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Streetcar Ridership Continues to Grow


The end of the year data shows continued ridership growth on the South Lake Union Streetcar.  There were over half a million riders in 2010, a 15 percent increase over 2009, and 25 percent greater than ridership in 2008, the first full year of operation.   The gains were driven largely by increased weekday trips.  Average weekday ridership was over 1,800,  peaking at over 2,200 in August 2010.  While seasonal peaks continue to be evident, employment growth in South Lake Union led to sustained ridership growth.  In fact, the month with the highest increase over 2009 was November with an increase of 128 percent. 

The higher ridership numbers undoubtedly reflect the arrival of the headquarters, the opening of the Lake Union Park and the addition of retail businesses in South Lake Union.  With more workers scheduled to move into the Amazon offices in 2011 and 2012, SDOT anticipates the ridership will continue to rise surpassing that of 2010.

If you haven’t had a chance yet to hop on and ride the streetcar, why not add that to your “must try” list for 2011.  You might be surprised to discover the many changes that have taken place around South Lake Union this past year!

6 Responses to “Streetcar Ridership Continues to Grow”

  1. […] I didn't have the time yesterday to leave much of a response, and didn't want to leave a big ol' post that would lead people to accuse me of bloviating. But since you asked, it's swell that they are providing some funds for the streetcar project. It was already planned for this alignment, a route sketched out in 2011 (after an earlier alignment in 2007 ran into some problems) and was approved last year by City Council, when the selling point for Mayor Johnson was that it stopped alongside the Amtrak depot, the site of last year's failed arena plan in the Railyards. The streetcar plan is entirely separate from the arena plan, but an attraction like an arena will draw more streetcar riders,especially because that makes it easier to park in West Sacramento or Midtown lots and ride to games. Also, because streetcars can demonstrate a lot more ability to draw investment than arenas (Portland's streetcar drew more than $1 billion in investment) it might actually save the arena from its own flaws by laying the groundwork for residential growth. There are several sources of funding for the project popping up–West Sacramento voted a sales tax increase specifically to fund a streetcar network years ago, and have been waiting for us to figure out how we're going to pay for our end. SACOG just provided a $7 million grant to start on the engineering, and we have a strong case made for next year's round of federal transit funds. The other part is an assessment on private development alongside the streetcar alignment, of which that $500,000 would basically work as an advance payment. Other payments would be made for further ancillary development, and could also act as mitigation for traffic impacts of subsequent development. Property assessments are one means of paying for a streetcar network, based on projected increase in property value along the alignment, and the value of reduced parking need. Other cities use other methods, like parking meter revenue, but I don't think we'll have any extra in Sacramento for the next 37 years or so… I can also see why Mark Friedman, new owner of the mall property and part owner of the Kings, would like the idea of kickstarting the streetcar plan, as he is building the waterfront neighborhood across the river in West Sacramento and a streetcar line is critical to making that an urban, transit-oriented neighborhood instead of "West Natomas." Traditional streetcar lines were built with one end in a new-growth area and the other end at a destination, with as many workplaces as possible in between. The line as envisioned runs from West Sacramento (new growth) to Old Sacramento (destination) to Capitol Mall (workplace) the Railyards (new growth and transit connection) to the arena (destination) along Kay Street (workplace) and around the Convention Center (destination) ending at 19th Street in Midtown (established transit-oriented neighborhood and destination.) You can read more about it here: The commitment, assuming it actually happens, marks another "pro-arena" point on my personal balance sheet, along with "distorts economy towards downtown instead of the suburbs" and "irritates conservative columnists." Not sure whether that outweighs the other side of the balance sheet, including "flawed funding model via parking," "borrowing money from Goldman Sachs" and "irritates Majin" yet, but it pushes me farther in the direction of voting "yes" on an arena proposal, should we end up getting the option to vote. Oh yeah, and the Seattle streetcar is doing just fine:…&view=comments…inues-to-grow/ […]

  2. Jon Morgan says:

    The SLUT is the only transit in Puget Sound I know of with genuine real-time arrival information. It also offers smooth, quiet rides that are low to the ground so you can see the street as if you were walking it. Can’t wait for First Hill and other lines to open.

    • SDOT Blog says:

      Glad you like the streetcar and its operations. We, too, are looking forward to the First Hill line and the smooth connection between Capitol Hill, First Hill and the I.D.

  3. [...] valid year-on-year measurement, unlike for Link: The end of the year data shows continued ridership growth on the South Lake Union [...]

  4. SLUSRider says:

    So how about more fare checks or an Orca reader?! Almost no one pays to ride except some of the tourists. The auto-ticket machines aren’t very useful because they don’t take both cash and credit on the same machine. Makes it very confusing for the tourists that don’t know better.

    • SDOT Blog says:

      SDOT is eager to implement automated ORCA fare collection on the Seattle Streetcar. We are working with King County Metro and their ORCA system provider to identify a technical solution that will work for the streetcar, which has slightly different requirements from buses, which have driver/passenger interaction. We don’t have a timeline yet, but are working on this actively.

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