Link light rail train heading to the SODO station (image: Lizz Giordano)

A year ago, we reported on future ridership maps that showed a 2040 ST3 system with ridership concentrated in and near Seattle. We subsequently got a closer look at the station (and segment) level detail behind those maps.

The tables below are the high-end estimates for boardings 2040, organized by rail segment. These estimates are from September 2016, and may have been modestly refined since. In particular, I-405 BRT estimates are now higher than in 2016, as project improvements have greatly improved travel time. Variations in future growth vs current plans will surely raise or lower ridership in some places. On current trends, that means more ridership in Seattle and less in some suburban cities, but growth patterns may be different in 20 years.

The busiest stations? All are in downtown, and the two Westlake stations are first and fourth in the rankings, with 48,800 and 28,900 boardings respectively, along with thousands of transfers. International District, Capitol Hill, University Street and UW will all top 20,000 riders per weekday.

High-end ridership estimates for 2040 (data: Sound Transit)

Boardings on the new lines in Seattle mostly lag the existing stations, excepting the aforementioned second Westlake station. Ballard just tops 10,000 and the West Seattle stations together are expected to see 16,700 boardings.

High-end ridership estimates for 2040 (data: Sound Transit)

On the Eastside, just two stations are expected to exceed 10,000 daily boardings. Critics of the ST2 alignment may be surprised that East Main in Bellevue is one of them. The other of course is downtown Bellevue. The most productive ST3 station on the Eastside is expected to be in Issaquah, but it’s a low bar with only 12,600 boardings together across all six Eastside ST3 rail stations. Southeast Redmond is expected to surpass downtown Redmond , boosted by the large parking garage.

High-end ridership estimates for 2040 (data: Sound Transit)

The BRT numbers look relatively small against the light rail estimates, but most of the BRT stations are comparatively small. The SR 522 Stride is largely a feeder to Link, with 44% of boardings at N 145th. On I-405, nearly a quarter of boardings are in Bellevue, with the next busiest stations at South Renton and Tukwila. More recent estimates from Sound Transit indicate up to one-third more riders along the line than estimated in 2016, so expect Stride to exceed these station estimates comfortably.

High-end ridership estimates for 2040 (data: Sound Transit)
High-end ridership estimates for 2040 (data: Sound Transit)

If you’d like even more detail, here are the documents:

  • The complete station boardings data including 2014 and 2040 projections (the 2014 projection is what we would have with a fully built out system today, but without any growth or change in land use).
  • Passenger loads on every 2014 segment
  • Midpoint estimates of the 2040 segment loads including PM peak and daily volumes.
  • High end estimates of the 2040 segment volumes, again with both PM peak and daily volumes.

91 Replies to “Sound Transit’s station ridership in 2040”

  1. I think that Federal Way is a serious under-count. Given the City of Federal Way’s willingness to upzone and build up (115 foot height limits allowed without a variance), I think that we might see the first true TOD happen there, and folks will be walking to Link to go to jobs in both downtown Seattle and Tacoma – and folks from the surrounding areas commuting to jobs there. The land is *currently* cheap – much cheaper than Seattle or Bellevue, which should yield more affordable rents for startup businesses, but give good proximity to giants like Microsoft, Boeing, and Amazon. But, I get it. Don’t count your eggs before they’ve hatched. The vertical construction hasn’t happened quite yet.

    1. You’re probably right. The issue is kind of a chicken and egg problem. The forecast is based on land use assumptions at that time — and the Feds don’t let an agency assume a TOD just because there is a new nearby light rail station.

    2. “Good proximity” is an hour+ travel time? Time estimates from Federal Way (imprecise):

      Amazon SLU (green line): 60 minutes.
      Amazon Bellevue (green+blue): 65 minutes.
      Microsoft Redmond (green+blue): 75 minutes.
      Boeing Renton (green+405): 30 minutes.
      Boeing Everett (green+red): 105 minutes.

      And that’s not including transfer waits.

      1. 1. Nobody is taking transit to business meetings.
        2. Good proximity=same metro area.
        3. Small startup assumed to not have cash flowing through the veins, so Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond are all out of the question because of rent on office space.
        I’ve worked for a non-tech small startup (small consulting firm in business for 5 years when I started). It was located in a weird location, not close to much, surrounded by warehouses… but under an hour to downtown… which checked the box. Had a small fleet of beat up Ford Escorts for meetings.

      2. >> Nobody is taking transit to business meetings.

        I think a lot of “ridership” is people using Link as a moving sidewalk DT. That includes “working” lunches. When East Link opens it will provide a direct connection between Microsoft’s main campus and their tower in DT Bellevue; much faster than driving. And I think a lot of eastsiders will opt to take Link to DT Seattle.

      3. 1. Nobody is taking transit to business meetings.

        Nonsense. This happens all the time in big cities with decent transit. Not worth calling a cab, just hop on the train and get over to your meeting.

        2. Good proximity=same metro area.

        No, that isn’t what proximity means. As Mike explained, it makes a big difference if you can get to work (door to door) in a half hour or an hour. It also makes a big difference if a social trip takes a long time or not. I’m sure it is quite common for someone who works in Pioneer Square to have lunch with someone who works on Capitol Hill. Just hop on the train and you still have plenty of time to catch up. The same goes if you just want to visit someplace in the evening, or on a weekend. But you don’t do that if the trip takes an hour.

        3. Small startup assumed to not have cash flowing through the veins, so Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond are all out of the question because of rent on office space.I’ve worked for a non-tech small startup (small consulting firm in business for 5 years when I started). It was located in a weird location, not close to much, surrounded by warehouses… but under an hour to downtown… which checked the box. Had a small fleet of beat up Ford Escorts for meetings.

