[IMAGE]SoundTransit-Linklightraillaunch-full.jpg[/IMAGE]During its first week of regular service Seattle-based Sound Transit's (ST) Central Link light rail carried an estimated average of 12,000 riders each weekday. Another estimated 16,900 riders took Link on Saturday and 15,100 on Sunday.
“We're encouraged by the large numbers of people who boarded light rail on opening weekend and have started using it every day," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. "This is a new way to think about getting around our region and we know ridership will continue to increase as more people try the system and we expand the line to more communities."
Nationally, ridership on new light rail systems ramps up over time as more and more people find out about the service and give it a try, ST officials said. Weekday ridership during the first week was already more than halfway to the level Sound Transit projections show for the end of 2009.
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. An average of 1,300 riders a day rode the Link Airport Connector bus shuttle between the airport and Tukwila / International Boulevard Station during the first week of light rail service.
Last weekend’s Sounders FC and Seattle Mariners games, the Seattle Seafair Torchlight Parade and people turning out to try Link for the first time contributed to last weekend’s strong ridership. More than 11,000 tickets or ORCA cards were sold from Link ticket vending machines on Saturday and station agents sold another 1,400 paper tickets to overflow crowds at Tukwila. Sound Transit has doubled the number of ticket vending machines in Tukwila and reminds riders that buying an ORCA smart card is a great way to bypass lines.
The transit agency estimates its light rail ridership using automatic passenger counting technology installed on some of the vehicles. Infrared sensors in the trains’ doorways detect boardings and alightings, generating data that is used to develop estimates consistent with Federal Transit Administration-approved methods.
Link light rail opened 14 miles of new service between downtown Seattle and Tukwila on July 18th, generating more than 92,000 boardings on the opening weekend. Paid service running 20 hours a day Monday – Saturday and 18 hours a day on Sundays began July 20th.