First look at how light rail, route revisions have changed Capitol Hill bus ridership

Over the weekend, CHS’s Re:Take history series took a look back at some of the lost bus routes of Capitol Hill. We don’t have to look back far in time to find the changes. Late last year, Metro planned out a wave of revisions and reroutes to optimize its service around the opening of light rail service to Capitol Hill Station and UW.

Now, the Seattle Transit Blog has provided the first look at how ridership on the altered bus lines has changed in the first months as ridership on light rail has soared.

STB grouped the impacted Capitol Hill routes into a set of winners…

  • Route 11: up 38% — The #11 is likely absorbing demand on Pine Street east of Broadway for former Route 10 riders unwilling to walk to Link.
  • Route 49: down 1% — So why is it a winner? Because as the most direct service between Capitol Hill and Downtown prior to Link, we at STB expected it to fall further…
  • Routes 8 and 38: up 6%
  • Route 43: down 85% — So why is it still a winner? With just 16 remaining trips per day (plus a few in-service deadheads that don’t go downtown), the 43 is still averaging 60+ riders per trip…

And a loser:

  • Route 10 is down 28% — Most riders on the route are within 1 mile of a Link station, and many of them seem to be walking to Link.

STB’s takeaway: “The time travel advantage of ULink is big enough that the walkshed appears larger than standard planning assumptions. People are willing to walk to good service.”

Check out the STB post for more numbers and the overall trends for public transit ridership in the wake of the changes.

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14 thoughts on “First look at how light rail, route revisions have changed Capitol Hill bus ridership

  1. I’d love to see a pair of circulators that would run Broadway->Aloha->15th->John->Broadway, and Broadway->John->15th->Pine->Broadway.

    • Circulator buses are almost always a huge ridership sink that doesn’t pan out. There’s a reason why cities are getting rid of circulator-type routes, since service delays can ripple across way too easily (think the old 8 and 48 prior to March).

  2. I would definitely still ride the 10 if it had it’s old routing on Pine, it was convenient to have three routes to choose from when going between Broadway & Pine and downtown. As it is, the re-route just feels like the first step in trying to remove the route altogether—make it less useful, then claim low ridership numbers.

    • I’m sure there are plenty of parts of the city that would love the luxury of choosing from 3 different routes. Meanwhile not far away, there are large areas of the CD that can choose from one.

    • Also note that since light rail opened the weather has been reasonably nice in spring and summer. Walking 10-15 minutes in cold and rain and in the dark is a lot less inviting that doing the same trip in warm summer sunshine. Expect the 11 to be even more crowded once winter returns and fair weather Link riders get tired of getting soaked, especially since a well-timed trip on the 11 (and formerly the 10) can get you downtown in the same time it takes to walk to Link.

    • i agree too! I took the 10 often to get over to the Pike/Pine corridor; now it’s just easier to walk there/back, but FAR less convenient in bad weather. Sending everyone to the light rail is NOT the answer, because everyone is NOT trying to go there. I have found that i go to the pike/pine corridor LESS, because of the bus changes. So, instead of METRO getting more people out and about and spending money — now we’re not.

  3. And the 43 is no longer reasonably serving a whole chunk of an area before the u-dist that is dependent on it with no other options. It’s now taking people twice as long to get around, so of course it’s ridership is lower. Can’t give the lightrail all the credit, have to allow for poor planning too.

    Wish they would just return the 10 and 43 to the old routes and times.

    Oh, and they also screwed up the 47, brought it back but doesn’t run late enough anymore to be able to use it after work.

    As the streets feel less safe, Metro is making women walk more.

  4. With all this planning, it still hasn’t occurred to our transit planner overlords to create a direct bus route between Capitol Hill and Ballard/Fremont. Guess I’ll still have to wait for that Ballard/Fremont light rail station in the 22nd century.

  5. yes obviously not everyone is walking to and from light rail to John and Broadway, all the way up to 16th and higher. we are all on the 11. Increase the 11 service and that would accomplish a lot. We wait 15 minutes, around 5 minutes too long.

  6. In every city I have lived in that built light/heavy rail, bus service when to hell quickly. Here’s why. Planners want to force folks to ride rail in order to to try to meet their unrealistic predictions of ridership. Plus: rail is highly expensive, so those same planners move funds from buses to rail. Expect things to be no different in Seattle.