        Yeah, I could see that. But the point is, lots of people will simply drive to that suburban location. If they live in say, West Seattle, it isn’t that bad of a drive. If they live north of the city (in say, Fremont) they may not even bother. They may find a different job somewhere else. You might get people from Rainier Valley and maybe downtown, but still not huge numbers. Distant suburban job centers tend to have low transit rates, even if they are on a train line.

        You are basically making the case that Federal Way will exceed the ridership of downtown Bellevue, which I just don’t see happening. Bellevue is a lot closer, and probably wouldn’t be as big as it is now if not for the suburban office trend which seems to abating (when companies get big they move towards downtown).

      4. I doubt the “moving sidewalk” ridership is much in evidence any longer – even when “Connect 2020” ends you now have to go down two levels to the platform and wait for up to 6 minutes for a train under the same street where buses are running every few seconds. I certainly used the tunnel for that purpose when both trains and buses were in the tunnel; now I just catch a bus if I’m traveling intra-downtown and aren’t walking. The tunnel now makes little sense for that sort of trip unless your origin or destination is east of Westlake.

        I do think you are correct about business meetings between Microsoft facilities on the Eastside being possible/likely via East Link, as well as between DT Seattle and DT Bellevue. I’m a couple of blocks from a Link station in DT Seattle and have a client a couple of blocks from the BTC station in Bellevue (as well as occasional meetings with the City of Bellevue) – I can’t imagine doing anything other than taking the train any time I need to be in Bellevue for a meeting. Driving usually sucks.

      5. Moving sidewalk ridership should return once there are 3 minute headways in the tunnel.

        East Link should have robust midday ridership solely on the back of business trips and work lunches. Stitching together Seattle and the East Side socially such that it’s an easy train ride to meet someone for coffee/lunch/drinks will be one of the biggest benefits of Link. Sound Transit isn’t just about efficiency or saving the environment, it’s about creating a cohesive region.

        As for Federal Way, you would get social trips at that distance, but for commuter ridership, you simply have to be the best mode for strong ridership, and one hour on the train will be cheaper and faster than the alternatives.

      6. The type of people who will choose to work at an office in Federal Way are the same ones currently working in Redmond, Bellevue, or Seattle, and commuting in from the houses that they are purchasing in Tacoma, UP, Lake Tapps, and Bonney Lake… plus new graduates who can’t make a house or apartment payment work out in addition to student loans in the City.
        I could work on much sexier projects if I took a job in Seattle. It would probably have a 5% to 10% raise. But my cost of housing would double, or I’d face a one-to-two hour commute twice daily. You think that young people graduating from college with $100,000 in student loans aren’t making the same calculation?
        Just checked. Federal Way has a brand new performing arts center, a major shopping area, and authentic ethnic stores and restaurants, largely run by folks displaced from Seattle’s ID by gentrification. There’s a nice waterfront. SR 18 provides equal access to hiking at Snoqualmie as via I-90 in Seattle. Is it Seattle? No, and it doesn’t pretend to be. But it checks a lot of boxes within the budget of young people who are dealing with an economy that was destroyed by the Boomers & GenX.

      7. Different people make different choices. Some would move to Federal Way or Bonney Lake to have a house and still work in Seattle or the Eastside. Others would look beyond the large tech companies or even outside the tech field or live in a small apartment or move to another city to avoid living in Federal Way, Pierce County, or Snohomish County, or working for a company in Federal Way.

        For instance, I place a high value on having frequent, full-time transit and a variety of businesses I can walk to, so I would think very hard before moving to Pierce County where transit is like Seattle was in the 80s and even in Tacoma the neighborhoods are really suburban and car-oriented. I would stay as close to Seattle as possible. Federal Way is at least still in King County and Metro-land. Yes, Federal Way and Lakewood have gotten very diverse the past two decades, as have Kent, Renton, Tukwila, and probably Auburn. (And Bellevue.) That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a hardship to get around without a car there and you feel ignored walking through the large parking lots, unless you live right in an urbanized downtown. But those areas are precisely the most expensive (closer to Seattle’s prices). I really don’t want to live 1 1/2 miles from a frequent bus route, as in some houses/apartments I’ve visited in Tukwila and east Auburn.

    3. Federal Way has been open about its eagerness to upzone the station area for years. I’m sure that’s in ST’s estimate, even if the height assumption was preliminary. It’s not on the ground yet, and it remains to be seen whether developers/residents/companies are interested. Lynnwood is in the same boat. Both of them want a downtown as big as Bellevue with tax money coming in by the barrelful. It remains to be seen how much that happens because neither of them are in the desirable quarter, and will get the leftover scraps however much there is to go around. Developers will wait until all the large parcels in Seattle/Eastside are filled up before moving to Lynnwood and Federal Way (in that order).

  2. The projections show Fife has having a bigger ridership draw than not only 130th St. Station, but also downtown Redmond. This looks very suspect.

    Also suspect is SE Redmond’s projection of getting three times as many weekday riders as the number of parking spaces. Where are these extra riders expected to come from? Maybe 100 from walk-ups, another 100 from the 269 bus (being very generous). The rest would have to be private car drop-offs, but that seems like a lot. Maybe, autonomous driving will advance to the point where, when the garage is full, cars and drop their owners off and drive empty back to the driveway. (With traffic being the reason to use Link, rather than having the driverless car go all the way to downtown Seattle).

    1. Not every car will be a drive alone. If, and they should, heavily incentivize carpooling the average number per vehicle could approach 2. The metro Van Pool program could bump that higher.

      1. Getting an average of two people per car for work commutes seems very unlikely. Survey after survey shows that, if anything, carpools are declining, and what carpooling does happen tends to be long-distance drives (e.g. Everett->Tacoma), not short-distance hops to a transit station).

        The carpool permit pilot projects that have been deployed so far cover only a tiny fraction of the number of parking spaces, because the number of people willing to carpool a short distance to somewhere with free parking is just that limited.

