SDOT's Numbers Don't Capture Major Transit Increase

About that underwhelming .78 percent stat...

By Josh Feit January 4, 2017

There were a lot of questions about the stat I published yesterday that said there had (only) been a .78 percent increase in transit ridership over the past decade. My favorite question: "Did you mean 78 percent?"

The number, which came from the Seattle Department of Transportation's commute trip reduction program, SDOT's program to help major downtown businesses reduce employees' solo car trip commutes, did seem low for a green city with packed buses, a crowded light rail system, and, as the statistics also noted, a major drop in "DAR"—Drive Alone Rates. (Not to mention the big spike in people who walk to work. As I've reported, ped commuting is the fastest growing category—and not because it's going from minuscule numbers to slightly less minuscule numbers. People who walked to work went from a legit 29,070, 8.6 percent of all commuters, in 2010 to 43,665, nearly 11 percent, in 2015, according to the U.S. Census and the American Community Survey, which does yearly spot checks to supplement the Census.)

So what's going on with this .78 statistic? For starters, the universe that's surveyed in SDOT's CTR program only includes businesses with more than 100 employees (that's about 250 businesses—and most of those are downtown), and only measures morning rush hour trips between six to nine am. That certainly leaves out a lot of Seattle employees. Additionally, presumably people who work downtown figured out a long time ago that the bus was an efficient option; so, there wasn't huge ground to gain in terms of a percentage increase.

Commute Seattle, a non-profit that works at the local level to reduce DAR, says they're coming out with numbers early next month that will take a more comprehensive look at how Seattle workers commute.

Meanwhile, Metro and Sound Transit, our bus and light rail agencies, both report serious increases. Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer says system wide, Metro saw a 10 percent increase in transit boardings between 2007 and 2015, from 110.6 million to 121.8 million; a "boarding" measure every time someone gets on a bus, so a two-way commute counts twice.

Screen shot 2017 01 04 at 1.28.09 pm brk5xz

Sound Transit light rail, which expanded from downtown to Husky Stadium in March 2016, with stops in the dense Capitol Hill neighborhood between downtown's Westlake station and Montlake's stadium station, increased  69.3 percent when you compare the third quarter 2016 (when the new stops were online) to third quarter 2015. Overall, comparing 2015 to 2016, light rail ridership increased 60 percent from 8.6 million boardings to 13.8 million boardings.

There are roughly 410,000 commuters in Seattle.


Filed under
Show Comments