November 24, 2009
So Far, Low Ridership On Seattle's Light Rail System

The Seattle area opened its light rail system in July.  It has not been a great success

Thanks to John Niles at the Public Interest Transportation Forum, we can see just how low the ridership has been.


(Click on the graph to see the full-size version.)

But the record is even worse than it first appears, as Michael Ennis explains.

But remember, trips are not riders.  Trips can count the same rider multiple times in a single day.  Also remember that Sound Transit estimates two-thirds of its light rail riders come from the existing bus system.  So taking these factors into account, at its peak, light rail is only carrying about 2,688 new transit riders per day.

A very quick search produced a number of estimates for the costs of our light rail system.  This one, $179 million per mile, is probably not too far off.  Seattle chauvinists will be proud to learn that:

A survey of North American light rail projects[23] shows that costs of most LRT systems range from $15 million per mile to over $100 million per mile.  Seattle's new light rail system is by far the most expensive in the U.S. at $179 million per mile, since it includes extensive tunneling in poor soil conditions, elevated sections, and stations as deep as 180 feet (55 m) below ground level.[24]

In other words, we're number 1!  And by a big margin.  (I am sure that the peculiarities of our local topography that helped make it so expensive came as a complete surprise to the politicians who backed this system.)

To be fair, the system currently only goes from Seattle to Tukwila, which is not a big destination, even in this area.  It will be extended to the SeaTac airport in December, and we should then get a better idea of just how many riders this system will have, long term.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

Posted by Jim Miller at November 24, 2009 11:59 AM | Email This
Comments
1. don't blame me. I didn't vote for this beyond-overpriced toy to nowhere. The "smart set" isn't looking so smart right now, when it comes to the pricetag of this boondoggle to nowhere.

Posted by: Michele on November 24, 2009 12:36 PM
2. Light rail is simply part of left-wing ideology. Success to them is that it exists, not that it has high ridership. Once they make it impossible for us to own cars, and FORCE us onto light rail then that will be their final victory.

Posted by: Crusader on November 24, 2009 12:39 PM
3. Well, at least it didn't cost much. (sarcasm off)

Posted by: Gary on November 24, 2009 12:50 PM
4. Um, how is the ridership low? Because you say so? All you show is a chart. No baseline. How are we supposed to put these numbers in context? This post contains almost no actual information, Mr. Miller.

You know what would be relevant: Comparing the ridership to some bus figures. This graph shows that Link is already more popular than all but one or two bus routes. And that's without the Airport station which is opening December 19, ahead of schedule.

And you are citing made up metrics, Mr Miller. "New transit riders" is meaningful how? Will we rank the success of the SR-520 bridge on how many "new drivers" appear?

I am very disappointed with the lack of substance in this post. You could do far better.

Posted by: John Jensen on November 24, 2009 01:06 PM
5. I agree with John Jensen, you've shorted the information needed to make this relevant.

The big question I want to know is what the ridership projections were when the thing was being put up to a vote. Any fair analysis would have to await the completion of the airport line.

Even if a vast majority of riders divert from buses -- I'm a Califonian with an aversion to most city buses -- they're at least moving to a cleaner mode and maybe enjoying the ride more, to boot. I've taken the bus between SEA and Tacoma a few times and that was a long, unappealing ride.

Posted by: Bob R on November 24, 2009 02:02 PM
6. Check the ridership within the last two weeks to assist in detemining future use.

Ridership will be inversely proportional to the number of people who saw the de-railing of the engine car on the TV news 12 days ago.

The engine teetered twenty five feet above the ground on its little concrete wishbones.

Who would dare get on that thing after seeing that frightening spectacle, and knowing the wider history of Seattle's elevated transit's mechanical failures?

How fast does the Light Rail travel and how fast does the Monorail travel?

Posted by: Bart Cannon on November 24, 2009 02:17 PM
7. Using a 7-day moving average is idiotic. Even by looking at the data you can tell that the ridership is cyclical, with much higher ridership on weekdays than on weekends. For a transit system serving the downtown, that is in fact quite ideal! Getting folks to take the light rail and not contribute to congestion in the downtown core is a desirable outcome.

I am glad, though, that you're "being fair" by keeping from judging the line before it's really complete...

Posted by: demo kid on November 24, 2009 02:38 PM
8. @6: And I'm sure that regular news stories about car accidents and people ACTUALLY dying on the highways keep people from driving, right?

Posted by: demo kid on November 24, 2009 02:42 PM
9. Let's see - 2688 new riders daily. Maybe that is an underestimate - let's call it 5,000. Buy them each a $40,000 sedan, maybe a top of the line Toyota or even an Acura. That's $200,000,000 - the capital cost of just over 1 mile of the light rail.

Hmm - maybe the operating cost of the light rail is much less than that of the autos. I sure hope so, because otherwise, for the price of not just 1 mile but the whole system, us taxpayers could have bought each new rider a Lamborghini or a Bentley. Or maybe even a Cessna. Then they wouldn't even need to go to SeaTac. They could fly to Tukwila instead!


Posted by: Steve on November 24, 2009 02:45 PM
10. ok everyone! please take a look at all the successful centers in the rest of the world and tell me why they all have sophisticated light rail systems.

the only thing wrong with light rail is that it is not already bigger and it is taking a LONG time to complete.

Posted by: rathersmart on November 24, 2009 02:47 PM
11. add another dissenting voice to the stack... low ridership? how do you define 'low', given the potentially dozens of ways of defining this?

you also failed to acknowledge the long-term outlook for this system. e.g., the additional station at the airport next month, at capitol hill in the next couple years, and the u-district in the not-too-distant future.

Posted by: ryan on November 24, 2009 02:51 PM
12. All the sucessful centers are in very large metropolises with much higher population density than the Puget Sound area such as NYC, Paris, London. Tens of thousands of potential riders living within a 4 minute walk of each station.
One other similarity among all the "sucessful" centers - they are all taxpayer subsidized up the wazoo on the order of $30 or $40 per ride. It would be cheaper to send a limo for every rider.

Posted by: Steve on November 24, 2009 02:57 PM
13. Steve,

Good comparison. Or, if we had 5,000 riders a day for 260 days each year (5 days for 52 weeks), after 20 years the capital costs alone - not including the operating costs - would be $96 per rider. Per trip. That's some good money spent there!

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 24, 2009 03:13 PM
14. Can we comment on this post? Because if it was a Mark Griswold post, he'd cut off the comments the moment someone dares to question his authoritay. Sorry mark!

Posted by: AD on November 24, 2009 03:14 PM
15. Steve, Let's see - 2688 new riders daily. Maybe that is an underestimate - let's call it 5,000.

97% of the drivers on the new SR-520 bridge are going to be current drivers. Why is this statistic meaningful? It isn't. Stop applying the logic to trains. It makes absolutely no sense.

You are not judging the quality of the trip. You are not judging the capacity of the buses. You are not judging the operating costs of the buses. There is no critical thinking taking place.

All the sucessful centers are in very large metropolises with much higher population density than the Puget Sound area such as NYC, Paris, London. Tens of thousands of potential riders living within a 4 minute walk of each station.

