Sound Transit marks first National Train Day with new ridership gains
On the eve of National Train Day, Sound Transit hailed Sounder commuter rail’s continued success in attracting more riders and joined Amtrak in celebrating the vital role that rail plays in metropolitan transportation systems in the Puget Sound region and across the country.
Huge ridership increases on Sounder in the first quarter of 2008 continue the explosive growth seen in 2007. The month of March posted the biggest gains, with a year to year increase of 29 percent. Sounder ridership for the first quarter of 2008 is 28 percent higher than the same period one year ago, building on the 27 overall percent increase in Sounder ridership in 2007.
“Ridership on Sounder and on Sound Transit’s other services is just exploding as more and more people are trading high fuel costs and congestion for a greener, more comfortable and more convenient commute,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “Sound Transit’s and Amtrak’s ridership gains show the growing popularity of going green and choosing rail.”
“With ridership growing to record levels, we continue to see a strong demand for rail travel as a link between growing communities,” said Alex Kummant, President and CEO of Amtrak. “Passenger and freight service is on the rise, and there’s never been a better time to celebrate the railroad industry and passenger rail service in the U.S.”
Amtrak reports national ridership grew to 25.8 million passengers in fiscal year 2007, making it the most successful year for Amtrak’s ridership since beginning operation in 1971, and mirroring Sounder’s success in attracting new riders to rail transit.
Skyrocketing ridership in part reflects a growing recognition of the environmental benefits of high capacity transit among new riders. A recent Sound Transit rider survey reveals that the environmental benefits were one of the top reasons new riders cited when asked about why they take transit, along with saving money and the convenience of transit service. Thirty percent of new riders said they used to drive to work. Fifty percent of Washington State’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, which makes riding transit the single best thing a commuter can do for the environment.
Sounder’s 27 percent growth in 2007 was the fourth biggest commuter rail ridership increase in the nation, and was achieved in part by significant service increases Sound Transit implemented last year. New service included one new round trip on the north corridor serving Everett, Edmonds and Seattle and two on the south corridor serving Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila and Seattle. South corridor service increases included the first “reverse commute” train that runs from Seattle to Tacoma in the morning and returns northbound in the evening.
More Sounder service will be added this September, with one additional peak-commute round-trip train and one additional reverse-commute round-trip train between Tacoma and Seattle, as well as one additional round-trip train between Everett and Seattle. Ridership increases are also expected when Sounder begins serving the new Mukilteo Station opening in June.
Today, Sound Transit’s system of regional express buses, commuter rail and light rail carries about 50,000 riders each day, a number that will more than double following the 2009 opening of light rail service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport. Construction of that light rail line is moving forward on schedule and is now 90 percent complete.
Voters will determine future growth of Sounder and other regional transit services through a future mass transit ballot measure. The Sound Transit Board is currently considering the priorities and timing for a future ballot measure to continue expanding the regional transit system with more Sounder commuter rail, Link light rail, and ST Express bus service. This month the Sound Transit will kick off a public involvement process seeking input on options.
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Sound Transit’s regional network of express buses, commuter rail, light rail and transit facilities connects communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.