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King County Metro Transit Ridership Roars Back as Economy Strengthens

Riders took Metro buses in near-record numbers in 2011.

A growing economy combined with improved transportation services to better meet the needs of riders led to a nearly 3 percent boost in Metro Transit ridership in 2011. In all, about 370,000 people hopped aboard a Metro bus each weekday for a total of nearly 113 million rides. 

“A near-record number of people are experiencing first-hand the benefits of taking the bus, and I look forward to even more commuters getting on board with transit as the economy comes back,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

2011 was a big year for Metro. Ridership climbed to levels not seen since 2008, when employment was at its peak. Transit ridership even outstripped job growth by more than one percentage point, which suggests that more people are using transit to get to more places. 

“With gas prices on the rise and more RapidRide lines coming later this year, we expect to see transit demand strengthen even further in the weeks and months to come,” Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said.

Maintaining transit services has become a key political issue this year as Congress considers revamping formulas to fund it. , Desmond and several other Puget Sound transit leaders urged the federal government to continue dedicated transit funding as the economy recovers.

The increase in transit ridership was not just limited to Metro. Transit use was up across the board last year in King County with bus, rail and water taxi ridership up a combined 3.7 percent compared to 2010. 

Service expansion is also helping to boost ridership. Additional transit service across the SR 520 Bridge in late 2010 and early 2011resulted in a 15 percent ridership increase. Preliminary data indicates transit ridership is up another 10 percent just since tolling began. 

And RapidRide continues to be popular with riders. Metro estimates ridership on the A Line between Federal Way and Tukwila has grown about 40 percent since it was launched in Oct. 2010.  It’s estimated the B Line, serving Bellevue and Redmond, saw a 10 percent jump in ridership during the first three months of operation.

The arrival of the C and D lines serving West Seattle, Ballard and downtown Seattle will likely have similar success in attracting riders with their all-day frequent service and other amenities. Those lines will begin operating this fall.

Commuters also teamed up to use alternative transit options in 2011. There were more than 1,200 Metro commuter vans on the roads last year – an increase of 14 percent. In all, more than 3 million commuters left their cars at home and shared a ride to work, which helped keep congestion in-check.

And finally, use of transit park-and-rides was again on the rise in 2011 with demand strongest among east King County commuters. More than half of all permanent park-and-ride lots in the county are now running at least 80 percent full.

— Information provided by King County Metro

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