Credit: Oran Viriyincy

Sound Transit’s latest quarterly service report, released on November 15, shows continued growth in Link ridership. In Quarter 3 (Q3), Link enjoyed 8.2 percent more weekday boardings than in Q3 of 2017, or 81,022 boardings on a typical weekday.

Sounder (+2.5 percent) and paratransit (+6.6 percent) also experienced ridership growth compared to Q3 2017. ST Express bus ridership decreased slightly (-1.7 percent), while Tacoma Link streetcar service declined significantly (-15.4 percent) against Q3 2017’s ridership figures.

According to ST, paratransit and Link’s ridership growth are symbiotic: “The increase is attributed to the increased ridership on Link and additional customers requesting access to the Link system.”

The report says the drop in Tacoma ridership was caused by “fewer special events in downtown Tacoma and the temporary closure of 200 parking stalls at Tacoma Dome Station for renovation work started in June.”

ST Express service declined, the report says, because of construction and congestion on I-90, which affect Routes 545 and 550. The previous ridership report also cited the closure of park and rides due to East Link construction as a reason for the 550’s drop in riders. That inference suggests that riders are likely to return to the 550 or shift to Link commutes when the project is completed.

Each Link station drew more riders than in Q3 2017.

69 Replies to “Sound Transit reports continued Link ridership growth”

  1. It’s hard to glean much meaning about ST Express without also looking at how ridership is doing on parallel Metro routes. If people take whichever bus comes first, regardless of branding, sometimes, a minor schedule adjustment can create what looks like a huge ridership impact when looking at the stats of just one of the two routes in isolation.

      1. I get on the 554 at the new stop on Rainier heading into downtown. I rarely have trouble getting a seat

      2. Know there are absolutely none on BART. I think that transit in most places that we’d consider overloaded, their own (Whatever letter ahead of the”Transit Blog” part) would be featuring postings exactly like this one,with same despair about ridership. Careful about what you demand, let alone wish for. Or against.


      3. Thank you for most encouraging news I’ve heard in a long time. Except your take on the stats is full 180 wrong. What I want is for 30% of riders are only on LINK heading for a paper Day Pass, therefore restoring the lost chance to control plastic.

        Because when everybody pays with an All Day pass, you can use every LINK station for a Stairmaster, and just show the pass to the Inspector when he asks you, All Day without Tap One. And best of all: No way that a failed “Tap Off” can make a legitimate and understandable “Tap On” cost you a $124 fine.

        And while I know you mean no harm gathering data, Ross, you’re encouraging a system whose priority is to trade service for money, with an arcane set of rules that ONLY punish the “Tap On” that’s an ordinary person’s common reflex to correct a mistake!

        And…only if you bought the exact fare medium that the company is begging you like a dog to buy! So for long overdue prevention and protest, my own goal is to encourage everybody to buy a paper All-Day Pass- that’ll let you use every station for a Stairmaster, and carry it in the same little plastic envelope you use for your plastic pass.

        Call it False Charge Of Theft insurance. Also, because the buses also have no arcane incentive to harm you, keep your card for their sake. And when every travel day is done, put the tickets where Twitter can see them. Proving to the evildoers that today your payment to them has been none or less.

        If game is Example-Making, two thousand, or whatever the ridership numbers, can play. For keeps. But let me get one more vituperial out in the open. The Fare Inspectors hate this garbage worse than you do.They are literally- at the cost of their income- only taking orders.

        But meantime, Ross, maybe you can find out one thing: Why has there been so little protest all these years? Are they being terrorized into silence- or just going What The Hell We’re Licked. Let us know what you find out.

        Mark Dublin

      4. If you ride Link 6 days a week as somebody who lives near a station and doesn’t have car might do, that’s 25 days a month (6*4+1). At $5.50 per day ($2.50*2 for a day pass), that’s $137 per month, compared to a $99 monthly pass. That’s $38 you’re overpaying, or $456 per year. That could pay for over 3 fines per year ($456/$124 = 3.674). Although that’s counting only the monetary cost, and not the psychological trauma and anxiety of always knowing you might have forgotten to tap or your card may malfunction and say you didn’t tap when you did. I don’t know how to quantify the psychological part.

        But wait, it gets worse. Link day passes aren’t valid on buses. So if you also take a bus 10 times a week, you have to double-pay the fare, even if it’s within a transfer period. Whereas with a pass all your bus trips would be free because you’ve already made 44 trips per month to break even.

        So the solution of always buying day passes is completely unreasonable for frequent riders, and the agencies should not be putting us in this position of needing day passes as reliable proof of payment. They’re the ones who offered the monthly passes and encourage us to use them.

