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Metro Transit inches closer to record territory with another jump in annual ridership


Metro’s weekday ridership grew every month during 2013 and has now essentially tied the ridership record it experienced back in 2008.


RapidRide ridership exceeded expectations in 2013

Preliminary data shows King County Metro Transit logged a strong finish to the year with December weekday ridership climbing more than 4 percent compared to a year ago. Overall, Metro’s weekday ridership grew every month during 2013 and has now essentially tied the ridership record it experienced back in 2008, prior the recession.

And last week’s huge turnout to celebrate the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory shows 2014 is also getting off to a strong start. Preliminary estimates show Metro delivered about 100,000 more rides than usual on Feb. 5 for a total of about 500,000 trips the day of the parade - a record for Metro.

Metro estimates it delivered about 118.5 million trips in 2013 – 2.7 percent more than in 2012 –and just shy of the 118.8 million trips provided in 2008.

“Despite the lingering effects of the recession, these preliminary numbers show we accomplished what we set out to do – preserve service and position our system to support our region’s economic recovery,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond.

Three factors accounted for the boost in ridership: the strengthening economy, improving employment and the most ambitious restructuring of existing service in Metro’s history.

As the economy slumped, Metro took a series of actions to not only maintain the system – but to improve it by planning service to operate more efficiently and productively. This included the creation of high-frequency bus corridors, a feeder system to enable easy neighborhood connections to buses in those corridors and better matching available service to ridership demand – while at the same time laying the groundwork for ridership to grow once the economy turned the corner.

By 2013, more bus trips were being taken in areas that had previously been restructured. There was less duplication of bus routes and ridership was increasing on busy urban travel corridors.

Overall, the restructuring led to a net gain in ridership. Metro buses were also carrying more riders per hour. Boardings per vehicle hour increased 2.4 percent compared to 2012.

RapidRide Ridership exceeded expectations in 2013

Metro’s four RapidRide lines also continue to grow. The A, B, C and D lines saw a combined 36 percent ridership increase in ridership compared to the routes they replaced, outpacing projections. The A Line operating along Pacific Highway South/International Boulevard led the way with a 58 percent increase. Ridership on the C Line between West Seattle and downtown was up 53 percent beating five-year growth projections for the line by more than three years.

Overall customer satisfaction with RapidRide remains high with the four existing lines drawing an average 78 percent satisfaction rate.

Other emerging trends point to growing demand

Preliminary data shows use of park-and-rides also increased in 2013 – especially in east King County. Park-and-ride usage by eastside commuters was up 4 percent compared to a year ago. Several eastside lots continue to operate at or above capacity, including Bear Creek (108%), Issaquah Highlands (98%), Kingsgate (106%), Redmond, (100%) and South Bellevue (107%). Sound Transit’s eastside lots are also generally full at Issaquah Transit Center (99%), Mercer Island (100%) and Overlake Transit Center (104%).

And Metro’s commuter van program experienced its second consecutive record year in 2013. An estimated 3.5 million commute trips were taken as part of Metro’s vanpool/vanshare programs—up 3 percent over 2012. The number of vans in operation grew 6 percent in 2013.

Metro’s Strategic Plan and service guidelines suggest service should be growing by an additional 15 percent to reduce overcrowding, improve service reliability and meet target service levels in 58 corridors that serve places where many people live, work, or go for other activities around King County.