Those densities exist because of rail. Cities with comparable densities to Seattle, such as Washington, DC and Portland have successful light rail systems. Their trips are subsidized, just as highways are funded entirely by the government.

rathersmart, the only thing wrong with light rail is that it is not already bigger and it is taking a LONG time to complete.

You're totally right.

Posted by: John Jensen on November 24, 2009 03:14 PM
16. Key point in the graphic above is that the ridership is not demonstrating a clear growth trend. In general, one expects ridership on a new train line to grow fairly quickly as various folks try it, like it, and keep on riding.

There are lots of forecasts floating around for future ridership. Most now include the present line with the Airport Station added, which opens December 19.

Perhaps a fair forecast to compare against the presently observed Central Link ridership of around 16,000 is the Sound Transit 2008 Link Operations Plan forecast for boardings in 2009 without the airport station: 19,800 per weekday. ST is not on a track to get to that number, but the agency might get lucky.

The 2008 Link Operations Plan forecast for boardings in 2010 with the airport station online was 32,600 per weekday.

Now, according to Seattle Times, the 2010 forecast with the airport station open is 26,600 per weekday, an adjustment downward.

ST has a history of adjusting its passenger train forecasts to match present day reality. Sounder is a case in point, a story for another day.

Now is a great time to try our new Seattle light rail, because all you need is a paper transfer (free) from a downtown arriving transit bus. When you transfer to rail after 1/1/10 with an Orca fare card, you'll usually have to pay a differential to get to Link's higher fare.

Posted by: John Niles on November 24, 2009 03:16 PM
17. Dan, Good comparison. Or, if we had 5,000 riders a day for 260 days each year (5 days for 52 weeks), after 20 years the capital costs alone - not including the operating costs - would be $96 per rider. Per trip. That's some good money spent there!

The chart looks to have an average daily ridership of about 14,000 in October. And you're kind of ignoring that the expansion to UW will have the most ridership of any light rail spur in the entire country.

But right: if you use wrong numbers, ignore the future, and use arbitrary amortization deadlines then you can construct some sort of scary number that means nothing.

Posted by: John Jensen on November 24, 2009 03:21 PM
18. Niles, In general, one expects ridership on a new train line to grow fairly quickly as various folks try it, like it, and keep on riding.

But what "one expects" is not necessarily the truth. Seasonal variations are standard in mass transit ridership figures, which is why month-to-month figures are less important than comparing Fall 2010 to Fall 2009, for example.

Perhaps a fair forecast to compare against the presently observed Central Link ridership of around 16,000 is the Sound Transit 2008 Link Operations Plan forecast for boardings in 2009 without the airport station: 19,800 per weekday. ST is not on a track to get to that number, but the agency might get lucky.

You are correct. I would be surprised if they reached their expected numbers, but we didn't build light rail just for the first six months of ridership.

Now, according to Seattle Times, the 2010 forecast with the airport station open is 26,600 per weekday, an adjustment downward.

Every transportation forecast since 2007/8 has changed. We have had a dramatic recession that has put less demand on our roadways, buses, and rail.

ST has a history of adjusting its passenger train forecasts to match present day reality.

Using data to inform projections?! What malice!

Posted by: John Jensen on November 24, 2009 03:28 PM
19. I agree with John Jenson that this is using the wrong metrics to decide whether Light Rail is a success. Here's some questions that we should be asking instead:

1) What was promised for the original budget versus what we actually received?

2) The amount of money that it would have cost if it hadn't been a government run program.?(For instance, when Disneyworld put in their monorail system through Orlando a few year back, what did that cost.)

3) Meantime between accidents on this light rail versus others.

On #1, the facts show this has been a clear failure. What was promised at the original price was clearly not anywhere near what was delivered.

On #2, The price per mile was not exactly a bargain. I read somewhere that Disney built their system for something like 40 cents on the dollar versus the the Seattle system. (And theirs was also done by union labor and went through heavily congested areas too. It's also nicer.) Another point against sound transit.

On #3, It's probably meanspirited, but how many miles did the old monorail go before its first derailment? (And the Seattle establishment used that derailment to derail the downtown monorail plan.) Another failure, at least so far.

I spent a little time living in Chicago several years back, and I loved riding the train to work, so I'm kind of pro-train. What I am "anti" is anti-cronyism, anti-wasteful spedning, anti-poor planning, lies.

All three were in ample evidence over the course of this project, and things won't change unless theres some check and balance in our local government. I don't see that happening as long as tax and spend democrats control the reins.

Posted by: johnny on November 24, 2009 03:49 PM
20. I think the whole Sound Move plan was poorly planned and very poorly implemented up until about 2001. At that point, new management came in and new budgets and scheduled were identified. Since then, light rail has been on-schedule and under-budget. I think the agency is pretty good at this point, but I understand it'll take quite a while to heal some of those wounds.

I will say that building light rail through an already-developed city is much different that building a monorail system on land that you already own. The most expensive part of any rail project is right-of-way acquisition. Disneyworld certainly had to do none of that.

Posted by: John Jensen on November 24, 2009 04:14 PM
21. A couple things still confuse me about the logic behind spending all this money on rail.

1. Where is "Central Station" for all light rail projects, i.e., where should they all converge?
-- Seattle?
-- Microsoft
-- Bellevue
-- Boeing North, South, Central

Seems like we don't have one central station, we have several.

2. How many of the actual jobs in any of these central convergent zones actually require the presence of a human body -- i.e., how many of these jobs are information workers that could at some point in time telecommute instead, given adequate bandwidth.

3. Is our region moving more towards business development that requires bodies (i.e., manufacturing) or requires information?

If the business development trends look to require commuting to central locations where you physically have to arrive to do work, then perhaps light rail makes sense.

If not, and we're instead moving away from building planes and stuff to leveraging information in creative ways, then perhaps investing in ways for businesses to work and collaborate in virtual environments may be a better longer term consideration than continuing to spend 179 million dollars a mile on 18th century technology.


Posted by: Jack Turk on November 24, 2009 04:36 PM
22. Re: John Jensen #4:
Add this to your post. Buses that serve the same areas as rail have been canceled. That forces bus riders to be rail riders whether they like it or not. The rider numbers for rail are miserable practically everywhere it is built, why would our rail be any different?

Commuter rail is just like every other liberal idea. It's bad in concept and execution because it's not about what works, it's about making government bigger or the private sector dependent on them so that they have a built-in voting constituency. It's not about helping people, it's about getting re-elected come hook or crook. "The people" are just the cash register for re-election.

Posted by: G Jiggy on November 24, 2009 04:47 PM
23. So apparently rail needs "central stations," or no stations at all because of broadband Internet, and rail never gets riders anywhere.

So say the train experts at Sound Politics.

Posted by: John Jensen on November 24, 2009 04:55 PM
24. Centrifuge John spun away and said:

The chart looks to have an average daily ridership of about 14,000 in October.

Did you read the posting by Jim Miller? If not, please do so, maybe it will open your eyes to what I wrote.