      2. The key is incentive pricing. S. Kirkland P&R for example is at 100% capacity. And I’m sure you’re right it’s mostly SOVs that are driving <10 miles. Either restrict spaces by requiring a carpool permit or remove free parking and start charging market rate. UW figured this out with their student lots back in the late 70's. The Vanpool program could handle a lot of that.

    2. I suspect that Fife’s rosie projections are based on the assumption that the construction yards and couple of warehouses that currently surround the proposed station location will, at a minimum, redevelop into medium density residential and commercial. I also wonder what kind of ridership could be developed if a bus route timed out with shift start and end times at major Port of Tacoma employers were developed to connect Fife Station to the port.

    3. @asdf2,

      I wouldn’t use 130th St Station as any sort of benchmark. It was added for political and not technical reasons, and has always been projected to have low ridership. And what ridership it does get is mainly scavenged from the adjacent stations.

      There just isn’t anything there to generate substantial ridership, and the rezone proposals are pathetic. 130th is always going to be a laggard for ridership.

      But hey, maybe they can install some really cool art for all the thru-riders to look at while they sit and wait.

      1. The current proposed reroute for the 75 is to have it take over the portion of the current 41 route from Lake City Way over to 5th Ave NE. So people coming from the northern portions of SPW and Lake City will probably mostly jump to light rail there rather than waiting for the bus to make its way to the Northgate station. Ingraham is also just a short walk away and it would be faster for students to walk from the 130th light rail station than wait for the bus to wind its way through haller lake down to northgate. Hopefully they will also add a cross-town line on 125th/130th — why there isn’t one already is a mystery.

  3. This would be a bit more interesting if you provided some baseline reference points so we have something to compare these numbers to. What are current boardings at the existing stations?

    1. My teabags always come with “sage” advice on the paper tabs.

      Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

  4. I am surprised that they are predicting Husky Stadium to be 2x U District. With so much of Husky Stadium Station’s current transfer riders going to U District/Eastside stations, I have a hard time believing that.

    1. I could see how students might prefer to get off at U-District in the morning and walk downhill, and walk downhill again to get to UW. (boarding). However, I don’t think these models account for elevation issues.

    2. Campus is in the middle of the 2 stations, so my prediction is that students and employees will get off at the first stop they reach. People coming from the north will get off at U District and people coming from the south will get off at Husky Stadium. And there’s likely more people coming from the south.

      1. As a recent student and instructor there, I can say definitively that I would have vastly preferred a U District stop. The Husky Stadium Parking Wasteland Station is terrible for accessing campus. Long, long climb out of the station, then either a long wait to cross Montlake or a further climb up weird stairs to the overpass bridge, then a seemingly endless slog up the empty boring Rainier Vista.

        By contrast, U District is at the same elevation as campus, and has interesting, varied shops/cafes to walk past or kill time in before class. If you’re taking a 6 to 12-minute frequency train to campus, aiming to ensure on-time arrival at your classroom, you must set up your schedule to usually arrive a good 15 minutes early near campus. In the U District you can use that time to grab a coffee, or check your notes at a coffee shop, etc. From Husky Stadium, you’ve just got a big, usually soggy field and benches to choose from.

        And right now, hardly anybody working at UW medical center takes Link or ever will. They are rich enough to drive, there’s a closer parking lot, and they come and go at odd hours when there’s hardly any traffic and very infrequent train service.

        Good points from asdf2 about the forced transfers. The Husky Stadium Parking Wasteland Station will definitely see boardings pick up once Eastsiders are forced out of their way and get to play “which escalators are out of service today” roulette every day, one busload at a time.

      2. “hardly anybody working at UW medical center takes Link or ever will. They are rich enough to drive”

        What? You think the hundreds of nurses and medical assistants and food-service workers and graduate students have money to burn? Many of them are working hourly with no benefits and no guaranteed hours. Then there are the visitors, and patients coming for outpatient services and follow-ups.

    3. There’s also the UW Med Center, plus transfers from the Eastside. The 255 will be going to Husky Stadium station. Even from DT Redmond, Link is projected to take a good 45 minutes to get downtown Seattle. When the Montlake construction is finished, 542->Link will be faster.

      1. There’s also the UW Med Center

        Sure, but there is the UW tower, as well as the commercial district, and likely a lot more growth in that direction by the time 2040 comes along.

        I’m not saying the UW numbers are out of whack, I’m saying that the U-District should be similar.

    4. With the MHA upzone, the walkshed population of U District station should grow quite a bit by 2040; there’s no good reason to think the residential walkshed for Husky stadium will grow at all. Odds of a Montlake upzone seem poor.

      1. To be fair, lower campus (the southern end of campus) is expected to grow. In general, I think the UW Station numbers are good, but I think they grossly underestimated the U-District station. My guess is they just assumed that everyone who is headed to or from the UW will use the UW station, but I don’t. I think a lot of people will find that the U-District station is more convenient.

  5. For 900 people in 2040, Sound Transit’s still running Sounder North?

    A double-tall bus holds 77 folks sitting. So demand for 12 more double talls in peak times?

    I would think the solution is Sound Transit giving a fraction of the money that’s being thrown down that rabbit hole to Community Transit for more frequent Community Transit 400-series routes that won’t be held hostage by situations on the train tracks like freight traffic or a human crisis on a bridge over the tracks. Period.

    At what point does the Sound Transit Board blink here? Oh, that’s right the Sound Transit Board with its federated structure is addicted to groupthink and not tough love.

