Seattle Light Rail Ridership Grows 83% With Expansion, Blows Away Expectations

Driving in Seattle or from Seattle to areas in the Puget Sound is a drive in congestion — a drive in overwhelming lanes and lanes of cars. Ridership has boomed more than expected on light rail in Seattle, and perhaps this is a reason why. The regional transit authority now has more plans to grow this more efficient option — plans for the third phase of light-rail expansion.

Next City points out that this was the first expansion since the city’s one-line system opened in 2009. Could two more train stations result in a healthy transformation in commuting habits in Seattle? Hope abounding, Next City writes, “Local media got special tours of the extended line and wrote stories with headlines about the ways in which the new stations could ‘transform’ Seattle.”

Four months after adding the lines, a significant increase in ridership appeared. The value of the transit option and new growth in IMG_2994light-rail ridership proved itself and then some. Although many commuters are still in their cars in that awful rush-hour gridlock, over 800,000 extra boardings were logged in May 2016 compared to May 2015.

The Sound Transit May ridership report showed over 1.77 million boardings on light rail in May 2016, which amounted to a whopping 83% increase over May 2015’s boardings. There were 904,000 boardings in February — the last month before the expansion.

Shefali Ranganathan, executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, mentioned that, though expecting increases, “we didn’t expect to see those explosive ridership number.” Time is part of the allure — it takes 10 minutes to get from Husky Stadium at the south end of campus to downtown Seattle, and just 4 minutes from Capitol Hill to downtown. Ranganathan says, “those are times no other form of transportation can match.” This is similar to the story in many European cities, where trams (aka streetcars), light rail, and heavy rail are often quicker than cars.

As things hold steady, Sound Transit has tripled the number of three-car trains it’s running. “Sound Transit is opening another station south of the airport later this year, then another three stations to the north by 2021.”

“This proves there’s a huge demand for faster ways to get from point A to point B,” Gray says. “We’ve got to plan for that even if it’s 10 to 15 years in the future. That demand is not going to go away.”

Faster, and I expect safer as well. Fast + safe is a good thing.

“Sometimes when I’m on the train I like to eavesdrop on people’s conversation,” says Ranganathan. “I’m surprised at how many people are talking about transportation and the transit system … asking ‘how soon can we get to my neighborhood?’ “

CleanTechnica reported a few weeks ago on the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) plan to add 62 miles of rail to the region. Implementation will take place during the next 25 years. The lines will connect Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett. Next City quotes Shefali Ranganathan, who explains that the effort in Seattle is to focus on connecting neighborhoods to areas of employment. As it should be.

Photo by Oran Viriyincy (some rights reserved)

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