        My commute, I have four different ways I can go, but one of them involves Link and two buses. I would have to double-pay the fare every work commute if I used day passes.

      5. “I get on the 554 at the new stop on Rainier heading into downtown. I rarely have trouble getting a seat.”

        Is that during peak period? Which direction?

  2. I love how ST gets their ridership reports out within two months, while Metro is still stuck on May, and Washington State Ferries‘ latest “traffic” report is from June. Annual seems to be the trend for many other transit agencies.

    Let us give thanks that Sound Transit is such an open book.

    1. It is certainly great to have! The only complaint that I have is that it only gets posted after it’s given to Board or Operations Committee members. That seems very imperial that it can’t get released before that — so that perhaps the public could comment on it.

      Imagine the good vibe that could come from a grateful citizen comment based on a review before the meeting, Board members!

      1. It makes sense to me that they’d release it to the board or a committee first. ST does everything like that. If I were a boardmember I’d want to hear it first in an official report with a knowledgeable speaker right there to answer questions, than to first get a trickle from the public that may only half understand it or the context. Maybe there should be a better public feedback period at the end of the meeting or a week later or something, but I don’t see that it has to be published beforehand.

        Congressional reports and presidential speeches do get released a day earlier, but that’s more a transcript for the media so that it can be prepared. I’m not sure that that’s necessary for small local issues that aren’t going to be on every TV station and front page, and where the public has closer access to the boardmembers.

    2. It would be nice if they had more detailed Link data, though (with their annual report). To be fair, their data is way more detailed than Metro’s (which doesn’t even have stop data). When ST releases their annual report, it lists how many people use each station, and what direction they were going. But why not just tell us the trip pairs? They must know (based on tapping off) which is why they list the direction.

      They could also do the same with time data. Obviously this would be difficult to present in a report, but just release the data and let us have at it. You could release each trip (time, start, end) in a CSS or XML file, for example. This is important data, as it provides insight into our system, and how people are using it.

      1. A lot of the time data for Link is in the draft Service Implementation Plan. (See page 56.)

        Future ridership projections are on pages 64-65. Projected light rail ridership in 2024 is 72.7 million, with total ST ridership projected to be 95 million. That’s just two lines carrying over 2/3 the number of bus riders Metro will end up transporting this year.

        A lot of Link trips use the paper Link-only tickets and day passes. Even the ones with ORCA can easily get mangled by miscounting taps. But, yeah, the stop pairing data would be nice to have, and even more useful in planning through-routes for when the second downtown transit tunnel opens. (Not that I expect the ST engineers to put any value on reducing transfers.)

      2. Yeah, that’s the annual report I’m talking about.

        But again, it doesn’t have the time data. Oh, sure, it has overall time data, but it doesn’t have trip time data, or even station time data. In other words, where and when are people taking the train? All of this must be known, and aggregated to produce the reports. But if they released the actual data, then folks (like those on this blog) could produce their own reports. That sort of thing would be useful for stations as different as UW, Westlake and SeaTac. It is easy to assume that Westlake, for example, is very peak oriented (lots of people headed there in the morning, lots of people headed out at night). But maybe not.

        A lot of Link trips use the paper Link-only tickets and day passes.

        How many? I’m serious, because that is another thing I would like to see in the report. For that matter, I would like to see the same from Metro, on a per bus level.

        In any event, my guess is it isn’t many, and either way, somehow they are capable of showing ridership per station and *per direction*, which means they must know the trip pair (and when it happened).

      3. @Brent — Thanks. That is fascinating. I would have expected Link to have much higher ORCA rates. It is the same rate as Metro, which surprises me. Community Transit and ST Express are much higher. I’m guessing that is a lot of Swift and commuting.

        It also means that ST is using a lot of estimating with its ridership numbers. If 30% of the riders are not using ORCA, how would they have any idea which direction they are going? Even determining the station is difficult. If I buy a round trip ticket, then ST has a very good guess as to where I initially boarded (at the station closest to the ticket machine) but no idea where I’m headed, which means half the trip is just a guess.

        I have no problem with estimating (it makes sense, given the system in place) but I think it should be extended to full trip data. For that matter, just give me the ORCA trip data, as a starting point.

      4. I think that there are automatic counters in each doorway. That’s how they can estimate station activity and direction, but have less reliability in station to station pairs.

        It also means that data by time of day should easily be available. With that in mind, I would be curious how the Mariner free rides influenced the Link numbers.