    1. Perhaps it’s not too shabby considering that Sounder North only runs *four* weekday trains each direction, which presumably is not much better in the 2040 projection? It’s just not going to be a significant contender until ST runs a minimal useful schedule (e.g. half hourly peak, hourly midday and late evenings). Even though I wouldn’t expect more than a few thousand, a more robust Sounder North service would still be advantageous to many vs. getting all the way east to Link and could help relieve the downtown congestion on Link. Community Transit express bus takes well over an hour from Mukilteo to downtown. 50 minutes on Sounder. Edmonds looks even worse — Route 130 takes 25 minutes on a pretty straight shot to MLT TC, while Sounder is a half hour to downtown Seattle. All the more useful if you can get an Interbay station going, and have it be a second connection to Link.

      Caveats: ST obviously has bigger fish to fry right now! It’s something more appropriate for dedicated funding from SnoCo and/or the cities of Everett, Mukilteo, and/or Edmonds, which is currently a tough sell.

    2. Yeah, running Sounder North seems like a waste of money. One might consider it a faster alternative to taking Link all the way around Paine Field, except for the fact that it still takes an hour, and swings even farther west than Link.

      I think killing it would be more than enough for paying for an express bus from Edmonds to 185th Street Link, plus more frequent bus service from Mukilteo to Link (Link will already go very close!).

      1. Rather see the bus service improvements…

        Sounder North is a money sink. Here’s what I think works:

        The North wants Link and more buses.

        Seattle & the East need multiple Link lines plus keeping their buses.

        The South wants more Sounder and needs more buses also. Link should be negotiable to this end.

    3. Some of us tried to get Sounder North canceled in ST3 but ST persistently refused. It’s seen as a valuable asset to the Snohomish subarea, one of ST’s early successes, a distinct service (i.e., not Link or ST Express), and faster than ST3 Link (false for Everett, true for Mukilteo and Edmonds). Edmonds and Mukilteo are among the subareas’ largest cities, so ST doesn’t want to cut their direct service. (Never mind that most of Edmonds’ and Mukilteo’s populations live well east of the station; it’s the downtowns and ferry terminals that matter.)

      You’d think Mr Eyman in Mukilteo would be able to round up enough Snohomish support to convince ST to cancel Sounder North as a cost-saving measure, but he hasn’t lifted one finger for that. Just rambled about car tabs and ST in general.

      1. We’ll probably take another look at Sounder North when Link reaches Everett. But also a good chance that shoreline population both sides of the water will justify keeping it.

        From what I saw around the Baltic, at some level we’re probably already looking at train-speed hydrofoil “jet boats.” Whose view from the passenger deck between the Canadian border and Olympia might include frequent renovated steam engines pulling coaches from the 1890’s on Sounder’s present routing. With interstate freight and passengers relocated where speed’s the issue, not scenery.

        On the escalators, my main attention would be toward fixing whatever political and administrative habits and failures are resulting in so much trouble with such perfectly-understood machinery.

        Overseas news coverage of ordinary people so sick of malfeasance they’ll face down clubs and bullets, makes me doubt it’ll take ’til 2040 for our passengers to consider useless escalators as a declaration of a de facto fare-free system.

        While word “Governance” needs to get out of the language, I’m voicing again my current fixation on a public education system that makes hands-on ability to do massive public projects a high school graduation requirement.

        In 2040, should be on everybody’s phone.

        Mark Dublin

  6. I doubt the Ballard-West Seattle link happens before 2040.

    That Issaquah-Kirkland line should not happen if that’s the expected ridership. A BRT is a more reasonable use of public funds.

  7. I’m a bit surprised to see the East Main station with more than the Bellevue Downtown station. Lots of development will happen near both locations before 2040, but the downtown station will always be closer to at least half of downtown.

    1. DT Bellevue is also the transit center so will pick up lots of transfers. I think what they are counting on is Bellevue’s uber ambitious plans for Wilburton; twice the density of Bel-Red The Spring District. It will have more housing than DT but not the number of employees. The City also has big plans for a Grand pedestrian plaza over 405 at 2nd. It’s still a long hike and the north half of the area will be closer to Hospital Wilburton Station.

    2. I’m saddened to see such an absurd prediction that East Main will have more boardings than Bellevue Station. It makes it hard to have faith in Sound Transit, and that they know what they are doing. I’d also be willing to bet that the person made that prediction has never been to 112th and Main in Bellevue.

      1. I’m saddened to see such an absurd prediction …

        There are many absurd predictions, and they seem to be based on validating previous decisions. I can just imagine the conversation going something like this:

        Hmmm, East Lake Sammamish has three times the ridership of Redmond Town Center. Well good thing we added that station at East Lake Sammamish. Too bad about the weird loop to serve Redmond Town Center, but obviously the other station is far more important. … Look at those people riding the train from Everett and Lynnwood — good thing we extended the line that far. 130th looks pretty week, maybe we shouldn’t build it right away, or even at all (ha-ha) …

      2. Ross, are you suggesting ST knows the number of boardings at East Main will be low, for example, under 2000, but to justify the poor station placement, they falsified the prediction and made it 10,900, to give the perception they hit a home run placing East Main where they did?

      3. There are quite a few office buildings about halfway in between Bellevue Transit Center and East Main St. Station. You may as well get off at the station that comes first, and save time on the train. That’s also the station that’s supposed to include all the transfers from the Issaquah line.

        I personally think ST is being optimistic with the Issaquah transfers. People will not be happy about losing their Issaquah->Mercer Island bus, and having to detour out of the way, just because there’s a new train.

      4. Does a second or transfer boarding show up here? If so, I could see how East Main boardings include riders coming from Issaquah or going to Issaquah.

      5. asdf, you are right, there are a number of office and residential building half way between the two stations … right now. But I don’t think people realize how many towers are in the pipeline that are going up in the BTC/Bellevue Station area. Example, a 42 story tower has just broken ground a block west of the BTC. 3, 600 foot towers are going in 2 blocks west of the BTC. Another 600 foot tower is going in a block north of the BTC. Three more 600 foot towers are going in 2 blocks north of the BTC. A 45 story tower is going in 3 blocks northwest of the BTC. Etc., etc. The transformation in just 5 years will be massive. Not as many are planned for the mentioned mid-point, and almost no projects are planned for the area near East Main.

