‘High 50s’ — First ridership estimates show light rail boosted to new level by UW, Capitol Hill Stations

Subwait

(Image: Sound Transit)

(Image: Sound Transit)

By our count, the anecdotes of excitement around the opening of Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail extension are off the charts. By the first solid ridership counts, that excitement is fully justified.

Sound Transit announced this week that its first estimates for U-Link ridership have set new records for Seattle subway traffic:

Average weekday Link ridership is settling into the high 50s range in the few weeks since UW returned from spring break and our partners at King County Metro implemented a major restructure of their Northeast Seattle bus service to integrate with U Link. That’s a roughly 66% increase over the 35,000 average weekday ridership before U Link opened. Sound Transit estimated average weekday ridership of 51,800 for the year.

Sound Transit said Friday, April 8th marked a new highpoint for its light rail service with more than 72,000 estimated riders. An estimated 71,500 rode the train on February 5, 2014 to be part of the Seahawks Super Bowl victory parade. You can credit the Mariners home opener and Emerald City Comicon for the new record, by the way. Continue reading

State of King County: ST3 ‘the most important decision our generation will be asked to make’

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(Image: King County)

King County Executive Dow Constantine dedicated his 2016 State of the County speech Monday afternoon to the area’s economic growth and opportunity to invest heavily in public transit.

“A generation ago, during the Boeing Bust, voters rejected the rapid transit portion of Forward Thrust,” the executive said. “We’ve been paying the price ever since. But today, the state of the county is strong—strong enough to give our children the choice to get out of their cars, to get out of traffic, and to get onto a transportation system that serves the needs of this century, not the last. ST3 represents an ambitious vision.”

Last week, officials rolled out the initial proposals for Sound Transit 3, a $50 billion spending package that includes proposals for a second downtown transit tunnel, light rail to West Seattle by 2033, and another line to Ballard by 2038. The long timelines and emphasis on delivering service to less populated areas like DuPont while not having a plan for brining light rail to neighborhoods like Wallingford have drawn criticism of the proposals as well as the expected backlash against another levy for property owners.

“This is the most important decision our generation will be asked to make,” Constantine , who also serves as board chair for Sound Transit, said Monday.

You can read the full speech here.

CHS Pics | This week in… Capitol Hill Station GRAND OPENING pictures

Dancing to the music

We’ll take one more week away from our regularly scheduled broadcast of some of the best shots from the CHS Flickr pool to bring you some of the best pool photos of the opening of Capitol Hill Station and UW Station. Last week, we looked at our favorite images of the construction of the station from the pool’s submissions over the past years. Thanks for sharing the great pictures.

Pet the Helmets!

Continue reading

Petition calls for extending light rail service after bars close  

UW Station (Image: CHS)

UW Station (Image: CHS)

Seattle’s appetite for light rail is virtually insatiable at the moment. Sound Transit announced its plans for a $50 billion light rail expansion over 25 years and more rush-hour trains starting next week. Still, transit riders want more.

As the light rail line heads into its first full weekend serving the nightlife hubs of around Capitol Hill and University of Washington, a campaign is underway to get Sound Transit to extend its late night hours to safely shuttle crowds back home.

A MoveOn.org petition is calling on the Sound Transit board to extend Link light rail service by nine hours a week to 2:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays and to 1:30 AM on other days. More than 2,000 people have signed the petition in three days. Currently, the last southbound Link train leaves Capitol Hill Station at 12:38 AM. The last northbound train leaves Capitol Hill at 12:46 AM.

Matthew Powell, who created the petition, said light rail’s current closing times rob bar crowds and late night workers from a safe and easy option of getting home. “There were a lot of people who expected to be open later,” Powell said. “It has really limited the ability to maximize the benefit.”

It’s not the first time Sound Transit has been approached about extending late night service. The regional transit agency has a page to explain how crews have a small window to do required daily maintenance on the tracks. Still, late night service is not completely out of the question. Continue reading

Sound Transit 3: Big, long, Ballard by 2038

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

2016_0324_ST3_DraftPlan_BoardhandoutIt’s finally here: the Sound Transit 3 draft proposal (PDF) for how to extend and complete the agency’s regional light rail network, a $50 billion package which will be put before voters in the fall of this year. Seattle’s transit wonks will be tearing every piece of the proposal apart in the coming days, weeks, and months, but for now, here are the basics.

It’s big. Really big. As local transit advocates had hoped in the build up to yesterday’s unveiling, Sound Transit decided to go all-in with package to build out light rail lines north to Everett, south to Tacoma, east to Redmond and Issaquah, and highly anticipated lines to West Seattle and Ballard.

And it’s long. Really long. Timelines call light rail to West Seattle in 2033 — and then, five years, later, light rail to Ballard.

The plans will require digging a new transit tunnel under downtown and a total of 108 miles of new light rail track.

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There’s no “Metro 8 Subway,” a proposed line running between south lake union and the future Judkins Park station in the Central District (mimicking the Metro 8 bus route); an unlikely investment—it wasn’t even a candidate project or potential investment study—that Seattle subway had been pushing for.

