Link light rail celebrates one year anniversary

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Six million boardings add up to major environmental savings and better quality of life

Sound Transit on Monday will mark the first birthday of Central Link light rail, which during its inaugural year of operations attracted an estimated six million riders.

"This is a great achievement for a region that has embraced light rail after years of waiting," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. "Thanks to light rail, the people of this region have saved time, money and precious natural resources. We'll only see those savings grow as we expand the system to the north, east and south."

Some quick facts about Link's first year of service on the 16-mile line serving 13 stations between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport:

• Total estimated ridership for the year: 6 million
• Passenger miles travelled: 43 million
• Average rider trip length: 7.1 miles
• Total light rail train miles travelled: 1.2 million

Those numbers add up to major environmental savings for Seattle and the region. Had those six million riders driven cars instead of climbing aboard Link, Sound Transit estimates they would have consumed 93,000 barrels of oil to make 1.8 million gallons of gasoline.

Light rail trains run every 7.5 minutes during peak hours and every 10 or 15 minutes at other hours of the day, offering a fast and convenient way to move around. Light rail stations offer easy connections to buses that serve other destinations throughout the region. Commuters can secure bicycles at Link stations or bring them onboard the trains.

Link currently carries about 23,400 riders each weekday. The first-year ridership numbers are particularly strong given that the recession reduced transit ridership across the nation by about 4 percent last year.

The Central Link line is the first portion of what will be 55 miles of light rail serving the Central Puget Sound Region. A 3.1-mile underground extension from downtown Seattle north to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington is under construction and will open in 2016. Voters have also approved extensions to Northgate, Lynnwood, Bellevue, Redmond, Mercer Island and northern Federal Way scheduled to open by 2023.