        ST is either unaware of the upcoming Bellevue central business district growth explosion, or they are, and didn’t factor it in.

      6. AndyL, that’s good info. I did not know that. I see the same company recently bought both the Red Lion and Hilton properties across from East Main Station.

    3. This is ridership in 2040. I thought the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line opens in 2041. How can they include Issaquah line transfers in the 2040 boardings?

      1. How can they logically show any boardings for the Kirkland to Issaquah Line? I think the transfers are in there because data is listed for the 2041 line — even though it’s not supposed to open until 2041.

      2. It’s a model. Take everything else that is planned for Issaquah through South Kirkland in 2040, then put a rail line in it with mature ridership. That’s your 2040 projection. Similarly, if you click through to the source docs, you’ll see a 2014 projection. Assume everything is as it was in 2014, and have a rail line magically appear. How many would have boarded that train?

    4. East Main’s ridership would be even higher if it were at Bellevue Way. There could even be a frequent north-south feeder bus between South Bellevue and downtown Kirkland.

      1. This will go down in history as one of Sound Transit’s most baffling mistakes. The entire East Link route is an inexplicable mess.

  8. Every morning and evening, I have dreams of bypassing the so-called Stadium Station during weekday rush hour commutes.

    I realize the possibilities of a NYC-City “express” route between major centers would tax the network beyond its capabilities. But I also hope they’ll evaluate skipping a single lonely where usually literally no one gets on and off. It would speed up their own schedule.

  9. Here are a few of the areas that I think are underestimated and those that are overestimated:

    130th, U-District, Stadium, Redmond Town Center

    Lynnwood, East Lake Sammamish, Tacoma Dome

    It seems like the bus network wasn’t considered for 130th, U-District and Redmond Town Center (which make sense, because coordination between the agencies is poor). Development around the U-District also seems to have been ignored.

    Lynnwood and the Tacoma Dome are overestimated, probably because Sound Transit ignored the fact that suburban (or city to city travel) is always relatively low. I expect Lynnwood numbers to be high once Lynnwood Link is complete (and it becomes the northern terminus of all the Snohomish County buses) but after that, ridership will be spread throughout the area (with little increase in overall train ridership). The East Lake Sammamish numbers look crazy (as was mentioned up above). It doesn’t make sense that it would have higher numbers than Redmond Town Center, given the fact that RTC will have plenty of feeder buses, and ELS won’t.

    1. Oh, I forgot to mention that Stadium boarding are higher than that now. Hard to imagine they will go down.

    2. Question: Since the Feds don’t allow TOD to be used in these projections, it it also true that future bus re-organizations can’t be considered? Or are you only allowed to use current bus ridership to estimate transfers? Because you could imagine a lot of bus-rail transfers from Lake City and Bitter Lake at the 130th ST station.

      1. I’ve had several friends be called to FTA in DC to defend ridership projections. The Feds look at all the assumptions — from feeder bus assumptions in frequency and routing to parking costs downtown to currently adopted (2015/16 here) zoning and future land use plans.

        Of course, the work for the 130th analysis alternatives pre-dated ST3 ans didn’t include the 522 BRT and the accompanying restructuring of other routes to accommodate it. The forecasts listed here are four-years old and lots has changed. 130th St in particular needs more current data to make design decisions.

        On the other hand, a good transfer at Roosevelt for high-frequency buses on Lake City Way could easily be a shorter travel time for riders from Downtown. Riders wouldn’t be on Link those extra 5-7 minutes to reach 130th.

        I think the best siting about 130th is better access for areas west of the station rather than to the east. Since Northgate and 145th are not at places where roads directly cross from the west side of I-5, this would seem to be the go-to place for bus and drop-off transfers to the west. In my mind, a 130th lid for bus transfers and drop-offs over I-5 would be optimum for the west access but I’m not sure if the extra cost would be worth it.

      2. Unless they solve the bottleneck problem on Lake City Way between 85th and 75th (which without building purchase and demolition will be nearly impossible – so it won’t happen), any ostensible time savings routing to Roosevelt will be easily eaten up. It may be 5-7 minutes extra on the train and it’s about 7 minutes of bus time from Lake City to 130th Station, but it’ll quite often be more than that 12-14 minutes on the bus between central Lake City and Roosevelt. It’s 10 minutes just driving right now at 1:45pm on a weekday – no stops, no bottleneck. That doesn’t even account for which direction anybody east or west of LCW would likely go; they’d go to 130th on a cross-town bus.

        I very much favor the idea of serving Lake City from the Roosevelt station – it’s historically the direct travel route from Seattle to the NE – but unless the issue of getting to/from the Roosevelt Way/NE 12th couplet is solved there will be little or no time savings for anyone in Lake City to go that way (south of Lake City proper is a different story). Indeed, during parts of the day leaving LCW at 20th and making a right on 65th might be as fast, and would serve part of Ravenna. Anyone from the area will tell you that unless absolutely necessary avoiding the area around LCW and 80th/15th at rush hour is best practice.

      3. Anyone from the area will tell you that unless absolutely necessary avoiding the area around LCW and 80th/15th at rush hour is best practice.

        Yeah, I agree on all your points. These aren’t mutually exclusive, either. It makes sense to have buses go on every major corridor off of Lake City, simply because they are important corridors. So a bus that goes down Lake City Way to Roosevelt is OK — even if it is slow. It serves the people who live along the way. But the vast majority of people in Lake City will save a lot of time connecting to Link with a station at 130th.

        Indeed, during parts of the day leaving LCW at 20th and making a right on 65th might be as fast, and would serve part of Ravenna.