      5. I”m at a loss to understand why so many people are buying tickets for Link on weekdays, rather than using ORCA.

        I can understand buying tickets if you’re a very infrequent transit user (e.g. tourists, people who only use Link to get to the airport and sporting events, or suburbanites who only use Link to go to Downtown Seattle on special occasions), but there doesn’t appear to be enough people in those categories to add up to 31% of all trips- only 17% of weekday Link boardings originate outside of Seattle.

      6. Just because a Link trip originates in Seattle it doesn’t mean that is where the entire trip originated. Say, people from Woodenville being left off at UW station to get to the airport.

      7. @Glenn

        Right. I could be wrong, but my working assumption is that Link airport usage is fairly symmetric- that the number of people arriving at the airport via Link is roughly equal to the number of people leaving the airport via Link. So, on average, a person from Woodinville being dropped off at UW Station would be counted as an airport station boarding on their return trip.

      8. Those day passes are printed out at an ORCA vending machine. ST should know how many are printed out at each machine.

        Same with one-way 2-hour tickets. Except smart riders will ask for the furthest station allowed for a specific fare, even if they don’t plan to travel that far. I would assume that data is kept and tabulated.

        At least from my observations, the SeaTac Airport Station vending machines are perpetually busy and usually have the longest queues. Most of the other vending machines are Maytag Repairmen.

        I hope that is the larger factor between that and (well-founded) fare-enforcement-instructed-to-ignore-clear-and-obvious-proof-of-payment-when-someone-fails-to-tap-properly paranoia.

        I hate to think that ST might be tossing out trip-pairing data due to what appear to be significant bugs, like too many riders ending a ride somewhere, and then starting a ride somewhere distant a few minutes later, when Mark and many others have explained where that bug comes from quite eloquently. Make the tap-off tone unique, and the data might start making more sense.

      9. PhillipG: You may be underestimating the number of infrequent riders or non-ORCA riders. Most of my friends don’t have ORCA cards because they don’t think they ride it enough. Many of them don’t carry cash either, which forces me to pay for them when we take a bus. :( I keep hearing ORCA usage is high, but when I’ve counted people a few times on routes like the 268 and 269 off-peak, almost everybody paid cash. Last weekend I was at a conference downtown and we went to an event in SODO, and they were going to take an Uber but I said the light rail goes right there. One of them had lived in Rainier Valley so he had ridden it regularly, but they both lived on the Eastside now if I remember. So they didn’t have ORCA and instead bought day passes.

    3. I’m with Al S. here. I appreciate the monthly and quarterly reports but I think it’s rather lame that the Ops Comm. needs to put its stamp of approval on them before they’re released to the public. LA Metro, by comparison, has their data available 15 days after the end of the month. This is the direction ST should be headed toward.

      And as far as transparency goes, Sound Transit leaves a lot to be desired. For example, the agency’s move to their new website has just taken a step (well, several steps actually) in the other direction as they have removed much of their historical archive. Documents that used to be readily available online now require assistance from the agency’s librarian or an official open records request. Removal of the ST2 archived documents is particularly infuriating as these light rail projects are ongoing as we all know. My skepticism toward this agency tells me this was a deliberate move away from transparency and accountability.

      1. Tlsgwm is right that the date filter is a nonfunctional mess.

        The Ops Committee doesn’t change the report. It might make requests about future reports, generally to include more info in the future, but the report it receives is the version that goes public as it receives it.

        The trade-off is speed for precision. I prefer precision, which we get a little more of in the quarterly reports, if a little less granular on the data.

    4. Increased ridership on Link is great, but ST Express and Metro bus services have basically flatlined the past 3 years. Meanwhile in Vancouver:

      TransLink monthly ridership beats 2010 Olympics levels for 1st time

      Bus boardings were up 10.5 per cent year-over-year, SeaBus boardings were up 9.3 per cent and the West Coast Express saw a hefty increase of 12.6 per cent. On the SkyTrain, the Expo and Millennium lines saw boardings climb 7.7 per cent, while the Canada Line grew by seven per cent. The increased ridership comes in the wake of the rollout of phase one of ’10-Year Vision’ for regional transportation.

  3. Tacoma Link streetcar service declined significantly (-15.4 percent)

    I don’t understand why. I mean, it’s still free, right? DT Tacoma is slowly recovering. Or is it, the move by State Farm back to Dupont has to be a blow. Is it possible that increased ridership on Sounder from T Dome Station has squeezed out parking that people were using to make the free hop to DT?

    1. It’s still too politically-charged and perhaps premature to declare it a waste. Perhaps the Hilltop extension will help.

