Ridership puts the “light” in light rail
I’ve been a critic of Sound Transit light rail from the beginning. The main reason for my criticism has been that the ridership would not justify the cost.
That inevitability has become even more apparent as people have learned that there is no parking along the light rail line. As the Seattle Times reported this weekend, Rick Sheridan of Seattle DOT said, “Light rail was meant to be fed by people taking the bus, walking or biking. It was not meant to be fed by cars.”
That has accomplished two things – one, it makes the line virtually useless to the majority of people in the region; and most importantly (to region officials), it makes the property along the line more valuable. I have always believed that the main goal of ST was to enrich well-connected developers and property owners.
Yeah, it’s early, but you would think that the newness of the line might attract some curious riders. Instead, on this first day of paid ridership, region officials must be terrified at how bad the ridership numbers were Monday.
The Times reported that the only park-and-ride lot – in Tukwila – was only a quarter full halfway through the morning commute. Around 8am, trains were arriving in Tukwila from Seattle with fewer than ten riders aboard. A train came into downtown around 7:30 with just over 100 people on it. The 9:30 northbound train had 39 riders aboard.
In other words, for the cost of an $800,000 articulated bus, we have accomplished the same task with a $2.4-billion light rail system.
The Times’ reporter Monday even acknowledged those of us who have been critics when they wrote: Skeptics have complained for years ridership will be weak, because the Link corridor serves a limited area, compared to buses that go multiple places.
But don’t worry – ridership numbers are sure to increase this fall. That’s when region transportation geniuses are going to force people onto trains – by ending the running of existing bus lines that served those same customers at less cost and with a faster commute time.
I guess we could have spent those billions on cops or schools or to keep children from dying. Or we could spend them on Ron Sims’ and Greg Nickels’ monument to their greatness and enormous egos.
Our leaders have spoken.
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