And you're kind of ignoring that the expansion to UW will have the most ridership of any light rail spur in the entire country.

Really? Something that hasn't even happened and you're sure of the results? Is this because you can see into the future? Perhaps you're using forecasting software from CRU? Or is it because you know about fare-box stuffing?

But right: if you use wrong numbers, ignore the future, and use arbitrary amortization deadlines then you can construct some sort of scary number that means nothing.

See post 18 - the estimates are already being adjusted DOWN, because they know there won't be enough boardings. So how about some honesty there, John? Even the light rail team admits it won't hit original projections (because of their revising downward), why can't you admit it?

That's right, you have your time machine. So what do you use to power your flux capacitor?

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 24, 2009 05:50 PM
25. Actually, I spent several years conducting intensive research on railroads as part of my job working on Microsoft Train Simulator. That doesn't make me an expert, but I do understand the underlying railway system pretty well.

Mr. Jensen, other than mocking, you failed to give your usual thoughtful response to what seems to me a reasonable perspective.

We're investing 179 Million dollars a mile to move people from points a to b to c to d.

What problem is this going to solve? Commuting? If so, what is the likelihood that problem will continue to exist as currently configured some time into the future?


Posted by: Jack Turk on November 24, 2009 05:53 PM
26. I'm sure the low ridership figures have nothing to do with the fact that most terminals do not have parking.

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on November 24, 2009 06:40 PM
27. Wait, you mean rail ridership cycles throughout the year? You don't say!

Oh, and you mean we normally pay attention to year over year change to control for that? No, that can't be!

This is what ridership does on every system. Sound Transit projected 21,000 by the end of the year - it's already hit that a couple of times, and when the airport extension opens, that's likely to continue.

Yelling "low ridership!" when you don't understand how to measure ridership (or are misrepresenting it) is just lying instead of reporting. Shame on you, Stefan.

Posted by: Ben Schiendelman on November 24, 2009 07:32 PM
28. I'm really glad folks like those attacking Sound Transit based on this data aren't winning any elections lately.

Posted by: Ben Schiendelman on November 24, 2009 07:35 PM
29. Oh, and the tired arguments about cost per mile are tired. Adjust for inflation - oh yeah, and our light rail is double the capacity of the systems it's being compared to. Oops.

Posted by: Ben Schiendelman on November 24, 2009 07:39 PM
30. Oh, another fun thing about this graph. Average ridership for October, as published by Sound Transit, is 16,200. If you're getting a different average, it's because your math is bad.

Unless you'd like to challenge the data Sound Transit has provided as fraudulent?

Posted by: Ben Schiendelman on November 24, 2009 07:42 PM
31. Yelling "low ridership!" when you don't understand how to measure ridership (or are misrepresenting it) is just lying instead of reporting. Shame on you, Stefan.

Apparently reading comprehension isn't Ben's forte. I believe the last sentence in this post was:

[The LRS] will be extended to the SeaTac airport in December, and we should then get a better idea of just how many riders this system will have, long term.

Why insist on a year to year comparison when its only been operational since July? Ridership is far from optimal even by ST's standards and in all liklihood, the numbers have been inflated by them since they're the ones providing the numbers in the first place- vested interest thing, you know. It helps make your comments more credible (and sane) when you criticize the contributor that created the post rather than the person that created the site on which the post appears.

Posted by: Rick D. on November 24, 2009 07:57 PM
32. Do you mean that we might not trust figures provided to us by liberals Ben? Why, the very idea!

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on November 24, 2009 08:00 PM
33. Ben, what is really tired is the supercilious tone. If you read the OP, it is quite even-handed and calm. Why is the other side seemingly incapable of responding in kind. Do you think you are going to convince any of the doubters with that smug, smirking tone?

What is wrong with looking at cost per passenger mile? That would seem to be the most basic, essential number on which to make an informed decision. And BTW, shouldn't that number normally go down with increased capacity, due to economies of scale? Why does it seem to be the other way around with ST?

Posted by: travis t on November 24, 2009 08:09 PM
34. I do not believe that the ridership is anywhere near as high as the graph shows, unless the majority of riders only ride north of Rainier Beach. I regularly see the choo-choos as they near the MLK Way - Boeing Access Road intersection. Very rarely are more than 1 or 2 people on board.

I challenge someone to setup along side the track somewhere with a camera and document how many people are actually on board each train. Journalists used to do stuff like this.

Posted by: Seabecker on November 24, 2009 08:11 PM
35. Watch for it. In the future Sound Transit will claim high ridership, and despite that impose a fare increase.

That's how it always works. You can count on it. Metro Transit does it all the time.

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on November 24, 2009 08:14 PM
36. re: #10 from "rathersmart" - "the only thing wrong with light rail is that it is not already bigger and it is taking a LONG time to complete."

Really? That's the only thing wrong??? You don't seem to be rather smart with that assertation. How about:

1) It doesn't take people from where they live to where they work.
2) It has no park & ride lots.
3) It runs at street level in the middle of busy arterials.
4) It is slow.
5) It only goes where buses go better.
6) It was expensive to build.
7) Future plans involve removing auto capacity from I90.
8) It is noisy (ask Tukwila neighbors).
9) It is expensive to ride.
10) It closed the downtown tunnel for a couple years because the trains were a couple inches too tall.
11) Unable to use it for major events at stadiums due to capacity and lack of park & rides.
12) They get in accidents with cars and pedestrians.
13) They derail.

Who's gonna help add to this list???

Posted by: Seabecker on November 24, 2009 08:24 PM
37. Hi all,

If ridership is low, blame the fact that this town is ruled by the neighborhood coucils.

Neighborhood activists think they own the parking in front of their houses, when actually the city owns that land and should be able to put it to its highest use. The Link Light rail people had to genuflect to the neighborhood activists and promise not to use ANY of the residential parking near the stations.

As a result, here on Beacon Hill, I can't drive to near the station and look for a spot and then take the train. It seriously reduces the value of the train.

I do drive my wife to the station in the am and pick her up at night, (I work at home) and she has quit driving.

If the neighborhood activists would allow density near the station, and the train were extended to the Northland, a young person could build a great life around it and not need to bother with a car.

And since I'm probably not convincing anyone on SP anyway, I might as well throw in that it's the prettiest thing made out of steel in Seattle.

Best

new left conservative

Posted by: new left conservative on November 24, 2009 08:39 PM
38. 14)They are talking about tearing up Bellevue Way, one of the best & most vibrant areas we have, in order to put in a train tunnel. I live near there, in a rented apartment, and will likely have to move if this happens.

One time, I had occasion to go to someone's house near where they built light rail in south Seattle. It was horrible. Took like 25 minutes to go 5 blocks. No way can I see myself going back & forth to work through that each day. Plus I doubt that I could sleep thru the noise--I work nights.

Posted by: travis t on November 24, 2009 08:40 PM
39. I'll add to the list. Here's your commuting choice: take multiple busses filled with crazy people and thugs just to get to a light rail station. Take light rail also with crazy people and thugs (particularly after dark),. On the way home, wait at the station in the cold with creepy people lurking around for a bus full of really scary people. Repeat every day. Or: get in your nice warm safe car with a stereo and get home in a third of the time. Seems like a no brainer to me.

