Sound Transit trains, buses continue strong ridership growth

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Seattle's status as fastest-growing major city helps fuel continuing double-digit ridership gains on Link light rail

Sound Transit ridership got off to another strong start in 2014 with 7.5 million boardings in the first quarter, a jump of more than 8 percent compared to the same quarter in 2013. It was the busiest first three months of the year in Sound Transit history. Link light rail ridership grew 15 percent, with 2.3 million first quarter boardings and an average of almost 30,000 on weekdays.

The ridership figures come amid recent headlines saying Seattle is the nation's fastest-growing city.

"Transit is the future for moving our region's commuters and economy," said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "The demand for both buses and congestion-free light rail will keep growing. The good news is that Sound Transit remains on track to expand the region's light rail system from 16 miles to 50 miles by 2023."

Recently-released U.S. Census Bureau statistics show Seattle had the highest growth rate in the nation - 2.8 percent - from July 2012 to July 2013. Seattle added nearly 18,000 residents during the one year period to bring its population up to about 652,000. The Seattle Office of Economic Development says the city also added nearly 15,000 new jobs between 2012 and 2013.

The first quarter ridership increases were as follows:

  • Central Link light rail: 29,919 average weekday boardings and 2.3 million boardings for the quarter (15 percent weekday increase from Q1 2013)
  • ST Express regional buses: 58,659 average weekday boardings and 4.1 million boardings for the quarter (7 percent weekday increase from Q1 2013)
  • Sounder commuter rail: 11,843 average weekday boardings and 759,942 boardings for the quarter (5 percent weekday increase from Q1 2013)

The full annual ridership report can be found here:

In the coming months the Sound Transit Board will continue a process to plan for the projected 30-percent population growth the region will see by 2040 by updating the region's Long-Range Plan. Updating the plan will set the stage for considering where light rail and other regional transit services should expand after current voter-approved projects are complete.

Transit is critical to the region's transportation system. Every rider is someone who doesn't compete for space on congested roads, and transit expansions offer some of the greatest opportunities to expand the transportation system's capacity.

Sound Transit is continuing its strong track record of delivering voter-approved projects. The University Link light rail extension is set to open six to nine months early in the first quarter of 2016 and is tracking more than $100 million below budget. The agency remains on target to deliver more than 30 miles of light rail expansions by 2023 despite a cumulative 29 percent reduction in funding for the 15-year Sound Transit package due to the impact of that national recession.