Sound Transit’s ridership struggles to reach pre-pandemic levels

Jul 25, 2022, 11:14 AM


(Flickr Creative Commons)

(Flickr Creative Commons)

Sound Transit’s system-wide ridership for 2021 remained 63% below that of 2019.

In 2021, the Link, Sounder, and Express trains carried 17.8 million total passengers, whereas, only two years prior, the transportation agency ferried nearly 50 million.

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Per a recently released annual summary of ridership levels, Sound Transit reports that it is seeing a gradual recovery out of the pandemic, with a year-over-year increase of 200,000 additional riders. The report notes that 2020 “enjoyed 2.5 months of pre-pandemic ridership, which further boosted the yearly ridership totals.”

(Sound Transit)

It comments that the uptick is likely attributable to the expansion of light rail into Northgate, adding three new stations north of the University of Washington in October 2021.

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Since Sound Transit’s inception, the agency has carried over 504 million passengers throughout the Puget Sound area.

Foot traffic across Sound Transit’s transportation options is not evenly distributed. While Link reports a year-over-year increase of 1.8 million passengers, fewer and fewer riders are making use of the ST Express — a regional bus system — and the Sounder.

1 million fewer riders boarded ST Express in 2021 over the year prior, and the Sounder’s traffic was reduced to 700,000 over 2020s 1.3 million users.

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Sound Transit’s ridership struggles to reach pre-pandemic levels