Sound Transit wins Federal Transit Administration award for ingenuity in attracting more riders

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The Federal Transit Administration yesterday announced a major award to Sound Transit recognizing the agency’s success in enhancing ridership. Sound Transit was one of only three agencies serving markets of more than a million to earn the award.

“We don't come to work each morning looking for a pat on the back, but it's nice to be recognized for a job well done,” said Sound Transit Board Chairman and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “I'm proud of the people at Sound Transit. Now we're looking forward to helping millions more get where they want to go with the expansions called for in the Roads & Transit package to be voted on this fall.”

The award comes as Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District work to finalize a Roads & Transit package that will go to voters in November. The package’s transit expansions combined with growth of existing Sound Transit services offer the chance to increase today’s already-strong ridership of 43,000 each weekday to more than 350,000 by 2030.

FTA James S. Simpson presented the “Success in Enhancing Ridership Award” to winners that succeeded in using fresh approaches to boost their ridership. In addition to netting more passengers, the winners’ techniques were required to offer the potential for use by other transit systems.

“In the public transportation business, the idea that ‘if you build it, they will come,’ will only take you so far,” Simpson said. “Some will come on their own, but the rest must be convinced that it’s in their best interest to use mass transit. These transit agencies have done some great convincing.”

Sound Transit carried its first passenger in 1999 and saw its first full year of service in 2000, generating 4.5 million boardings. Since then Sound Transit has seen its ridership grow every year as it has given commuters more options to ride a train or bus. Last year Sound Transit saw more than 12 million boardings, a 168-percent increase from 2000. Sound Transit increased its ridership by almost one-third from 2003 to 2005, the period the FTA considered in granting the awards.

A news release from the FTA issued cited Sound Transit’s success in reducing travel time; providing more frequent service during peak periods on some ST Express bus routes; adding early morning service to capture shift workers at the airport; adding special commuter rail service for sports and entertainment events; and expanding commuter rail service overall.

Sound Transit currently operates a region-wide network of ST Express bus routes; weekday commuter trains to Seattle serving riders in Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Everett and Edmonds (with service to Mukilteo, South Tacoma and Lakewood on the way); and a Tacoma Link light rail system that exceeded its 2010 ridership projection in its first year of operations.

In 2009 Link light rail trains will start carrying passengers between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport. As soon as 2008 Sound Transit plans to start building light rail between downtown Seattle and the University of Washington with existing local taxes and a $750 million federal grant that Sound Transit is seeking. The project has earned the highest-possible ranking the FTA’s competitive funding process.

The projected 2020 daily ridership for the light rail segment that is now under construction is 45,000. The University Link project alone is projected to increase that by approximately 70,000.

Further light rail extensions to the north, east and south are proposed as part of the November 2007 regional Roads & Transit ballot measure, along with enhancements to Sounder commuter rail and ST Express bus service. The light rail expansions that are emphasized by the plan would extend the system to the Redmond, Lynnwood, and Tacoma areas, creating an approximately 60-mile system with trains running every few minutes during peak commuting hours.

For more information, on the Roads & Transit projects check out Sound Transit’s website at or visit the RTID website at

Sound Transit works hard every day to maximize the benefits of the public’s investments in the regional transit system. Among the recent ridership successes that the FTA award reflected:

Changes in ST Express bus route 545 (Seattle-Redmond with a stop near the Microsoft campus) which provided more frequent service during peak periods and added a stop in Capitol Hill to meet the needs of residents who make the East-West commute every day. These route changes resulted in 630,888 riders in 2003, 775,494 riders in 2004 and 878,263 riders in 2005. Last year Sound Transit carried almost 1.2 million riders on this route – a 20% increase over 2005.

Adding early morning service to ST Express bus route 574 to serve employees at SeaTac Airport helped build ridership. With a first arrival at 3:45 a.m., the improvement enables commuters to get to work on time for early shifts. This early service attracted 348,930 riders in 2003, 427,798 riders in 2004 and 437,037 riders in 2005. Last year the route carried 432,587 riders, a six percent increase over 2005.

The addition of a second commuter rail train from Everett to Seattle attracted 2,458 riders in its first month of service in 2003, 70,537 in 2004 and 118,921 in 2005. Last year the Sounder north route carried 170,691 riders on its Monday-Friday runs.

Special Sounder services to Seahawk and Mariner games, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation event and other major concerts and events helped attract Sounder riders. This special service attracted 38,684 riders in 2003, 59,657 riders in 2004, 104,280 riders in 2005 and more than 90,000 last year. 


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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.