      Of course, much of its future success depends on how well connected it is to Tacoma Dome Link. The latest round of those alternatives are due soon — and it’s unclear how this will happen. A cross-platform (no stairs; no elevator) would be optimal. I hope it’s not selected to be a block and two sets of stairs away because if it is, Tacoma Link will suffer dearly from lack of riders.

      1. While three center platforms would make a lot of sense, in principle, with the two northbound and two southbound tracks side-by-side, what if one or both lines extends in the future?

        Also, where would you put the tracks? At grade is spoken for for pedestrian access to Sounder and for shop users (with Freighthouse Square still a private entity).

      2. What’s the status of Freighthouse Square? If that’s still under destruction then I can see why ridership would be down. I also wonder if there might be a problem with the way the counts are getting done. Why put a lot of money/effort into something that’s free anyway.. I haven’t used Tacoma Link but a handful of times but when I have it seemed to have a lot better ridership than the SLUT. And those were just normal business days, not a festival, concert or peak commute.

        OTOH, if the numbers are right and there’s not a “one off” reason for the declining ridership then the question seriously needs to be address as to whether or not any extension is throwing good money after bad.

      3. A six station system is hardly worth ridership tracking and I’m not sure why they do. Tacoma, with its 200,000+ residents, is not a city that will break too many transit ridership records. However, add the 6 hilltop stations, 6 TCC stations, the 4 Link stations with their access to Seatac, Sounder, Amtrak and other points of interest and I think the line will ripen Tacoma for future development and growth. I good public transit system has proven to be an effective tool in stimulating business investment.

    2. Tacoma Link is a very short distance so it’s irrelevant to most people’s trips. People aren’t going to transfer to it just to ride it for a mile, unless they have to because they came on Sounder or they’re avoiding parking fees/scarcity in downtown Tacoma. The SLU streetcar is more successful because it connects one highrise district to another, and SLU has significant retail and Lake Union Park and MOHAI to attract people. If you’re at the northern end of Tacoma Link, it’s much easier to walk to the museums or UW Tacoma a few blocks south, and there’s no Lake Union Park. (And TLink won’t help you get to Wright Park.) When the MLK extension is completed it will be more like downtown to SLU. Although it may still not attract as many people from buses because it’s a U shape. There may be a number of people taking it from Tacoma Dome to the MLK hospitals because it’s too far to walk and up a steep hill, and the 594 doesn’t go that far and won’t exist when Central Link reaches Tacoma Dome. All these factors depress ridership. The free fare increases it, but it’s only persuasive to a point. And for those with a pass it makes no difference whether it’s free or not; it’s just one less tap they have to do.

    3. One thing not mentioned about link was the appearance of Lime and Bird scooters, though I’m not sure they were around for much of Q3. When your entire line is 1.6 mile downtown circulator, a scooter will almost always be more convenient.

      Tacoma link still doesn’t serve much housing, so I think it very dependent on people parking for free in the Tacoma Dome Garage and riding in to Downtown to work or take classes at UWT. Right now the garage is a giant pain; more than just the 200 closed spaces, the route to get to many of those spaces is also awfully circuitous due to close entrances and dead ends. With Downtown Tacoma parking still very cheap by regional standards many will just drive a bit further and pay. Increases in Sounder and other other services at the Dome may also have an impact.

      The Tacoma link extension will link to the most dense housing in all of Pierce County in the Stadium District and will link to the largest private employer in the country at Tacoma General Hospital. I expect the portion of the extension between Dowtown and Tacoma General to be a game changer for the system like the UW extension for Central Link only much smaller. The part that doubles back down in a horseshoe shape on Hilltop I have less confidence in.

    4. “the question seriously needs to be address as to whether or not any extension is throwing good money after bad.”

      There are serious questions about Tacoma Link’s potential. It will continue to attract a minimum number of riders, and the MLK extension may attract modestly more for trips between MLK-downtown and MLK-Tacoma Dome. But if I were a Pierce resident I’d be saying, “That’s it?” How will that improve overall transit circulation in Tacoma or the Pierce subarea? The Route 1 upgrade will do much more, and you’d also get more bang for the buck upgrading routes 1N, 2, 3, and 4. But Tacoma Link is based on the belief that the streetcar-like network will gradually expand into other neighborhoods and significantly improve transit circulation, and it’s a train! The flaw in that argument is that Tacoma Link will probably never reach Parkland or Lakewood or the Roy Y so it will leave all those neighborhoods out. That would be like if all the Seattle Link lines end at places like Beacon Hill Station and never reach Rainier Beach, or if UW Station were the final terminus in north Seattle. The U shape is also very suspect. Will it really attract a lot of people from MLK to downtown Tacoma and Tacoma Dome, or from 19th Avenue to the latter two? It seems like depending on an iffy proposition. The east-west buses across it will have to continue because they’re the only way to reach most of west Tacoma, lower Yakima or Lakewood.