        I agree. I actually had that on one of my Page 2 proposals. The city would probably want to add a turn light on 20th (ideally triggered by transit).

        One of the things people don’t realize is that traffic is bad southbound during evening rush hour. Not only do you have lots of people heading south in the evening, but the traffic lights favor traffic coming off the freeway. There are left turn lights on northbound Lake City Way, and that cycle manages to mess up those heading the other direction. The city could improve things by forcing right turns off of Lake City (which is actually what the 77 does —

        One of the big advantages to serving 130th with a bus is that the route is symmetrical. This makes it different than the current pattern. The 522 and 512, for example, largely deadhead. There is just a huge amount of demand heading peak direction and not a lot the other. On the other hand, an east-west route from Bitter Lake to Lake City doesn’t have that problem. It will pick up plenty of people each direction, even if it is running very frequently (to deal with the load). That would make it a lot more cost effective and useful.

  10. These numbers seem dated or, in some cases, miscalculated.

    130th St shows well below its neighbors. I think someone took the marginal ridership expected from adding the station and made that the expected boardings at the station. Regardless, 130th is almost as much as the all-important SW Industrial Center / Everett Airport station, for which the spine had to undergo severe scoliosis.

    U-District Station only getting 10.7K? No way.

  11. So 9,300 for 145th, and 1,800 for 130th. This looks ridiculous. Both are very similar stations. They won’t have much walk-up ridership, despite new development close to the station. It is just the geographic limitations of each station (being close to the freeway as well as parkland). But each will get plenty of feeder bus service. Yet somehow Sound Transit thinks 145th will get about five times the ridership of 130th. This is backwards.

    Ridership on the 522 is dominated by Lake City Riders, with about 40% of the boardings headed downtown. While Lake City riders would benefit immensely from the faster connection to Link, Bitter Lake riders would benefit more. It seems quite likely that the corridor that would connect with this station will grow faster, and contain much higher density than that serving 145th. I wouldn’t be surprised if 130th ended up having more riders than 145th. But even if 145th has more, there is no way that it will have that much more.

    1. 145th has the new SR522 BRT project feeding it. All of the commuters from Woodinville, Bothell, Kenmore, etc. will be transferring here.

      1. Yes, my point is that it is quite possible that they will be outnumbered by the all-day riders coming from Lake City, Bitter Lake, etc. There will be more high density areas, and the trips will be shorter. Both favor 130th, in ways that aren’t obvious. The relationship between density and transit ridership is not linear, it is exponential. Ridership goes up the closer you are to your destination (i. e. the smaller the total trip time). Thus if the two feeder buses go by exactly the same number of riders, the Bitter Lake to Lake City bus would carry a lot more riders.

        The SR 522 BRT bus will be the primary bus for many of the north lake communities, so it has that going for it. Someone in Lake City, for example, may have other options for getting to the U-District. But it is quite possible that Bothell, for example, would have an express bus wrapping around and connecting to the UW, connecting both campuses via the fastest route (405/520). That would provide good all day service to Totem Lake and other places along the way as well.

        My main point is that while I can see one being a bit more than the other, it is unrealistic to think that there would be that much of a difference. That would either take a complete failure on the part of Metro (e. g. running a bus every half hour) or the return of the flight to the suburbs. Neither trend seems likely, since the opposite is happening (buses are getting a lot more frequent, and most of the growth is in the city).

  12. I don’t know much about estimating ridership, but I would bet anything that Downtown Redmond would have higher ridership than Southeast Redmond. Several of the other estimates seem wrong, but that one is downright implausible.

    1. I could see how Downtown Redmond is lower . The blocks closest to the Downtown Redmond Station are probably assumed to remain 1-2 story retail. If those blocks were redeveloped merely on the scale of Northgate, it would surely be higher.

      I actually think tall office buildings at the ends of lines in suburban areas is better than suburban office campuses nearby. Imagine a 40-story headquarters office tower on the Macy’s block in Downtown Redmond. Workers could then use Link in the off-peak direction to reach the jobs and that makes the light rail system more productive by filling the non-peak direction seats with more riders.

    2. I agree with Christopher. There are some glaring problems with the estimates, but that one seems completely backwards. I guess we’ll find out in about 5 years (or at least we’ll have a very good clue).

  13. Rather than be concerned about demand at stations that might be too low, I’m much more concerned where demand could be too high to handle the activity. The stations themselves are pretty much dictated by ST3, but the silence about if our stations can handle demand is deafening. Overcrowding is a pretty common issue for subways that carry loads this high.

    Take Westlake at 48000 boardings with only two narrow stairs down to the platform, and only two escalators rising up from the platform (plus slow elevators). I just don’t see how it’s physically possible to board almost four times as many people as the station has today. Imagine four times as many people on that platform!

    Then there is the matter of train overcrowding. These mathematical models don’t often put a constraint on train capacity. A ratio showing seats to demand is badly needed. For example, the segment between Capitol Hill and Westlake is higher than Beacon Hill and SODO, but on a per train basis the latter will be the most crowded.

    Finally, this assumes a smooth operation. Escalators and elevators break. Trains get delayed or taken out of service. If normal times are crowded, what will the inevitable disruption do?

    Today, we look often at rail like a pretty new house and get excited. The daily reality of operating a system and maintaining stations is instead what we probably need to think about more.

    1. Of course ST will replace the Westlake escalators so they won’t be broken for months at a time. Currently if you enter at the Nordstrom corner and exit at the Macy’s corner you encounter two broken escalators at both ends.

  14. At 1100 daily boardings, South Kirkland looks like a huge waste! It’s so bad it makes me wonder if the station needs to be moved or dropped.

