transit investments are paying off. In recent years, ridership has grown faster in the Seattle region than anywhere else in the United States, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC.)
That trend is true over the long term, as total ridership in the Puget Sound region has grown by 19 percent since 2010. That growth is larger than any U.S. peer city’s over the same timeframe. In the short term, Puget Sound transit agencies saw a larger absolute increase in boardings—5,108,582—than any other urban area in the United States during 2016-2017.
The Seattle region is now eighth in the U.S. for total annual transit boardings, behind the big three (New York, Chicago, and L.A.), San Francisco, D.C., Boston, and Philadelphia. In terms of ridership per capita, with 55 annual boardings per person, Seattle ranks sixth, ahead of Los Angeles.
Seattle’s ridership per capita is behind only “metropolitan areas with legacy transit systems”—though we did beat Philadelphia, which has one of those systems. Not coincidentally, it’s the least extensive of the eastern U.S.’s legacy rapid transit systems.
It’s pretty easy to conclude a major reason for ridership growth is the expansion of the Link system, which has come online in more or less that same time period. Sound Transit’s 2017 ridership figures certainly support that conclusion. Of course, that’s not the only reason. As Bruce pointed out in the same article, Metro reported a steady, annual upward trend in ridership last year, particularly on RapidRide. High-density population growth may be more responsible than any agency.
High quality, high frequency transit makes a significant difference in mode choice. But don’t take our word for it. The PSRC concludes that, in our region, “some of the highest rates [of boarding] come on routes with the most frequent service.”