      1. I think Tacoma needs less analysis and a lot more explanation. Or maybe I just haven’t been around here long enough. When I first saw the place forty years ago, I thought I was in a sci movie.

        I saw the movie, Called “Alphaville.” Had French doctor pretending Tacoma was on another planet, with its population of another one still. Boring movie…so re-shoot needs another script.

        A small modern city with all infrastructure intact had recently had its whole population disappear without a trace. Only thought that gravitation waves from Mt. Rainer had created a space-time warp to Pluto.

        Taking its return much too long to have it just be Neptune. No with that population, no streetcar line in the world could get a fraction of the ridership street rail needs to exist.

        Of course don’t take it out. You’ll only have to put it back in again. A process the car-line will be invaluable to help. A streetcar used to run from Tacoma to Steilacoom.

        As usual in such conditions…my only discomfort with Wright Park and the Corina Baker and surroundings, is knowing that none of the disappeared will be able to live there when Rainier flashes them back. With someplace in town to make a living.

        As holds for the rest of our country….It will start to work when is people can go to work. Incidentally , since I often come in through the Highway 7 neighborhood, entering Tacoma on Yakima, would really like to see the Route 1 electrified its whole route.

        That’ll draw ridership.


      2. My dad grew up in Tacoma and Lakewood although I’ve never spent much time there. What happened was the direction Tacoma and Lakewood chose after WWII: they chose to go whole hog with gutting transit, car dependent development, and low density — i.e., they swallowed the Futurama vision wholesale, like most cities in the US. They didn’t take advantage of their good prewar core in downtown Tacoma and adjacent neighborhoods, or the opportunity for a better rural-to-suburban conversion. My dad’s family had 50 acres which they subdivided in the 60s and 70s. In the 70s my dad in the 70s wanted to build a “cluster neighborhood” of close-together houses and apartments with open space, a kind of proto New Urbanism. Tacoma wouldn’t give him a zoning variance so he couldn’t, so he sold the land to a conventional developer and now it has ten large-lot single-family houses on a straight dead-end street.

      3. I grew up in Lakewood and went to HS in Tacoma. The city was very blue collar. As one after another hit reduced those good paying jobs Tacoma sank slowly into the tide flats. Pulp and paper was big. ASARCO and Alcoa had plants. Nalley Valley was a going concern. Shipping and the maritime industry was big with machine shops abounding. Another big hit was the end of the traditional downtown retail. The Tacoma Mall was built and later big box stores took their toll. As jobs in DT and the tide flats dried up the economy became increasing dominated by the military. That naturally drew the center of population south and east; South Tacoma, Parkland, Spannaway and eventually all the way out to the Roy Y. Remember, in the 60’s gas was 25 cents a gallon and new cars from Detroit were cheap (and inexpensive). There was no bus service in Lakewood. Because of the jobs being spread out and working 2-3 shifts bus service wasn’t practical. I think those same constraints still present the same challenges to effective transit in Pierce County even more than east King and Snohomish.

    5. The Tacoma Link extension project (Hilltop) has always been a dubious proposition imho. As Mike Orr laid out in his comment above, I just don’t see where the increased ridership is supposed to come from. Additionally, as we learned last year (see the STB post link below) this is another ST project that has escalated sharply in its cost estimate, baselined at $217 million.

      Borrowing from a comment I posted on that STB post from last year….

      >>Fwiw, here are the numbers given for the Tacoma Link Expansion, err, excuse me, Extension project in the adopted 2017 TIP. Unfortunately, the annual TIP uses constant prior year $ and not YOE $. Even so, the numbers are still very relevant.

      2008 ST2 plan original estimate (in 000’s 2016 $)
      2017 TIP

      I don’t believe this includes the additional fleet (6 cars?) or upgrade to the existing storage and maintenance facilty. Thus, these numbers only reflect the base part of the extension project.<<

      1. They extended it in the wrong direction. If they’d run straight out west, it would have made sense. I said this at the time.

    6. If something isn’t going where you’re going, you won’t ride it, even if it’s free.

  4. “The previous ridership report also cited the closure of park and rides due to East Link construction as a reason for the 550’s drop in riders. That inference suggests that riders are likely to return to the 550 or shift to Link commutes when the project is completed.”

    Won’t the 550 disappear once Link is running? It seems phenomenally stupid to have a bus route that follows a train route. What am I missing here?