Posted by: bill Cruchon on November 24, 2009 08:46 PM
40. I'll add to the list. Here's your commuting choice: take multiple busses filled with crazy people and thugs just to get to a light rail station. Take light rail also with crazy people and thugs (particularly after dark),. On the way home, wait at the station in the cold with creepy people lurking around for a bus full of really scary people. Repeat every day. Or: get in your nice warm safe car with a stereo and get home in a third of the time. Seems like a no brainer to me.

Posted by: bill Cruchon on November 24, 2009 08:47 PM
41. Sorry for the double post.

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on November 24, 2009 08:49 PM
42. The trouble with commuter rail is that it is way too expensive per mile for the limited scope of its service. Rail doesn't support freight and services. As light rail, it doesn't move that fast. And it is fixed to the corridors where it runs, even if those are not that densely populated.

Buses can do the job far cheaper. And by consolidating high value transportation dollars on roads, we kill more transportation problems at once.

Further, the far better way to solve the problem is to change the problem altogether. If we incentivized businesses and employees to provide van pools and locate near to work, we would reduce congestion by eliminating it in the first place. And then there is telecommuting, hoteling and other electronic technologies that could play a roll. Or how about job sharing and 4/10 weeks.

The trouble is that the powers that be are dead set on colluding with construction unions to build overpriced rail.

One thing is for sure, even if and when light rail ever gets to the South Sound, if I were to need to travel from say, Tacoma to Seattle, it would still be much faster to take the express bus than to wait at every single light rail stop with the slow moving trains, grade crossings, etc.

And has anyone taken a look at the crime on MAX in Portland lately. I don't think a lot of people are going to be riding the Sounder Trains at night through SeaTac. Trains and stations are crime magnets.

What a waste. Seattle, with it's complex geography could have been a leader in using Bus Rapid Transit and done so at a cost it could actually afford. Instead, they wanted to play me too with all of the other American cities where light rail is nothing more than high priced civic art that functions as a heavily subsidized adjunct to a tiny percentage of the population.

Posted by: Jeff B. on November 24, 2009 09:02 PM
43. Hi Travis et al,

Oh, no, the train is very fast and the noise thing is a non-issue.

Once my wife did already experience a stoppage because of another car's derailment. Either they'll get that type of problem fixed right away or SPers can harp, and they'll be absolutely right of course, that the public sector can make for very poor management--witness Metro's near complete lack of concern for customer comfort.

best,

new left conservative

Posted by: new left conservative on November 24, 2009 09:14 PM
44. John Jensen:

Wow, more popular than a bus route! Guess what the cost of a bus route is? Suppose 300K per bus and 10 busses on a route. 3 million bucks. What was the cost of the light rail?

Posted by: Lysander on November 24, 2009 09:22 PM
45. "and the noise thing is a non-issue."

You can't be serious.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009938600_trainnoise25m.html

It's at least a 1-million dollar "non-issue".

Posted by: Bill Cruchon on November 24, 2009 09:25 PM
46. Looking at the graph, some other questions come to mind.

First, what happened on the days of the peak ridership? Some of them were probably days when there were sports events, but were all?

Second, what happened on the days when the ridership was at a low point? In particular, what explains the low around 10/26 of what looks like about 7500 riders?

Third, what would a graph show for median number of stops per rider? Has that changed over time, eg, maybe at first it was used by people going one distance but now the ridership is predominantly people going a different distance (longer / shorter, or shorter / longer?)

I do think ridership will go up after the airport station opens and especially after the 194 bus is cancelled. The question though is how big this increase will be, and whether there's any material impact on traffic to/from the airport. It should be possible to do some sort of measurements of number of cars entering the airport because now there's really only one entrance at the north end. We can calculate the number of cars and correlate it to the number of passengers or to the number of workers at the airport and see if there are fewer cars but the same number of workers and travelers.

It will also be interesting to see how many riders board at the Tukwila station for the trip one station south. Right now anyone can park at the Tukwila station for 24 hours. So I could see a lot of people driving to Tukwila and parking if they are going in and out of Seatac on day trips. This will definitely increase the number of 'riders' but will be irrelevant at reducing CO2 or traffic congestion.

Posted by: Stuart on November 24, 2009 10:13 PM
47. But remember, trips are not riders. Trips can count the same rider multiple times in a single day.

Why, it seems as if many riders are going one way in the morning, and the other way at night. Obviously, only Seattle chauvinism can possibly explain this bizarre, aberrant behavior. Certainly Jim Miller cannot possibly comprehend it.

(I am sure that the peculiarities of our local topography that helped make it so expensive came as a complete surprise to the politicians who backed this system.)

The system was approved by a vote of the citizens who resided in the proposed service areas, which is why we're not complaining about the initial cost.

So taking these factors into account...

Blah blah blah even the numbers some opponent of light rail pulled out of his arse show thousands of new riders, therefore whiskey monkey banana telephone, we should all drive on publicly-subsidized roads.

(BTW, it's always fun to see SP dabble in statistics. Care to recall what Judge Bridges thought of your mathematical acumen?)

Posted by: tensor on November 24, 2009 10:38 PM
48. this is why King County and Sound Transit are getting rid of bus routes like the 194. The goal is to take people wh use transit, like me, and force them onto Link. It creats the illusion of new riders when all they are doing is taking people who are on one form of transit and putting them on another.

Posted by: Mathew "RennDawg" Renner on November 25, 2009 03:10 AM
49. Does anyone really believe these numbers provided by Sound Transit with regard to ridership (Outside the gullible and those with an insatiable toy train fetish)? My guess is ST probably inflated the numbers by around 60% or more in order to justify the expense the choo-choo is costing tax payers.
Sound Transit is required to report monthly ridership numbers to the Federal Transit Administration because federal funding is involved in the $2.3 billion project. July's numbers will be included in a report to the FTA in September. August's data will be submitted in October, Patrick said
Seattle P-I
.

This is a complete fraud.


Posted by: Rick D. on November 25, 2009 04:55 AM
50. I'd like to see the numbers compared to estimated motorists on I-5. After all, that's what this and buses are supposed to replace, right? Because cars are evil and we should all be using public transportation or riding bicycles.

Posted by: jvon on November 25, 2009 05:32 AM
51. AD@14

Actually, AD, I only decide to shut off comments when people like mikeg decide to use a post about public disclosure into an opportunity to call me homophobic.

Now, you got something to say to me, why not have the courage to email me directly instead of having me find out about your snide comments through Google Alerts.

Posted by: Mark Griswold on November 25, 2009 10:27 AM
52. Wanna bet that social engineers J.J., dumbo, Ben, tensor et al don't ride the choo-choo themselves to work*? Their ilk just demand that everyone else don't drive.

* Presumes the aforementioned have jobs. Ben's doesn't count

Posted by: yaddacubed on November 25, 2009 10:30 AM
53. yaddacubed - I'll take that bet. I haven't owned a car in nine years.

