The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tacoma Light Rail is still free; only grows by 4%

Last updated March 10, 2008 10:44 p.m. PT
Sound Transit ridership rose 12.5% in 2007
Gasoline prices, new services cited for increase


Seattle-area commuters turned to mass transit in record numbers in 2007, boosting local ridership well above the national average, according to a study released Monday.

Light rail ridership accounted for much of the increase nationally, a fact that has some Puget Sound transportation planners anticipating even greater increases locally when the region's first light rail system comes online in 2009.

"We think this region is really ready for light rail," said Linda Robson, a spokeswoman for Sound Transit, the three-county transit agency building the light rail line.

Sound Transit saw ridership increase 12.5 percent in 2007, compared with a national increase of about 2 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association, an international organization representing the transit industry.

Riders, pushed by rising gas prices and new services, took about 1.5 million more trips on express buses and commuter trains operated by Sound Transit.

The King County Department of Transportation saw the number of rides increase by 7.5 million, amounting to a 7 percent increase over 2006.

Robson said Sound Transit saw its largest increases in use of the Sounder commuter train, which runs on existing rail lines between Tacoma and Everett. The agency added several runs last year, including morning and evening trains for Seattle-area commuters who work in Tacoma.

In a statement, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels credited new services and skyrocketing gas prices with the increases.

"Each year more and more people discover that taking transit is better than dealing with rising congestion and high gas prices," said Nickels, who is chairman of the Sound Transit board. "We will continue focusing on keeping those ridership numbers climbing. ... There is a lot riding on our success."

Nationally, public transportation use has increased 32 percent in the past 12 years, according to the association's statistics. The number of miles traveled on U.S. highways increased 24 percent during the same period.

Last year's increase outpaced Sound Transit projections, Robson said, and early ridership figures this year seem to be a repeat of that success.

Part of the reason for the local increase might be the partial closure of Interstate 5 for repaving work in August. During a two-week period, Sounder trains made extra trips to accommodate passengers who normally would drive the highway and averaged about 2,700 more fares per day than in July on its Tacoma-Seattle trains during the project.

The Elliott Bay Water Taxi, Washington State Ferries and Metro buses all saw increased ridership during the construction.

Robson said the agency is looking forward to an even greater increase after December 2009, when the light rail line between Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport is completed.

The first leg of light rail connecting downtown Seattle with Tukwila is expected to open in July 2009, with the airport connection to follow months later, Robson said.

Sound Transit projects that its ridership will double after the completion of the Seattle-to-airport line.

"Every time we add service for any of our modes, we see an increase in our ridership," Robson said. "Higher gas prices are certainly encouraging people to explore other ways of commuting."

The agency also expects to begin work later this year on a rail extension connecting the University of Washington with the airport-bound line. About $100 million for the project, which would come into service in 2016, is included in the Bush administration's proposed budget for fiscal 2009.

Metro Transit spokeswoman Linda Thielke said the King County agency saw its biggest increases in vanpool ridership and on recently reorganized routes in South King County. On an average weekday last year, riders took 365,000 trips on Metro buses and vans.

"There just seems to be a real pent-up demand out there," she said.



1. Nashville, Tenn. -- 258 percent

2. Santa Fe, N.M. -- 97 percent

3. Harrisburg, Pa. -- 41 percent

4. Seattle -- 27 percent

5. Oakland, Calif. -- 14 percent

National average -- 5 percent


1. Seattle -- 8 percent

2. Denver-- 7 percent

3. Minneapolis -- 5 percent

National average -- 1 percent


1. New Orleans -- 129 percent

2. Denver -- 66 percent

3. St. Louis -- 27 percent

4. Philadelphia -- 26 percent

5. Kenosha, Wis. -- 19 percent

Seattle -- 4 percent*

National average -- 6 percent

*The 1.6-mile Tacoma Link streetcar was the only light rail operating in the Seattle area in 2007

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