    I could see a second platform at East Main (or ideally South Bellevue) to serve only Eastgate and Issaquah. Trains could layover there and doors could be opened to board riders from Seattle or Bellevue. The line could be driverless too as well as open years earlier through cost savings.

    Surely, a better use of funds would be to have an in-line 405 station in Renton rather than this ineffective station investment.

    It kind of exposes the problem with ST3 as a whole: politics is weighted 100 times more than productivity analysis is.

    1. It’s a sop to say Link is serving the city of Kirkland. (The Kirkland-Bellevue border runs through the P&R.) And it’s a park n ride!

  15. RE 405 BRT ridership: I find it revealing that South Renton has boardings almost triple any other non-Link station — yet has no direct HOV lane direct access. Why are we spending so much to build other online stations on 405 but not doing this at South Renton? The inaneness of the 405 investment priorities is demonstrated by the data on this ridership table.

    1. Online stations tend to help other areas. For example, if I’m riding between Lynnwood and Bellevue, the online station at Totem Lake helps me quite a bit. But it doesn’t do someone in the populated part of Totem Lake any good. They either have to walk a long ways, or catch a bus to the stop.

      HOV bus ramps in that sort of situation make a huge difference though. It still costs the through riders (e. g. Burien to Bellevue), but the Renton riders would probably come out ahead. That is, assuming that the location is actually convenient for the bulk of Renton riders (and I’m not sure if it is).

      In general that is why a freeway “BRT” line is not necessarily an ideal setup. It would probably make more sense to have some inline stations, but also a series of overlapping routes that use the freeway from various neighborhoods. 405 seems like a good place for that, with buses feeding into downtown Bellevue.

      1. You make a good point that through riders benefit the most from inline stations, RossB. Still, given some of the significantly less demand on several of the 405N stops, a case to just not build a station there (no stopping) and instead spend the money on South Renton could be made. It would make no sense for a 405S bus to skip South Renton with demand this high. It really points to how Renton May deserve light rail.

    2. One thing to consider is that it’s not equally easy to build inline stops everywhere. And in the case of S. Renton, it’s tricky because you have two intersecting freeways. You also have the S. Renton P&R that will soon be upgraded, and that is going to be super important to serve directly (and it’s not right next to the freeway like TIBS is). Inline stations are actually less convenient for riders using those stations (with the exception of something like a TIBS, where walking to the mezzanine is quicker than riding the bus around), so if a big chunk of ridership is starting or ending at S Renton compared to through-riding, then an inline station doesn’t make sense. As it turns out, TIBS and S. Renton ridership shockingly are about the same, and even more shockingly both are *double* Bellevue ridership! So aside from the fact that I think ST waaay underestimates how much this thing will be used to get to Bellevue (I hate driving to Bellevue and everyone else surely does), ST does seem to think that a lot of people will go from S Renton to Bellevue, TIBS to SR, and Burirn to SR, and that these may outnumber people going from TIBS to Bellevue and Burien to Bellevue, so it’s no surprise at all that they think a stop at S Renton proper is better.

      As for a direct ETL ramp, that’s tricky as well. Going through that area every day, I have a hard time seeing where exactly it would fit (especially after they widen the freeway to accommodate the ETL lanes). I also notice that most of the time during the southbound rush hour, traffic on I-405 south is moving at 50-60+ miles per hour already, so leaving the ETLs to exit I don’t think will be a big issue. Northbound in the morning is quite a bit dicier though.

      1. Bellevue is still the most popular stop, they just broke it down into southbound and northbound. It still doesn’t add up though (6,500 people from the north part of I-405 will board, but only 2,700 will board going back north — I don’t buy it).

        Anyway, yeah, I agree, it wouldn’t be easy to serve Renton. Plus we aren’t talking about that many riders. What is frustrating is the huge amount of money spent on even fewer riders. Not only on NE 85th (although those numbers are likely an underestimate) but also with the 167/405 interchange. This is a very nice (very expensive addition). A bus can quickly go between those two freeways. Except while doing so, they happen to miss the biggest destination for miles: Renton. Maybe instead they should have:

        1) Extended the SR 167 all the way to Renton (Rainier Avenue South).
        2) Create bidirectional off ramps and on ramps to SR 405 and Renton (like Lynnwood Station).

        That means every bus from SR 167 goes into Renton then loops through the transit center and heads back north. It also means that the 405 bus does the same sort of thing (exiting the freeway, serving Renton and then getting back on). The key being that unlike today, all of that is done in an HOV lane. No, it isn’t as fast as a freeway station, but it is still pretty darn fast. That doesn’t seem any more costly than what they built, yet a lot more useful.

      2. Since the 405 Stride is split into a north and a south line, the Bellevue TC northbound ridership would be for the north line and the southbound for the south line. I’m assuming that passengers’ inbound and outbound trips are counted separately, and transferring passengers are counted on both lines. So for the south line, it looks like 1,700 passengers will arrive in Bellevue because 1,700 will later depart, compared to about 3,000 each for Renton and TIBS, which both may have more passengers between each other than actually to Bellevue (though I don’t think it will end up like that, I think people will actually want to take the bus to Bellevue once the bus to Bellevue is actually good).

        I would not do an 85th street style interchange anywhere on this line since it’s a huge waste of money, but I would certainly do it at S Renton before I would do it at 85th. For the all the reasons you mention, it would be expensive like the actually built ramp is (though it’s at least relatively simple, which a Lynnwood-style ramp wouldn’t be).

        Though it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility to add a better ramp in Renton later. Even if ST doesn’t propose it in ST4, WSDOT might have an appetite for it on its own (they seem to be wanting to bolster ETL access, since they’re improving the NE 6th exit and looking into adding some ETL ramps at north Renton and 112th Ave SE).