In addition to the new light rail lines, the package also includes a variety of bus and bus rapid transit (BRT) projects—BRT lines on I-405 and SR 522, capital improvements to Metro’s existing C and D Rapid Ride lines, and potentially using highway shoulders for buses during peak congestion hours on the likes of I-5 and I-405—as well as three studies of potential future investment including light rail lines from Ballard to the University District, West Seattle to Burien, and further north to Everett Community college. The Seattle Transit Blog has a detailed, full run-down here on the package and all its non-light rail elements, like Sound Transit’s proposed utilization of their surplus property for transit-oriented, affordable housing development.

The Madison Bus Rapid Transit project, by the way, won’t be part of ST3’s funding — the city will now have to turn to the feds or beg from the state legislature to power that plan to overhaul Madison from downtown to the Central District. Continue reading

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.

Central District light rail: Judkins Park Station slated to break ground mid-2017

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As U-Link light rail moves from weekend novelty to weekday workhorse, Sound Transit is preparing for its next major expansion in the region that will include bringing light rail to the Central District.

In 2023, the fully-funded and almost completely designed East Link light rail line is planned to connect Bellevue, Redmond, and Seattle across the I-90 bridge. It will also include one stop in Seattle smack-dab in the middle of I-90 just south of Judkins Park. Construction on Judkins Park Station is slated to begin by mid-2017. It will be the western-most station on the 10-stop East Link line which is expected to carry 50,000 riders by 2030.

Just as light rail connections at the UW and Capitol Hill have expanded notions of what is “close by,” the Judkins station is poised to do the same for the Central Area. Continue reading

Commuters take their first spin through Capitol Hill Station

IMG_4946Amarinthia Torres was watching a stopwatch on her phone while she waited to board a train at Capitol Hill Station Monday morning. 35 minutes door-to-door was the time to beat to get to her office at a Columbia City nonprofit. That’s how long her typical commute takes by riding the 9 bus from her Capitol Hill apartment.

Even if the light rail took a little longer with added walking times, Torres said she expected riding the new U-Link Light Rail line would replace her usual commute. “I’m hoping it will be less stressful,” she said.

Many riders at Capitol Hill Station had similar thoughts Monday morning during U-Link’s first weekday morning commute. Capitol Hill Station opened Saturday with a slice of a giant pair of scissors and a few booms of confetti. While Sound Transit’s new 3.1-mile U-Link extension from downtown to UW via Broadway will expand tourism and nightlife opportunities, the train’s success will ultimately depend on appealing to daily commuters.

U-Link’s first Monday morning appeared to go off without a hitch as riders tried out new morning routines in hopes of shaving some time and hassle off their commutes. Some riders were confused to see out-of-service trains come through the station as the peak schedule wound down around 8:30 AM. Those trains will resume running at 3:00 PM for the afternoon peak. The real-time arrival signs remained accurate for tracking the next rideable train. Continue reading

Now open: Capitol Hill Station

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With hundreds lined up to watch — or queued up for their first rides — Capitol Hill Station opened Saturday morning with a slice of a giant pair of scissors and a few booms of confetti.

“We’re building neighborhoods you can walk in. We’re building neighborhoods with great transit,” Mayor Ed Murray said before doing the honors with King County Exec Dow Constantine. “And right where we are, there will be affordable housing and open space. That’s the future.”

Continue reading

‘A monument to confidence,’ VIPs and officials take ride to Capitol Hill as U-Link set for grand opening

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

“This is a statewide asset. It is a monument to confidence.”

Friday’s VIP University-Link ride was all about the public officials who helped make Saturday’s launch happen through years of planning, negotiations, budget deals, and lobbying. Stretching from the first ever U.S. Transportation Secretary appointed in 1967 to the current one, the roster of officials attending Friday’s event stretched across multiple State of Washington, City of Seattle and King County administrations.

After christening UW Station, the VIP crowd took the ride to Capitol Hill Station. With a yank of a rope, Mayor Ed Murray, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, and former Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl  “turned on” the station along with a light show and music.

“For me, a 32-year resident of Capitol Hill, this is about light rail coming to Capitol Hill,” Murray said. “The densest residential neighborhood north of San Francisco and west of Chicago is about to have rapid transit.”

Light Rail Launch VIP - 2 of 9Saturday, the station at Broadway and Denny and the 3.1-mile U-Link extension from downtown to UW via Broadway will begin its official service carrying thousands of riders every day.

Capitol Hill Station Grand Opening
Saturday, March 19th — 9 AM to 5 PM

Friday, officials toured the Broadway facility, where the first Capitol Hill Station busker played an ode to trains on the accordion.

Prior to the ride, the VIP crowd gathered in the entrance to Husky Stadium for a ceremony lead by Sound Transit CEO Rogoff.

Former CEO Earl, recovering from a serious brain surgery, got an ovation for her work on the project.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox said the Obama administration was incredibly supportive of the project.

“Keep going,” he said. “Don’t wait for growth to choke your traffic and your daily lives.”

“This is a statewide asset,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “It is a monument to confidence.”

When outgoing Rep. Jim McDermott moved to Seattle in 1966, I-5 was still getting constructed. He said he never thought he would live to see the day light rail opened from UW to the airport.

“This is proof that the people through their government can get the things done that they need,” he said.