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Light rail draws 12,000 riders a day; by December ridership on Seattle-Sea-Tac Airport link may almost double

Post by News Tribune Staff on July 30, 2009 at 12:01 pm with No Comments »
July 30, 2009 12:01 pm

You’ll note that 1,300 riders had to take a bus shuttle to get all the way to the airport because that final segment won’t be open until December.

Here is a link to the Washington Policy Center’s take on ridership. (It also appears in the comment section).

The center’s points are well taken. The 12,000 “riders” probably is only 6,600 different “people.” But I’m not going to get bent out of shape by that. I don’t think Sound Transit was deliberately distorting the numbers. Rather, the agency was just writing in a language the average person could understand.

Strong ridership during first week of Link light rail service

Link proves popular option for special events

During its first week of regular service Central Link light rail carried an estimated average of 12,000 riders each weekday. Another estimated 16,900 riders took Link on Saturday and 15,100 on Sunday.

"We’re encouraged by the large numbers of people who boarded light rail on opening weekend and have started using it every day,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “This is a new way to think about getting around our region and we know ridership will continue to increase as more people try the system and we expand the line to more communities.”

Nationally, ridership on new light rail systems ramps up over time as more and more people find out about the service and give it a try. Weekday ridership during the first week was already more than halfway to the level Sound Transit projections show for the end of 2009.

Sound Transit projects that by the end of 2009 an average of 21,000 riders will climb aboard on weekdays. Average weekday ridership is forecasted to rise to 26,600 in 2010 following the December 2009 opening of light rail service directly to Sea-Tac International Airport. An average of 1,300 riders a day rode the Link Airport Connector bus shuttle between the airport and Tukwila / International Boulevard Station during the first week of light rail service.

Last weekend’s Sounders FC and Seattle Mariners games, the Seattle Seafair Torchlight Parade and people turning out to try Link for the first time contributed to last weekend’s strong ridership. More than 11,000 tickets or ORCA cards were sold from Link ticket vending machines on Saturday and station agents sold another 1,400 paper tickets to overflow crowds at Tukwila. Sound Transit has doubled the number of ticket vending machines in Tukwila and reminds riders that buying an ORCA smart card is a great way to bypass lines.

Coming up, Sound Transit is preparing for another busy weekend with Seafair running free shuttles from the Othello light rail station to the hydroplane course and air show on Lake Washington on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Sound Transit estimates its light rail ridership using automatic passenger counting technology installed on some of the vehicles. Infrared sensors in the trains’ doorways detect boardings and alightings, generating data that is used to develop estimates consistent with Federal Transit Administration-approved methods.

Link light rail opened 14 miles of new service between downtown Seattle and Tukwila on July 18th, generating more than 92,000 boardings on the opening weekend. Paid service running 20 hours a day Monday – Saturday and 18 hours a day on Sundays began July 20th.

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