Second quarter ridership data from Sound Transit shows, as expected, a collapse in ridership after COVID. There was a meaningful recovery in June as the lockdown eased, but ridership more recently seems to have stabilized at just under one-fourth of normal levels.
Pre-pandemic system ridership was about 4 million riders per month. At the bottom, in April, Link and ST Express ridership were at 18% of normal. There was some slight recovery in May, and more in June.
Ridership on ST Express and on Link has hovered around 22% of normal since June. (‘Normal’ here being the 2019 average). The commuter-heavy Sounder trains are carrying just 10% of their regular passenger loads. Tacoma Link is a relative bright spot, with 35% of normal ridership in August because it’s ridership is less commute-oriented. Overall system ridership remains just short of 900,000 monthly.
Cost per rider metrics in Q2 were naturally terrible, as service levels fell by much less than the number of riders and the pandemic necessitated some new costs. Costs per boarding were $26.63 on Link (vs $4.99 in 2019 Q2), and $35.20 on ST Express (vs $8.44). Sounder, with the greatest decrease in ridership, had $140 operating cost per boarding (vs $11.32).
Link ridership fell the most at UW and in downtown, with lesser but still large decreases in the Rainier Valley. It suggests the most robust market for Link is for intra-Rainier Valley trips. (update: as observed in comments below, the individual station numbers are suspiciously similar to each other, so perhaps the station boarding counts aren’t reliable).
The changing profile of transit trips showed in the weekday numbers too. Overall boardings on Link for the quarter were off 81.2%, but weekday boardings were down 88.6%, reflecting the relative strength of non-commute travel.