Posted by: Ben Schiendelman on November 25, 2009 10:52 AM
54. LR doesn't start, end or run anywhere near where I frequent or live. I don't get how, congestion is down the root of I5, but none of this or any other alternative plan address that. If this followed down I5 to the airport, or from North of the city center to the city, and/or south of the city center to the city- I bet there would have been way more riders.

I'm all for helping the poor or under privileged, but they are not part of the problem- congestion on I5.

Posted by: Doh! on November 25, 2009 10:54 AM
55. Ben - You still did not say if you utilize the choo-choo.

One thing not analyzed anywhere that I've seen is just how green (or not) this monstrosity is. After factoring in the energy costs in the Link construction, I doubt whether it will EVER be energy neutral...some observations
- Each span of the elevated portion consists of 10-12 concrete 'plugs' that were assembled by the huge gantry. They were fabricated in Wenatchee, transported one at a time requiring a flatbed semi to travel 300 mi. round trip. How many gallons of diesel required for that?
- Concrete is very energy intensive, for the spans and posts.
- Electricity propelling trains every 7.5 to 15 minutes, full or empty (DC, I am told)
- Support and maintenance vehicles driving along the route
- Energy costs fabricating the train cars, power stantions, rails, stations, etc.

Green, I doubt it.

Posted by: yaddacubed on November 25, 2009 01:25 PM
56. If some one else has already made this point, excuse me.

Michael Medved stated that the tax subsidy per rider is $154. If correct, it illustrates the extent of the fraud on taxpayers that was necessary to gain approval to build the system.

The proponents of light rail already have plans to extend the system through Federal Way into Tacoma, and over to the Eastside via a bridge, and north to Everett. God help us because our Supreme Court has already decided that no further vote is needed for planned extensions and as yet unkown tax increases.

Attention taxpayers in the Puget Sound Basin, you have been royally screwed and probably do not have any escape mechanism.

Posted by: Paddy on November 25, 2009 03:33 PM
57. Lysander wrote:

Wow, more popular than a bus route! Guess what the cost of a bus route is? Suppose 300K per bus and 10 busses on a route. 3 million bucks. What was the cost of the light rail?

EXACTLY! And it turns out that some bus routes are being shut down to force commuters to use light rail. We're forcing riders from lower cost, more flexible, established transit systems to higher cost, less flexible, less convenient (fewer stops) options.

For the price of one mile of the light rail ($180 million) we could have bought another 300 buses and beefed up routes that need additional service.

And as people move and commuting patterns change, we could re-assign those buses as needed.

But the question we have to ask, Lysander, is would Seattle be a "World Class City" without a subway system? ;)

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 25, 2009 07:25 PM
58. Doh,

Not to mention going down I-5 would allow use of the park-and-ride stations all along I-5. You know, so commuters can actually get to the train, as opposed to what we have now where people cannot park within half a mile of the train.

Hey, when the sun is out and it's warm and you need to go where the light rail goes, fine. How many people will be walking that half a mile when it's 36 degrees, raining, and 20 MPH wind, rather than just jump the bus down the block, or drive in?

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 25, 2009 07:30 PM
59. One thing not analyzed anywhere that I've seen is just how green (or not) this monstrosity is. After factoring in the energy costs in the Link construction, I doubt whether it will EVER be energy neutral...

Do please indicate the publicly-financed highway project that was subject to this criterion, and how close it came to meeting it.

("EVER" is, y'know, a long time. Like the 100+ years of the New York City Subway, f'rinstance. How about Jim Miller go to New York, and ask about initial cost and ridership? He could tell us all about the responses he gets there.)

Wanna bet that social engineers J.J., dumbo, Ben, tensor et al don't ride the choo-choo themselves to work*? Their ilk just demand that everyone else don't drive.

Calculate how much you wish to give me, and bet that amount. Then I'll show you the still images and video I've taken during my many commutes. (I've ridden almost every working day since it opened.) I might return some of your squandered funds, though -- my private-sector job pays me well (I'm one of Ayn Rand's producers, after all) and, since I've never in my life owned a motor vehicle, car payments, gas taxes, and auto insurance do not drain my wallet.

By all means, please keep driving, keep making all of those many payments; those are all your problems, not mine. Oh, but I do keep another vehicle -- the one I don't own -- out from in front of you on the roads. You're very welcome.


Posted by: tensor on November 25, 2009 09:40 PM
60. Tensor, "I've never in my life owned a motor vehicle, car payments, gas taxes, and auto insurance do not drain my wallet."
So how is life restricted to mass transit lanes treating you?
Buy any new furniture or appliances lately, build a fence, plant a garden, go grocery shopping for more than one, take your pet to a vet?
When you wake up on a beautiful summer NW weekend, and think, "Hey, today would be perfect for going hiking in the Cascades!", is your next action looking up the TV guide to see if there's any shows about hiking, or do you thumb through your phone book to see who you're going to bum a ride from?
In life, you get what you pay for.

Posted by: 4woodenboats on November 26, 2009 02:33 AM
61. Um, how is the ridership low? Because you say so? All you show is a chart. No baseline. How are we supposed to put these numbers in context? This post contains almost no actual information, Mr. Miller.

The geniuses who wish to pursue this line of inquiry can simply look up the predicted ridership which Sound Transit used to convince voters to pass the boondoggle. That's the baseline.

Of course, after the voters passed the boondoggle, Sound Transit changed the rules, jacked the price, lowered the miles of track, and has stiffed the voters ever since. You'd think ST learned their trade at the East Anglia University.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on November 26, 2009 06:25 AM
62. Gosh, those wacky folks in Seattle keep voting in government that produces or condones:
- Shitty Public Schools
- Childless Parks
- Unsafe Streets
- Filthy and unsafe public transit (ride the #9 lately?)
- Corrupt government (the mayor's street gets plowed but everyone-else's is blocked with snow)
- Million dollar public toilets from France
- Multi-million dollar hotel for street bums
- Gay sex clubs (in the day and age of HIV; who would have known?)
- public celebrations on city property that extol drug usage (hemp fest) and public nudity (the fremont solstice parade. For liberals there is no disonance in notions such as "I support programs like DARE for my kids and I love public resources spent on Hemp Fest!" Woo-hoo!

The way I look at it, the cretins in Seattle keep voting in what they support and deserve every bit of it. Their neurons cannot discern the connection between liberalism and the multitude of predictable failures caused by liberalism. My grandfather lived in Berkeley CA back in the early 1900 s. His letters describe it as, to him, a shangi-la. Now its a shit hole. Give it time, Liberalism is doing the same thing to Seattle (just like it did for score of other now blighted cities across North America).

If you still have money in your pocket during the Obama Depression, please consider spending it in places elsewhere than Seattle. Don't feed the liberal beast.

Posted by: Attila on November 26, 2009 08:04 AM
63. Jim,
Let's stipulate that the Light Rail System as currently implemented is inefficient and the costs currently exceed the benefits to the community by a large margin. And let's stipulate that part of the problem of inefficiency is "low ridership".
While it is fun to carp about it, can we not also stipulate that what has been spent on the currently inefficient system is a sunk cost, and the challenge is not to find ways to complain, but to find ways to optimize the system such that in a reasonable amount of time the benefits exceed the cost?