  16. Ah, Sounder North. It’s expensive to operate and has very limited service.
    Would more folks ride it if it ran more frequently? There’s certainly an argument for more service (bus or train) from downtown Edmonds to Seattle than the combined Sounder and CT bus – by 7:45am, you’re a two-bus slow ride to Seattle either via the RapidRide from Auroa Village or ST Express from Mountlake Terrace (which is definitely a faster and more pleasant experience). There is definitely a gap to fill but so far I don’t see any efforts to address it either by increased bus service or (less likely) more trains.
    And getting to Sea-Tac airport from anywhere in North King or S. Snohomish by public transit is only for the frugal and committed. Anyone else up for gathering a case for a direct-to-SeaTac bus from Lynnwood/Edmonds/Everett: a single-seat journey?

    1. Such a bus already exists. It’s the Dungeness Line from Port Angeles. But, it only runs once per several hours, and the fares for just adults would pay for an Edmonds->SeaTac Lyft/Uber ride.

      I don’t think public transit should be funding a bus from Edmonds to SeaTac. What Edmonds needs is just a shuttle to the nearest Link station that takes the a direct route down SR-104, and runs more than once per hour. The money saved from discontinuing north Sounder would easily pay for it.

    2. The math just doesn’t work out. You’d be spending a lot of money on a bus that runs through downtown (but skips it? Or serves it? Either way it’s unreliable), and directly duplicating our entire light rail line? Maybe it made sense in the past, but even then it would have been a bus like the old 340, so not really what you’re looking for. In reality, once Lynnwood Link opens this will be much like that. And even before then, express buses to Seattle are pretty good off peak, and the Northgate transfer next year should help as well.

    3. Ah, Sounder North. It’s expensive to operate and has very limited service.
      Would more folks ride it if it ran more frequently?

      Yes, certainly. But probably not a lot more. The trips are too long and too limited to induce spontaneous journeys.

      There’s certainly an argument for more service (bus or train) from downtown Edmonds to Seattle

      Yes, and that is why folks are complaining about the train running in 2040. Running trains is very expensive. You really can’t justify it with the number of riders. Right now there aren’t a lot of good options. With Northgate Link — and certainly with Lynnwood Link — everything changes. As asdf2 suggested, you need better bus service that connects to Link. It would provide far better value and ending South Sounder would easily pay for it.

      Anyone else up for gathering a case for a direct-to-SeaTac bus from Lynnwood/Edmonds/Everett: a single-seat journey?

      No. Buses like that are extremely expensive, even if they are full. The most cost effective buses are the ones that are constantly picking up customers every couple minutes. They can do that because they are also dropping them off. Express buses like that do the opposite. They pick up a lot of people at first, then no one, while they cruise along the freeway. There are other problems as well. If you run them a lot, you simply don’t have enough potential customers to generate good ridership. If you don’t run them a lot, then they lose potential riders — folks don’t bother waiting for the express bus, but just take the bus/train combination that gets them down there. If the city was much bigger (the size of New York) then you could pull it off. But not here.

      1. Ross – public transit has to be competitive time-wise to be appealing to more than a minority of people (ie the folks that read this blog). It will be another 3 years before Link to Lynnwood is complete, and Community Transit and potentially Sound Transit, is considering curtailing express service from Snohomish Co. into downtown Seattle and instead ending routes at the Northgate link station.
        If I recall correctly it will be an 58 minute trip from Northgate to Sea-Tac by train. If residents of Snohomish County must first take a bus to Northgate to catch a train to Sea-Tac, the likely travel trip will be around 90 minutes, including a transfer. With a transfer at Northgate the likelihood of airport-bound passengers, some with luggage, taking a bus then Link to the airport diminishes considerably. (FYI – it takes 30 minutes on a decent day to drive from Edmonds to Sea-Tac: on a bad day it can take 75 minutes.) Those people will either drive and park or use a ride-hail service.
        An express bus offering a single-seat ride from, say, Lynnwood, to the airport would certainly have appeal in the three years prior to rail service opening – and maybe beyond.
        I would respectfully have to disagree on both your cost issue and the idea that a bus has to stop multiple times to be feasible. There are numerous airports around the world that offer express bus, local bus and train services – they complement rather than compete with each other.
        If the broader community goal – certainly the governor’s – is to reduce our carbon-polluting ways then a direct bus is definitely worth consideration as one strategy that could potentially reduce the volume of traffic from Snohomish County to Sea-Tac. (And of course, there is lots more the airport could be doing but that’s a different matter.)

  17. TBH, that use case is the primary reason to add an infill transfer station between Sounder and Link at Boeing Access Road – there’s little or no local traffic that would justify a station there otherwise save possibly some Boeing people. Actually making the case for that sort of transfer, however, would require a significantly expanded Sounder schedule (including evenings/weekends) and an extension of North Sounder to Renton so that passengers on both North and South Sounder could utilize it.

    I’d actually extend North Sounder to DT Renton anyway – the right-of-way and trackage exists, it’s almost completely grade-separated except at tiny Monster Road (for the tiny monsters), and there is room for a layover track where the old Renton Station was. Doing that and adding a Belltown platform would likely increase rider usage on part of the line at any rate, perhaps enough to make a better case for keeping it.

    1. Why belltown and not interbay, especially if interbay could be a joint sounder/link station?

      It feels like belltown could eventually be served by a streetcar with dedicated right of way.

      1. Interbay eventually, yes – I could see that station in conjunction with the Smith Cove Link station and Belltown as a decent transit access point to the north end of downtown and the highest density neighborhood north of SF. I do think Interbay would be the logical termination for South Sounder at some point, which would mean service on both lines between Interbay and a putative station at Boeing Access Road. The airport, Rainier Valley, and SW King County would get direct Link access from the Sounder lines at that station.

        If we do build the streetcar out (with dedicated right of way as you say), I’d split the system into three overlapping lines with one extending up First all the way to Mercer. That idea is for a different post. ;)

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