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March 25, 2009

Are you Metro’s 3 billionth passenger?

It could be anyone, as King County transit agency counts down to big milestone

King County Metro Transit is counting down the days – and the passengers – until next Tuesday, March 31. That is the day Metro expects to record its 3 billionth passenger boarding since beginning operations in January 1973.

"This is an incredible milestone for Metro and the people of King County," said King County Executive Ron Sims. "Together, we've reduced traffic congestion, contributed to cleaner air quality, and saved ourselves money – all by riding a Metro bus. That's why we don't want to single out any one individual as the 3 billionth rider, because all of our passengers are one in three billion."

With an average of about 400,000 boardings each weekday, it would be hard for Metro to pinpoint exactly which passenger pushes the numbers over 3 billion. So, the agency is inviting all Metro customers to participate in the celebration.

“We really want to thank our passengers,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “Without them and their support over the years, Metro would not currently be one of the ten largest bus agencies in the United States and among the leaders nationally in ridership growth.”

Information about the celebration and getting involved are detailed online. It includes:

• In the days leading up to March 31, Metro customers are invited to snap a photograph of themselves riding their favorite bus route to be included in a public photo gallery that will commemorate this important achievement in Metro’s history. It’s as easy as clicking the camera and emailing the photo;

• People can also visit the Metro website to add their personalized electronic “footprint” illustrating how riding the bus can reduce our carbon footprint;

• Then on next Tuesday, Metro staff will be greeting morning bus riders at select locations handing out “3 billion served” buttons as a thank-you to all the passengers who have helped Metro achieve this record.

Just how big a milestone is 3 billion rides? Using information published by the Washington State Department of Transportation, 3 billion is the number of all vehicles that have traveled on Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle for the past 30 years.

It also adds up to 14.5 billion miles traveled by Metro passengers since 1973. Metro statisticians say that’s the equivalent of 156 one-way trips to the sun. They didn’t calculate round trips, because as one said: “You don't come back from the sun.”

Metro’s staff are estimating the timing of the 3 billionth boarding by counting all passenger trips since Jan. 1, 1973, when Metro Transit started. It includes data from buses, streetcars, electric trolleys, and special event service.

In the early years, staff rode buses to actually count the individual passenger boardings on a sampling of bus routes. Starting in the late 1980s, Metro began using Automated Passenger Counters (APC) to estimate system wide bus and trolley boardings.


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