To all: Successful economic regions all have one thing in common; Mass transit. By mass I mean its definition in physics.
Seattle is a large prosperous city because of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Waterways around the world are heavily populated and economically successful because with the technology of ships we can move large volume and mass at very economical rates.

But in the 19th century we learned to not be dependent upon only waterways and developed rail. One need only look to the east in this state to the capital of the Inland Empire, Spokane, to see the benefits of investment and development of rail can do for business and people.

All systems and organizations are imperfect. It used to be in this country that we utilized resources and ideas across the spectrum of competing interests to produce more and better than our global competitors. For reasons that really escape me, so called conservatives seem to have given up on this truly American concept and seem bent on carping to achieve some Pyhrric victory.

What about a posting that asks for ideas to improve the benefits of our Light Rail?
Here is an idea. How about enterprise zones that provide tax benefits to businesses that increase the density around existing and planned Light Rail stops? Also enterprise zones that promote high density public housing tenant ownership?

Time to stop carping about problems and time to start using our noodles to build success.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 26, 2009 09:39 AM
64. MikeBS wrote:

While it is fun to carp about it, can we not also stipulate that what has been spent on the currently inefficient system is a sunk cost, and the challenge is not to find ways to complain, but to find ways to optimize the system such that in a reasonable amount of time the benefits exceed the cost?

Most economists will tell you to not use sunk costs to determine future viability of a project; given that light rail costs considerably more per passenger mile than alternatives like van pool and buses, even if you discount the billions spent on light rail it still does not make economic sense.

So, rather than trying to figure out how to improve an already-costlier solution (per passenger mile, how about figuring out how to replace it with buses or van-pools at lower operating costs?

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 26, 2009 11:44 AM
65. So how is life restricted to mass transit lanes treating you?

Thank you for asking! On those rare occasions when I travel via highway, my driver is very happy to take the HOV lanes, as it gets us past the congestion. I thus pay for my place by just being there.

Buy any new furniture or appliances lately, build a fence, plant a garden, go grocery shopping for more than one, take your pet to a vet?

Yes! All done within walking distance of my home. Do you pay auto insurance to do the same? Poor fellow!

When you wake up on a beautiful summer NW weekend, and think, "Hey, today would be perfect for going hiking in the Cascades!",

Ah, so you want copies of my photographs, shot whilst hiking the Columbia Gorge, Mt. Stewart, Sunrise, Paradise, and the Grove of the Patriarchs? As a Seattle liberal, I'm always willing to share my bounty with the less-fortunate.

Or, perhaps, you want the pictures I took from Summit House, atop Crystal Mountain, of Mount Rainier? (As you are a fellow self-described wise in the ways of the world, I leave to you the exercise of determining how I did all of these things without a private car.)

In life, you get what you pay for.

When you pump your hard-earned money toward regimes which advocate or condone Islamic terrorism, do you get a swelling of pride, knowing your dollars may have gone to killing our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? Perhaps it's the closest thing to patriotism you can ever hope to experience.

TV guide... phone book

1973 called. It wants that cool stuff back.

Posted by: tensor on November 26, 2009 01:26 PM
66. The geniuses who wish to pursue this line of inquiry can simply look up the predicted ridership which Sound Transit used to convince voters to pass the boondoggle. That's the baseline.

That would be easy enough if there were ever estimates for October, 2009. There weren't.

I'm carless too and I've managed to go up to Stevens Pass twice in the last six days. I'd hardly call my life "restricted." I'm pretty happy with my life and my transportation options.

Posted by: John Jensen on November 26, 2009 01:46 PM
67. On those rare occasions when I travel via highway, my driver is very happy to take the HOV lanes, as it gets us past the congestion. ~ tensor

We're actually supposed to believe you have a personal 'driver' carting your sorry carcass around? Please stop with the delusions of grandueur.

Posted by: Rick D. on November 27, 2009 06:52 AM
68. John,

Sound Transit projects that by the end of 2009 an average of 21,000 riders will climb aboard on weekdays. Average weekday ridership is forecasted to rise to 26,600 in 2010 following the December 2009 opening of light rail service directly to Sea-Tac International Airport.

So we have to add at least 5,000 riders per day in the next 30 days, or we miss the projection. Right now, we're running 25% under the projections...

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 27, 2009 08:21 AM
69. We're actually supposed to believe you have a personal 'driver' carting your sorry carcass around? Please stop with the delusions of grandueur.

I didn't write anything of the kind; I merely noted that sometimes I carpool with a person who is traveling the same route at the same time.

And, given your failure to spell "grandeur" properly, could you please stop with your delusions of adequacy?

Posted by: tensor on November 27, 2009 10:13 AM
70. I didn't write anything of the kind

Sure you did. What other connotation are we left with when you refer to "my driver", stupes? I can assure you that the only one here suffering from delusions of adequacy is yourself, judging by the snarky comments you repeatedly make here on this site. Just an observation.

Posted by: Rick D. on November 27, 2009 10:30 AM
71. Sure you did.

Nope. Go back, and have a small child read it to you, this time. She'll tell you it contains no such implication.

What other connotation are we left with when you refer to "my driver"

That I was riding with some other person, who was doing the driving. (As I don't own a car, how could I possibly have a dedicated driver at my beck and call?) You assumed the rest, which is neither my fault, nor my problem.

...judging by the snarky comments you repeatedly make here on this site.

Yes, I do give the material here a far more beneficial judgement than it could ever possibly be worth, but we Seattle liberals are generous that way.

stupes

Before you cast aspersions on any other person's intelligence, you might want to learn to spell. Just an observation.

Posted by: tensor on November 27, 2009 07:01 PM
72. Black Friday was a boon for Link ridership. Thousands of people went downtown for shopping, the parade, and tree lighting. The Tukwila P&R lot filled. My guess is that ST will somehow use this anomalous data to boost their regular ridership stats.

I wonder how their ridership numbers compare to paid fares, since one need not show a ticket to board.

Posted by: Seabecker on November 28, 2009 07:40 AM
73. @74 Seabecker on November 28, 2009 07:40 AM
"My guess is that ST will somehow use this anomalous data to boost their regular ridership stats."

Unlike ST we can count on every retail business in the USA not to somehow use this Black Friday "anomalous data".
And surely we can count on airlines to not somehow use the "anomalous data" of Thanksgiving travel.

If any of this happens go to your window and scream "Marxism! ACORN!"

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 28, 2009 08:42 AM
74. @65 Shanghai Dan on November 26, 2009 11:44 AM

"So, rather than trying to figure out how to improve an already-costlier solution (per passenger mile, how about figuring out how to replace it with buses or van-pools at lower operating costs?"

Well Dan, it's been 13 years since voters approved the sound transit plan which specifically included a light rail. How many more years shall we wait for your initiative with your figures on how van pools and buses can replace light rail more cost effectively?

