Sound Transit light rail ridership for first quarter grew 27%; 15% gain on commuter rail

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New train riders drive a record-setting start to 2016

Sound Transit set new ridership records for the first quarter of 2016, with Link light rail ridership up 27 percent from the first quarter of last year and Sounder commuter rail ridership up 15 percent.

The ridership numbers will be presented to the Sound Transit Board at its meeting tomorrow as the Board prepares to update the Sound Transit 3 Draft Plan that is being developed for voter consideration in November.

“The sharp increases in Link and Sounder ridership show just how much demand there is for fast, reliable mass transit,” said Sound Transit Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Sound Transit 3 will give even more commuters the choice to get out of traffic and onto a light-rail system that connects the entire region.”

The ridership numbers will be presented to the Sound Transit Board at its meeting tomorrow as the Board prepares to update the Sound Transit 3 Draft Plan that is being developed for voter consideration in November.

Opening new stations on Capitol Hill and the University of Washington on March 19, two weeks before the end of the quarter, helped significantly boost light rail ridership for the period. However, Sound Transit’s long trend of Link ridership growth in double-digit percentages would have continued even without the new extension. Looking only at the portion of the quarter before University Link opened, ridership was up 12.5 percent over the same period in 2015. 

Second quarter ridership numbers will be the first to fully reflect expanded ridership following the opening of University Link, which has increased previous weekday ridership of around 35,000 to around 60,000.

Sounder commuter rail service from Everett and Lakewood to Seattle set an all-time quarterly record with average weekday boardings of 16,292, a 15 percent increase over the first quarter of 2015. Total ST Express ridership grew one percent. Overall ridership increased 10 percent.

While national statistics are not yet available for the first quarter, transit ridership nationwide decreased 1 percent in 2015 from the previous year.

Sound Transit’s increases in average weekday ridership were as follows:

  • Link light rail: 38,371 average weekday boardings and 3.07 million boardings for the quarter (24 percent increase from Q1 2015)
  • Sounder commuter rail: 16,292 average weekday boardings and 1.03 million boardings for the quarter (15 percent increase from Q1 2015)
  • ST Express regional buses: 62,509 average weekday boardings and 4.46 million boardings for the quarter (1 percent increase from Q1 2015)
  • Tacoma Link light rail: 3,355 average weekday boardings and 244,368 boardings for the quarter  (a 6 percent decrease from Q1 2015)

The full quarterly ridership report can be found here: www.soundtransit.org/Ridership