GrowthTransportationEconomyArchive
Updated Jul 08 2016, by Craig Helmann, PSRC

Growth in Transit Ridership Outpacing Employment and Population Growth


Monthly boardings on our regional transit system were up approximately 3.6% in the first five months of 2016, once again out-pacing employment and population growth. In all we had almost 2.7 million more boardings in the first five months of 2016 than we did in 2015 for a total of 76.9 million boardings through May 2016. If we look back over the past five years, transit ridership is up over 13% since May of 2011 with additional 8.9 million boardings in the first five months of 2016.

Boardings on all modes of public transit (bus, light rail, street car and commuter rail) have increased so far in 2016.

Light Rail Ridership continues to climb after opening of new stations

Light rail boardings jumped significantly after the opening of the Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium Stations in March 2016 and ridership has continued to increase in the two full months following the March opening. Overall monthly boardings were up 798,000 on the region’s light rail and streetcar networks between May 2015 and May 2016, a 72% increase. Light rail boardings were up almost 5% between April and May of 2016.

Figure 1. Light Rail and Streetcar Boardings: January through May 2010 to 2016
Figure 1. Light Rail and Streetcar Boardings: January through May 2010 to 2016

Strong Growth in Ferry Ridership

Boardings on regional ferry routes have increased over 2015 levels for every month in 2016 so far for a total of 9.6 million boardings between January and May 2016, a 2.6% increase over 2015. This increase continues the trend of increasing ferry ridership that began in 2013 and represents a 9.5% ridership increase since 2010. Regional ferry ridership so far in 2016 is at its highest level since 2002.

Figure 2. Ferry Boardings, January through May 2010 to 2016
Figure 2. Ferry Boardings, January through May 2010 to 2016

The ridership gains of the past three years follow nearly 10 years of flat or slowing declining ferry ridership as a result of various fare and route changes as well as shifting demographics in Kitsap County. Strong job growth as well as newer county provided passenger only service in the past 5 years is a likely reason for the recent growth in ferry ridership.

Why do transit and ferry boardings matter?

Transit and ferry boardings demonstrate how many people are traveling about the region in our transit system. The number of boardings can have impacts on the amount of traffic on our roads and the amount of ozone and carbon dioxide emitted into our air. A goal of our integrated land use and transportation plans is to increase the number of travel options available to people and to increase the amount of travel by modes other than the automobile. Transit and ferry boardings are one way to understand if more people are choosing these other travel options.

What’s next?

The monthly transit trends were delayed a couple of months due to technical issues with the National Transit Database – a key source of consistent data used in the reporting of transit service and usage in these trends. These issues have been resolved and the data is back to its normal monthly publication cycle. In August we will have data through the first half of the year and we will be comparing transit growth between 2015 and 2016 with the changes in population and employment that we have reported on so far this year.