    1. Regardless, route 550 won’t be returning to the transit tunnel, or the express lanes, so I can’t imagine any group of riders who will want to keep it, at least for the trip from South Bellevue to downtown Seattle.

      Local stops will be taken care of by other routes, seven days a week, I presume.

      1. I don’t think a single bus will cross I-90 after Link gets to Bellevue. It just doesn’t make sense. Riders will transfer at Mercer Island, if not sooner.

        To be clear, it is pretty common to have some express bus service skip over the subway line. But that occurs when you have very densely populated areas, with lots of stops between destinations. There will only be one stop between Mercer Island and downtown, while Link covers the main East Side areas (Bellevue and Redmond).

      2. For I-90 directly to Bellevue, I really think the fastest and easiest measure will be to take Link from just about any station to UW, and transfer there to a non-stop express ride to Bellevue Transit Center.

        Where they can also connect with other Eastside routes. We’ve moved buses from one lake-crossing to the other for special events over the years. Should’t be any problem doing it long-term.

        I’m also thinking that depending on operating condition on I-90, we can have buses- especially artics, carry same passengers across 520 as they now do across I-90.

        This really looks to me that with very little, we can give I-90 passengers some real service with hardly any slowdown. Can see short headway crush loads. And also like BART, crush loads that the’d call insufficient demand.

        We’ll really just creating a substitute light rail line ’til the real one gets finished. Any slowdown in the work there, a lot of people will be really glad we really can get them across the Lake mainly by rail.

        Example of flex and imagination pioneered by the dual power service serving the DSTT.

        Mark Dublin


      3. “I don’t think a single bus will cross I-90 after Link gets to Bellevue. It just doesn’t make sense. Riders will transfer at Mercer Island, if not sooner. ”

        I think that’s the way it should be. But, there’s no guarantee that’s the way it will be. Suburban pressure for peak-hour one-seat rides into downtown is very strong, even if such buses are likely to spend more time sitting in traffic and stoplights in downtown, alone, than the maximum peak-hour wait time for the train.

        The Sound Transit 2019 Draft Implementation plan is a good sign, though. As of today, their plan is to eliminate the 550, entirely, once Bellevue Link opens to replace it, and convert the 554/554/556 into a single route from DT Bellevue to Issaquah via South Bellevue P&R and Eastgate Freeway Station, with a transfer to Link at South Bellevue P&R required to connect from Issaquah to downtown.

        It will be interesting to see what Metro does. IMHO, Metro’s Issaquah buses should truncate a Mercer Island. South Bellevue P&R makes sense as the transfer point for the all-day network, but I feel like during peak hours, there’s enough buses to go around to make Mercer Island an option also, since it’s a more direct path to Seattle, while also maintaining the direct Mercer Island->Eastgate connection that exists today.

      4. As Link will be going downtown and then to UW such an express bus will probably take the form of a Bellevue to Mercer Mess Express or something along those lines, so SLU passengers don’t have to transfer.

      5. @Glenn — I still don’t think a bus headed to South Lake Union would go over I-90. SR 520, certainly, but not I-90. Even then, though, I’m not sure if either Metro or Link wants to send another bus there (other than the proposed 544). A lot probably depends on the success of that route.

        Part of the problem is that Metro and ST are stretched very thin right now, while their park and ride lots are full. Their bizarre and dubious “micro-transit” approach in Eastgate is a bad sign. Micro transit has its place, but not as a way to deal with a full park and ride lot. The lot is not the destination, but a means to an end. Pretty soon it will simply be one stop before Mercer Island (or downtown Bellevue) which means that approach (and similar ones) would be silly. It makes way more sense to just send more buses to Mercer Island, South Lake Union or downtown Bellevue, all of which are much closer than anywhere in Seattle (and all of which have quick turn around spots). That would enable Metro and ST to easy the burden on the handful of park and ride lots that have very frequent, direct service, and spread such service to other areas.

    2. Here, project = Park & Ride closure. Similar to Northgate garage opening this month, well before the Link station, I believe the South Bellevue P&R will open prior to East Link opening. Adding 1,500 new parking stall will presumably result in a jump in 550 riders,

      But yes, once East Link opens, those new riders would presumably all switch to Link. But they will be bus riders for a period of time.

  5. Have said before that a Link ride from any station on its route, with a transfer to a short-headway non-stop ST Express to Bellevue Transit Center, could take quite a load off 550 and much else on I-90.

    Recall other instances – Blue Angles, maybe? Where I-90 service spent a day on SR520. Seems simple. Any reason not to do it right now?

    Mark Dublin

  6. Important point missing. Idea is LINK – from any station on its route- to UW stadium and transfer there to a non-stop express bus to Bellevue Transit Center.