While we wait for you, do you think it would be ok to give businesses along the light rail tax breaks?
Or does this violate some sacred principle or what most economists are telling you?

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 28, 2009 09:18 AM
75. re: 75 - Airlines and stores will always note event/seasonal driven changes. Will ST do the same?

The ridership on Black Friday far exceeded the ridership of a normal work day. I predict that ST will use this number to help redefine a normal commuting day.

Posted by: Seabecker on November 28, 2009 09:21 AM
76. Before you cast aspersions on any other person's intelligence, you might want to learn to spell. Just an observation.~ tensor

Perhaps it would be best if you followed your own advice...

@72 Yes, I do give the material here a far more beneficial judgement than it could ever possibly be worth, but we Seattle liberals are generous that way. ~ tensor

Posted by: Rick D. on November 28, 2009 10:03 AM
77. I shall continue to abide by my own advice. The Oxford English Dictionary lists "judgement" as the first of two possible spellings. If your dictionary -- the one which fell out of the Cracker-Jack box? -- does not list it, that's not my problem.

So, without adequate data, you leapt to criticize the work of others, and got it wrong. That is so in keeping with the spirit of the original post! Have you your own account here yet? Or would that make Mr. Miller jealous?

Posted by: tensor on November 28, 2009 11:01 AM
78. @76, Seabecker on November 28, 2009 09:21 AM,

I've no idea what evil you think would occur if ST used data from Black Friday,
but the ACORN led Marxists at ST must be stopped from redefining a normal commuting day in their seldom viewed Service Delivery Quarterly Performance Reports (which currently include such ominous communist notes for the purpose of normal commuting day redefinition for the Tacoma Link as "Increased numbers of special events, festivals and conventions in downtown Tacoma appear to be contributing factors to this growth."


Else.... ??????

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 28, 2009 11:13 AM
79. I shall continue to abide by my own advice. The Oxford English Dictionary lists "judgement" as the first of two possible spellings.

False. Unless you happen to reside in the UK, Ireland or S.Africa. Since you reside in the U.S., the correct spelling is judgment, not judgement. Your ignorance is duly noted, however.

Posted by: Rick D. on November 28, 2009 11:18 AM
80. @80 Rick D. on November 28, 2009 11:18 AM,

You may want to double check your dictionary, because I think the option to spell English words like the British applies to all British Commonwealth states with the exception of Zimbabwe which is no longer allowed to spell in English at all as a result of the 2002 suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations on charges of human rights abuses during the land redistribution and of election tampering. :-D

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 28, 2009 11:33 AM
81. @ 81

Since we're not a British commonwealth, I'm not sure how that changes anything.

Posted by: Rick D. on November 28, 2009 11:44 AM
82. @82 Rick D. on November 28, 2009 11:44 AM,

Naturally you are not sure. Naturally.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 28, 2009 11:51 AM
83. Actually, the editors of the O.E.D. recognize that most users of English reside outside of the United Kingdom. Any use which is primarily British will be noted as such; no note accompanied their entry on this word. Contrary to your assertion, there is no single authority over American English, so I went with the most widely-accepted source. Your ignorant provincialism is noted, and mocked.

I do like how a source becomes irrelevant simply because you don't agree with it. You really do deserve a place in the pantheon of 'great' SP posters. Have fun, stuck in traffic.

Posted by: tensor on November 28, 2009 12:35 PM
84. Contrary to your assertion, there is no single authority over American English, so I went with the most widely-accepted source.

False. There is an accepted spelling for the word judgment in the U.S. It is used specifically throughout our entire education and legal system. Only those ignorant of the proper spelling of the word would spell it as 'judgement' within the United States. Your ignorance is duly noted, and confirmed.

Have fun, stuck in traffic.

My commute is 7 miles, so I don't really find myself 'stuck in traffic', but thanks for your concern.

Posted by: Rick D. on November 28, 2009 01:04 PM
85. Mike,

You still didn't address the point that light rail is more expensive per passenger mile than vans or buses.

And why target the tax breaks to those businesses on the light rail line only? Why not tax breaks for all businesses? Unless your goal is to stimulate development along the light rail line only, so as to try to pump up ridership - but wouldn't that just be another form of subsidies for light rail?

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 28, 2009 01:55 PM
86. There is an accepted spelling for the word judgment in the U.S. It is used specifically throughout our entire education and legal system.

The citations for this supposed ruling by our Language Police are mumble mumble mumble because shut up, that's why. (Don't forget to whine about how liberals want to impose their own views upon everyone!)

Seriously, you're arguing for a petty, narrow, and authoritarian interpretation of a diverse language on the World Wide Web, and you don't even recognize how silly this makes you look.

As I've said already, your strident folly goes well with this post. In the original dreck, the author used a doctored statistic to support an assertion which is, at best, irrelevant to the issue at hand. (It's also misleading, and maybe used for exactly that reason, but I won't put myself in the position of having to prove the author knew this.)


Posted by: tensor on November 28, 2009 02:09 PM
87. The citations for this supposed ruling by our Language Police are mumble mumble mumble because shut up, that's why.

translation: I'm illiterate in the U.S., but not in the UK.

Posted by: Rick D. on November 28, 2009 04:41 PM
88. So what is the biggest complaint about the implementation of mass transit? That it forces people to commute with others?

Or that it takes money from the pockets of auto manufacturers, car dealerships, etc?

Posted by: Joe Szilagyi on November 29, 2009 07:47 AM
89. @89 Joe Szilagyi on November 29, 2009 07:47 AM,

Joe, that's a good question, but I'd go one further. What's the point of only complaining? Clearly people need to go from one point to another. Clearly there is not a one size fits all solution. So, isn't it clear that automobiles, HOV lanes, buses, ferries, bicycles, sidewalks and rail are part of the solution?

In the tri-county area the voters have consistently supported light rail as part of our solution for 13 years. Maybe it is time we all get off of the complaining train and get on the solution improvement train?

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 29, 2009 08:49 AM
90. Joe,

It's not about being against mass transit; it's about being against paying $1.15 per passenger mile for light rail, versus $0.20 per passenger mile for buses. For the same dollars spent, we could get nearly 6 times the benefit. Or, conversely, we could save 83% of the money being spent on light rail.

Light rail is a waste of resources, that's the problem. Not mass transit - the wasteful means of mass transit as selected.

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 29, 2009 06:31 PM
91. "A study commissioned by the transport office in Portland, Oregon, which has in recent years rolled out the most extensive streetcar network built in America since the end of the second world war, found that its streetcars spurred $3.5 billion-worth of development. They run on electricity rather than fossil fuels, and have a chic that buses lack."

@91 Shanghai Dan on November 29, 2009 06:31 PM,

Ok, what are you for regarding mass transit? What are you doing to realize what you are for?

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 30, 2009 05:31 AM
92. "Using a 7-day moving average is idiotic. Even by looking at the data you can tell that the ridership is cyclical, with much higher ridership on weekdays than on weekends."

Er, if the ridership is cyclical like that, that's exactly the situation where you would want to use a 7-day moving average. A daily average would be misleading, since weekdays have higher ridership, but each Monday should be similar to the previous Monday, and each Sunday to the previous Sunday.

