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King County Charts Record Transit Ridership Thanks To Light Rail, Metro Improvements

John Froschauer
AP Photo
Commuters exit Sound Transit's Sounder train after it arrived in Seattle from Tacoma, Wash., on Thursday, April 3, 2008.

More people than ever before are using mass transit in King County. Authorities say rides on buses and light rail totaled about 150 million last year, making Seattle the nation’s fastest growing large metropolitan region for transit use.

System-wide, Sound Transit and King County Metro are reporting a 5 percent increase in ridership last year. At the heart of that growth is the recent expansion of Link light rail, with new stations added in Capitol Hill and at the University of Washington.

“And that really got light rail to very dense communities and to big transit communities, up at the UW, for example,” said King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who chairs the county’s Transportation Committee. He says at the same time that they added these key stations, they did a major restructuring of the bus system.

“So we’ve made a system together – buses and light rail, along with the other forms of transit – that works better,” said Dembowski.

He says changes to the bus service affected nearly a third of Metro’s operating hours. And overall, ridership on local Metro bus routes is down. But it’s way up on light rail and RapidRide Express buses. This means some commuters now have to transfer instead of taking a single ride, but overall, they’re getting more reliable service.

A looming concern is what will happen when the expansion of the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle forces all the buses out of the downtown transit tunnel. That’s expected to happen sometime in 2018.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to