    Really simple express ride just ’til, EasLink starts running. Should get impressive ridership.

    Any reasons why not just “Do It Now?


  7. Peter, is there anyway to erase about five of my messages- or only leave one? Having major problem with my set today. Just leave the shortest one.



  8. Tacoma Dome Station parking is usually full. So, for those that used to park there and take Tacoma Link into downtown they probably are just parking in one of the pay to park lots / parking spots closer to downtown. There are a lot of places to park in Tacoma once you make up your mind you are going to have to pay.

    Other than serving as a parking shuttle, I’m not sure what other purpose Tacoma Link serves. Most of the time, you are better off planning your trip so you transfer in downtown rather than at Tacoma Dome. At least, I’ve never had a trip planner suggest I make a trip that included Tacoma Link.

  9. What in the world happened to the cost per boarding number? An increase from $2.95 to $4.22 represents an increase of 43%. There’s no comment on the report about it? Something was known, as the budgeted cost went to $4.01, but does the underperformance of actual vs. budgeted ridership explain the entire $0.21/boarding variance? And why the massive jump in the first place?

    Also, the report should go to the Board before being released to the public so they can evaluate and approve the accuracy and adequacy of both the data and comments.

    1. This “jump” in expenditures could happen if things like escalator repair came out of the operating budget for that particular period. It’s an operating expense, but a substantial one that shouldn’t need to happen every period.

    2. From the report:

      “Cost per boarding was higher in Q3 2018 due to quarterly expenses being reconciled.”

      Regardless, cost per boarding on Link is still way below that for the other modes, with ST Express having the smallest year-on-year increase, somehow.

      Also, there seems to be disagreement about a “should” here, regarding whether the Ops Committee should intervene in the content of the report. Doing so after the data is compiled but before a report goes out probably doesn’t help increase the appearance of transparency in government.

      Asking for more data in the future, from the dais rather than privately, seems better to me.

      The report is still not clear on whether cost per boarding is before or after fare revenue. This detail doesn’t appear to have piqued any board member’s interest.

      1. “Quarterly expenses being reconciled?” What does that even mean? Reconciled to what? Are they just now recognizing expenses that should have been recognized in prior quarters? If that’s the case, they should restate prior quarters.

        Cost per boarding should not be stated net of revenue. They should be reported separately,

        (Why yes, I am an accountant.)

      2. My guess would be that their operating expense accruals were understated in prior periods and finally trued up in the latest quarter. This would explain the $.21 variance to plan but not the year over year larger increase (which was budgeted as you’ve pointed out). That’s another matter entirely which the report entirely glosses over.

      3. “Reconciled” is an oddly vague term. It might be how dates are applied to costs: the date of service, the invoice dete or the payment date?

        Somewhere in the ST calculations, there is probably a cost allocation between the primary modes for things that are uncateogorized costs like administrative staff, floor space and general marketing.
        As Link ridership grows, more of the uncateorized overhead is probably shifting to them. That also makes the less productive modes like Tacoma a Link look slightly better. I’m not sure if those are fixed each year, or if ST goes back and adjusts them based on ridership.

        ST should specify what they mean. A term like “reconcile” is amateurishly and suspiciously vague. Surely the truth is not controversial and could be explained in a sentence or two.

      4. “The report is still not clear on whether cost per boarding is before or after fare revenue.”

        >>2-Cost per boarding is calculated as the total actual operating costs (including Agency overhead) before depreciation and operating leases divided by the total number of riders.<>The major changes for the 2014 Service Standards and Performance Guidelines include revised productivity measures for all modes that replace the “Purchased Transportation Cost Per
        Boarding” measure with a “Subsidy Per Boarding” measure. This change also applies to Tacoma Link, replacing the current “Operating Cost Per Boarding” measure with a “Subsidy Per
        Boarding” measure as well. “Subsidy Per Boarding” is a standard industry productivity measurethat is tracked by the National Transit Database, or NTD, and it takes into account all operational costs including facilities, administration, and purchased transportation or direct operating costs.<>Subsidy per boarding is calculated by dividing the net cost of the service (cost minus fare
        revenue) by the number of passenger boardings for a full year.<<

      5. Well that post got all messed up due to me forgetting how this site uses certain symbol annotations. Let me try again.

        “The report is still not clear on whether cost per boarding is before or after fare revenue.”

        Per the report’s footnotes:

        “2-Cost per boarding is calculated as the total actual operating costs (including Agency overhead) before depreciation and operating leases divided by the total number of riders.”

        If you are interested in Sound Transit’s performance metrics, the agency produces a report about every four years (1998, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018) called “Service Standards and Performance Measures”.