It will probably have higher ridership after December, when the SeaTac extension goes up, and then in February, when King County Metro stops running the 194 bus (that is just as fast as the light rail but doesn't run as often) from Downtown to the Airport.

"So what is the biggest complaint about the implementation of mass transit?"

That, based on its costs and its low ridership compared to Sound Transit's projections, it's a huge environmental waste. If these numbers bear up, it would be much better for the environment to have spent more on buses and perhaps to have tolled the roads.

King County Metro is cutting bus routes to pay for the operating cost of light rail, and of course there was the capital cost as well.

"Clearly people need to go from one point to another. Clearly there is not a one size fits all solution. So, isn't it clear that automobiles, HOV lanes, buses, ferries, bicycles, sidewalks and rail are part of the solution?"

Non sequitur. The third statement doesn't follow-- why "isn't it clear" that dirigibles and personal helicopters are part of the solution? Obviously some methods can be more efficient than others.

"In the tri-county area the voters have consistently supported light rail as part of our solution for 13 years. Maybe it is time we all get off of the complaining train and get on the solution improvement train?"

People in other areas consistently want to waste money on expanding roads or on subsidizing stadiums for sports team. Does that mean that you or I wouldn't be allowed to complain about that?

Posted by: John Thacker on November 30, 2009 06:52 AM
93. ""A study commissioned by the transport office in Portland, Oregon, which has in recent years rolled out the most extensive streetcar network built in America since the end of the second world war, found that its streetcars spurred $3.5 billion-worth of development. "

Yeah, a study paid for by the people who built the streetcar network. You can also find studies insisting that building stadiums spurs even more development, also conveniently paid for by those who will benefit. Are you arguing that the Seattle should have hit the public till to keep the Sonics too?

Posted by: John Thacker on November 30, 2009 06:57 AM
94. In any case, you can see Sound Transit's planning estimates from earlier here. Check page 121 of the 2009 Service Implementation Plan. Unfortunately, they've trashed the early years' plans and saved only the Executive Summaries, so we can't see what they were forecasting previously.

The Central Link numbers so far are not terribly out of line with projections, but the projections very rapidly zoom up for 2010 and 2011. As Jim said, we'll see. At least, those of us who are open minded and aren't fanatically attached to light rail as the obvious solution, rather than being open to all possibilities.

I'd also be interested in how many people are actually paying for their fare. I've ridden it quite a few times, and you really have to go out of your way to pay for it.

Posted by: John Thacker on November 30, 2009 07:03 AM
95. $2.3 billion, financed at 6% interest over 20 years would cost $16 million per month, capital costs alone.
15,000 rider per day, 30 days per month= 450,000 rides per month.
Capital cost per ride is $35.50.
Operating costs per ride...unknown.
Some rides are for 2 or 5 miles. That's a rather high cost per mile. Seattle will get a reputation for computational deficiency, financial retardation.
Passed in the name of protecting the environment, the results are confounding.
$16 million per month could buy and protect 320,000 hectares of Mexico's rain forest, EVERY MONTH. Environmentalists are lousy at finance.

Posted by: TomB on November 30, 2009 12:15 PM
96. Mike,

Bus Rapid Transit. It's tried (worldwide examples), it works with our geography (able to climb the grades around here), is flexible (as we have an ever-shifting commute pattern that promises to shift even more as Boeing moves production out of State) and it's ~17% the cost of rail.

How about that?

I use mass transit when it works for me. When I have a longer term contract downtown (Pioneer Square), I'd take the number 406 from Edmonds. When I lived in Ballard and worked downtown, I'd take the 15. When I'm in Shanghai, I usually take the line 1 subway.

I'm not anti-mass-transit, and you're being dense if you believe most of the light rail advocates are anti-mass-transit; I'm against wasting billions of dollars on a much more expensive system that doesn't allow the flexibility our population needs, nor the ability to easily work with our geography.

So how about you answer a question: why should we pay nearly 6 times the cost per passenger mile to use light rail rather than buses?

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 30, 2009 03:28 PM
97. @97 Shanghai Dan on November 30, 2009 03:28 PM,

"why should we pay...?"
The answer is too simple. Because the voters have approved.
If yours or others stats are persuasive to you, they are not to the majority of voters. If you want to change that you'll need to persuade those who have voted yes before. Persuading them to ride a bus ain't going to cut it.

John Thacker - What was the result of the stadium initiative again? See any difference between the two initiatives?
I'm "open to all possibilities." Enumerate them please.


Posted by: MikeBoyScout on November 30, 2009 03:42 PM
98. I see... Then you must be rather upset that Congress is trying to push nationalized health care since a clear majority of the voters are opposed to it.

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 30, 2009 06:26 PM
99. Dan, BRT has capacity issues. It would be literally impossible for BRT to serve Capitol Hill, UW, and Northgate in the way that Link does. To even come close, you'd have to invest in a deep bore tunnel just like Link and you'd have the same cost. The most expensive part of light rail is acquiring right of way -- for BRT in its own lanes, you'd have the exact same high costs.

Really, if you mean running buses on the street then that isn't BRT and it isn't a new idea. More frequent, branded buses like Swift and RapidRide are worthy investments to be sure but it is no replacement for fixed-guideway rail. In some corridors these buses will work, but in the corridors where we want real capacity, then light rail provides that.

Posted by: John Jensen on November 30, 2009 07:20 PM
100. $1.15 per passenger mile for light rail

Where is that figure from?

Posted by: John Jensen on November 30, 2009 07:21 PM
101. John,

BRT can be done for considerably less than light rail, and you can run an elevated lane down the center of Broadway if you like. And that means you can do the grade as needed.

Additionally, you can share the right-of-way of BRT with vanpools and carpools. And those buses and vanpools and carpools can alter the routes as needed.

The numbers break down quite poorly for the per-mile passenger cost for light rail. Light rail also has considerably higher subsidies per passenger trip versus vanpools.

And I see you are ignoring the numbers in post 96, where the simple financing costs of the light rail will be in the tens of dollars per passenger trip (the report explicitly states that the shown costs for the comparative cities does NOT include the capital costs to build the line).

So, here's the question: if you are concerned about fiscal responsibility and moving as many people as possible with the least amount of funds (so that those dollars could be used for other projects - or even left in the hands of the taxpayers) then how can you justify light rail?

Posted by: Shanghai Dan on November 30, 2009 08:10 PM
102. I think you missed some important components of what makes a light rail system successful. A key to the success of light rail in Phoenix is the fact that they had the luxury of connecting to their major University (ASU/Tempe) and airport from the start. Given the UW is one of the largest employers in the Seattle area, the UW connection will play a major role in increasing ridership.

Also, the more extensive a system the more feeders and increased ridership. Looking at Melbourne's many Street Cars transporting thousands of riders to the light rail plays a huge part in the success of their light rail. Seattle has plans to expand its street cars and the more they do the more the ridership.

Posted by: les on December 1, 2009 01:58 PM
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