Capitol Hill Station’s 57K start: Sound Transit to add more trains

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

The light rail system that runs through Seattle typically carries around 35,000 riders every weekday. Monday and Tuesday, Sound Transit says it saw half as many more get on the train following the weekend opening of University Link and Capitol Hill Station. And with spring break at UW and Seattle Central in finals mode, there might be even more demand to come.

Sound Transit said this Monday’s trains carried around 47,000 riders while Tuesday’s numbers hit a whopping 57,000. Saturday’s grand opening day of free rides, meanwhile, generated 67,000 boardings – “easily the system’s single biggest ridership day since we had about 71,000 during the Super Bowl parade celebration in February, 2014,” Sound Transit said.

Starting next week with the Monday morning rush, Sound Transit said it will introduce more three-car trains into the mix to better serve commuters:

These numbers are especially encouraging considering UW is on spring break and Seattle Central Community College is in exams week when there are many fewer students at the Capitol Hill campus. And King County Metro’s major NE Seattle bus restructure to provide frequent connections to and from University of Washington Station doesn’t begin until this coming Saturday.

With that in mind, Sound Transit has decided to add additional rail cars on the line during peak hours beginning next Monday. Starting on Monday, riders can expect to see a mix of two and three-car trains during the morning and evening rush hours. While the additional service will help alleviate crowding on some trains, riders should remember to move to the ends and center of light rail cars to make room for others getting on at the next station, put bags under seats and take off backpacks while on crowded trains.

The Metro update begins Saturday. CHS outlined the changes for Capitol Hill service here.

Though it only has a few days worth or ridership totals to work with, Sound Transit is moving quickly to keep the good vibes flowing around the extended system. Thursday, the agency is expected to announce details of the routes proposed for its next round of funding, Sound Transit 3.

The first weekday service at Capitol Hill Station definitely attracted explorers but it was also clearly a facility kicked into full work-day motion. CHS visited to talk with commuters on their first day using the new station and found a similar theme: the search for a lower-stress commute.

The Seattle Times also reports: “public-education ads and train announcements are coming. Put your backpack under your seat or between your legs. Don’t block the doorways. Move to the ends of the trains.”

By 2030, around 14,000 Capitol Hill riders are expected to board the light rail trains each day. However, Sound Transit tells CHS that a revised projection would show even more usage as the system improvements in Sound Transit 2 were not factored into the original estimates. Sound Transit says that from 2015-2017, light rail’s average weekday ridership is projected to increase by about 26,000 boardings.

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16 thoughts on “Capitol Hill Station’s 57K start: Sound Transit to add more trains

  1. Does the Cap Hill trolley seem more confusing now that the light rail station is open? Yes, the trolley can bring you to the ID, which is important. But why take it to Pioneer Square when the light rail will get you there much faster? I think what I am feeling is that there is a lot of overlap in the function of the trolley and the light rail station and possibly should have been recognized.

    • Also, do you feel that the extension of the trolley will be scrapped or changed due to the light rail station? Is it necessary to add service to the end of Broadway? Wouldn’t that money be better used if funneled into a larger light rail project?

    • The trolley is redundant if you ride it end to end, but that is not its reason for being. The original plan was to put a light rail stop in First Hill by the hospitals and Seattle University. When that station was deleted Sound Transit paid for the streetcar so that riders could reach First Hill from either end. The remaining stops are there just because.

    • It was the consolation when Sound Transit scrapped plans for a first hill stop. Streetcar is intended to reach other points and feed to rail and serve Swedish, Harborview, SU, Little Saigon.

  2. I rode the light rail to CH Monday night at around 6:30 just to try it – CROWDED!

    I rode the 10 home last night – LOTS of seats at 5:30pm. YAY!

    The CH light rail station isn’t as convenient for my commute as the 11, 49 and 2, but I’m sure glad it’s there to take a ton of people off those routes, because “rush hour” has been stretching to 7:30.

  3. So if the trains are crowded and the numbers are good, what are the bus numbers? How have those capacities been impacted? As genevieve said the 10 was lots of seats at 5:30 pm.

    • it certainly wasn’t empty – but normally I’d never hazard a ride on the 10 at 5:30. I’m used to SRO from downtown until after 7pm!

  4. I took the light rail just to see what it was like even though it is less convenient than the 10 or 43 for me. I’m wondering how much of the big crowds are people like me just giving it a try. I guess we’ll find out when the novelty wears off.

  5. I don’t really understand why the Link isn’t convenient for people who take the 10 and 43. I live on the north end of Summit and the 47 stops in front of my building, but I’ve been taking the light rail all week and have been making it home before the 47 would have even picked me up downtown! Even stopping for groceries on the way home I still beat the 47 to my apartment. It takes 4 minutes to go the distance that any of those buses would take 15-20 minutes to get through during rush hour. You could take the light rail up to Broadway and John and then get a 43 (and soon a 10) the rest of the way and save at least 10 minutes.

    • The 47’s route is downhill from the station, and buses are at their most unreliable in the evening commute. In the evening, coming from downtown, it’s easy to go from the capitol hill station down the hill. It’s more difficult and less appealing to do the opposite.

      From 15th Ave and the rest of the hilltop, it’s easy to go downhill in the morning, but the bus is much easier to time and is much more reliable on the morning commute route than the reverse evening commute.

    • The light rail stations are 4-5 blocks further walk for me on both sides of my commute compared to taking the 10 or 43 buses. The rail will work in a pinch but as long as the buses reliability doesn’t go downhill, they work out better. The rail is great if you happen to live or work close to one of their stops. The buses stop multiple times along a route which means they are slower but get you closer to where you want to go.

    • Yeah, but you could take the light rail to Broadway and then catch a 43 or a 10 right there the rest of the way up the hill. It would save you from having to be on the bus during the slow part up Pike/Bellevue/Olive Way.

    • Transferring between the bus and the rail when the bus works fine by itself doesn’t really make sense to me. It would mean waiting at two transit stops instead of one so I don’t know if it would really save any time.

  6. My completely anecdotal observations.

    I ride the 49 every day from N. Capitol Hill into the U-District to connect out to somewhere near Microsoftville. The U-Link isn’t all that useful for this, because I’d need to bus to the CH station, then go out to the U-District station, then transfer to the bus.

    However, the 49 has been way less crowded this week compared to previous weeks, and occasionally on time, probably because it has no students riding in from CH or downtown, or wherever they’re coming from. They’re probably taking the Link.

    And then lots more people get on my Microsoftville Sound Transit bus at the stadium, meaning those people are probably using the Link from wherever. And fewer people are getting on at Montlake.