        Here’s the evolution of said report:
        1998 – ST Express standards and
        measures only
        2006 – Incorporated Sounder and
        Tacoma Link standards and
        2010 – Incorporated Link standards
        and measures
        2014 – Updated measures for
        all modes
        2018 – Simplifies language and structure for a more user friendly

        Here’s an important note from the 2014 report:

        “The major changes for the 2014 Service Standards and Performance Guidelines include revised productivity measures for all modes that replace the “Purchased Transportation Cost Per Boarding” measure with a “Subsidy Per Boarding” measure. This change also applies to Tacoma Link, replacing the current “Operating Cost Per Boarding” measure with a “Subsidy Per Boarding” measure as well. “Subsidy Per Boarding” is a standard industry productivity measurethat is tracked by the National Transit Database, or NTD, and it takes into account all operational costs including facilities, administration, and purchased transportation or direct operating costs.”

        “Subsidy per boarding is calculated by dividing the net cost of the service (cost minus fare revenue) by the number of passenger boardings for a full year.”

        The latest reports can be found at the link that follows. The earlier archived reports apparently have been removed with ST’s migration to their new website (sadly).

        (Brent, there’s another example for you.)

      6. @Al S. “ ‘Reconciled’ is an oddly vague term. It might be how dates are applied to costs: the date of service, the invoice dete or the payment date?”

        Actually reconciliations are a normal part of the accounting processes. The payment date wouldn’t matter as the expense needs to be recorded in the period it’s incurred, hence the need for the accruals. Of course I’m only talking about operating expenses here and not capitalized costs or CIP entries. I would imagine that the largest component of this for ST is salaries/wages and purchased transportation services.

        There is surely some sort of allocation by mode for administrative overhead as well, so ST must use some sort of factor or formula to accomplish that. (We just don’t know what it is.) ST uses a similar allocation model in its quarterly and annual financial reporting with regard to project costs (with the notable exception of the executive department):

        “Indirect Cost Allocation— Indirect costs relate to the overall costs of running the agency and include
        employee costs, office space, services and information technology costs. These indirect costs are allocated to capital projects, operating activities, agency administration and fare and regional planning using
        overhead rates that are based primarily on headcount in 2017 and budgeted expenditures in 2016.
        Overhead rates are designed to allocate all agency overhead costs except for certain executive divisions
        and marketing costs.”*

        With that said, I do agree that ST is most certainly being purposely vague here in their explanation about the variance to plan as well as the much larger budgeted cost per boarding figure (compared to 2017), as Julie B. has pointed out in her comment above.

        FWIW. The escalator replacements at UW and Capitol Hill stations will most likely be capitalized:

        “Capital Assets— Capital assets are stated at cost, except for capital assets contributed to Sound Transit,
        which are stated at the fair value on the date of contribution. Expenditures and contributions for additions
        and improvements with a value in excess of $5,000 and a useful life of more than one year are capitalized.
        Expenditures for maintenance, repairs and minor improvements are charged to operations as incurred….”*

        *Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, Financial Statements and Independent Auditors’ Report for the Years Ended December 31, 2017 and 2016

    3. “Also, the report should go to the Board before being released to the public so they can evaluate and approve the accuracy and adequacy of both the data and comments.”

      As Brent alluded to in his comment above, I couldn’t disagree more with your statement. This function belongs with the appropriate agency staff and management and not the board or a board committee. The latter’s oversight role should be to review the data/commentary and suggest changes and address inadequacies for future reports. I see little value in holding up the release of the data as the current process dictates.

      1. If the Board is responsible for the agency’s public reporting, they need to review it and approve it before its release.

      2. The board sets policy, and hires and fires the CEO. Altering a report retroactively is bypassing the CEO and setting policy ex post facto.

      3. @Julie B. Again, I disagree. I think you’re confusing the roles of the two parties, i.e. the board’s vs. the agency management’s. The board’s primary function is governance and policy-making, not micromanagement of agency reports.

        From the forward to the above publication:

        “TCRP REPORT 85: Public Transit Board Governance Guidebook is a reference tool that provides information on the organization and composition of transit boards.The Guidebook describes the structure and practices of transit boards and includes information on board-selection methods, board size, board length of service, and board composition. The Guidebook also includes a section on the primary role and activities of the transit board and the role of the transit board chair. There are guidelines for determining the roles and responsibilities of board members and a description of the
        characteristics of an effective board.”

      4. It’s actually not even the Board but merely a committee that is reviewing the monthly ridership report. The Board reviews the quarterly report only before it goes online.

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