Sound Transit ridership increases 12.3 percent

The number of people who rode Sound Transit’s trains and buses in 2007 increased by nearly six times the nationwide increase, according to a national report issued yesterday.
In 2007, nearly 14 million riders boarded Sounder commuter rail, ST Express buses and Tacoma Link light rail trains, an increase of 12.3 percent over the previous year. The increase is substantially higher than the 2.1 percent national increase documented in an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) report.
“Each year more and more people discover that taking transit is better than dealing with rising congestion and high gas prices,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “We will continue focusing on keeping those ridership numbers climbing by working to expand transit service. There is a lot riding on our success. Our population will go up more than 30 percent by 2030, and today about half of our state’s carbon emissions come from transportation.”
The biggest ridership increase among Sound Transit’s three modes was on Sounder commuter rail, with a 27.4 percent increase in 2007. This represents the fourth biggest commuter rail ridership increase in the nation for 2007, and was achieved in part by 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.
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 85 percent complete.
Expansion of Link light rail between downtown and the University of Washington is slated to begin this year and be completed in 2016. University Link is projected to nearly triple the regional light rail system’s ridership to more than 114,000 a day by 2030. Last month, the Federal Transit Administration awarded the University Link project its highest rating for proposed transit projects in the nation, and $100 million for the project was included in the Bush administration’s proposed FY 2009 budget.
The Sound Transit Board is currently considering the priorities and timing for a future ballot measure to continue expanding the regional transit system. Over the last two weeks, Sound Transit received more than 9,000 responses to a survey seeking input from the public on how the system should expand. The results will be presented to the Board on Thursday.