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Rebounding economy boosting demand for Metro bus service


King County Metro is experiencing its second highest ridership year and is closing in on a new record as demand for transit continues to strengthen along with the local economy and job market.


Trends show thousands of riders returning to Metro with stronger economy and employment

King County Metro is experiencing its second highest ridership year and is closing in on a new record as demand for transit continues to strengthen along with the local economy and job market. 

Preliminary data shows Metro has delivered nearly 400,000 transit rides each weekday so far in 2013, hitting the second highest average weekday ridership ever in May at 408,000 rides - numbers not seen since 2008 before the Great Recession and rising unemployment. Demand for bus service continues to grow despite a 5 percent drop in gas prices and elimination of the downtown Seattle Ride Free Area. These numbers suggest more people are relying on Metro as they re-enter the local job market.

While transit demand is up across the county, eastside ridership appears particularly strong. Metro is seeing double-digit growth on eastside routes such as the 221 between Redmond and Eastgate, 226 serving downtown Bellevue and Eastgate, 234 between Kenmore and Bellevue and the 245 serving Bellevue, Kirkland and Factoria.

“This preliminary ridership data shows we’re poised to achieve a third straight year of ridership growth as our economy continues to strengthen”, said Metro General Manger Kevin Desmond. “Instead of gearing up to meet this growing demand as it should be, Metro is preparing to dramatically cut service if a transportation funding package is not approved by the state legislature.”

Other emerging trends point to growing demand

Metro’s four RapidRide routes also continue to grow. The A, B, C and D lines have seen a combined 30 percent increase in ridership compared to the bus routes they replaced. The A Line – the first RapidRide line launched in 2010 along Pacific Highway South/International Boulevard - led the way with a 53 percent increase in growth, beating five-year growth projections for the line by more than two years.

These trends are moving Metro ever closer to the record 119 million trips it delivered in 2008, prior to the recession.

Park-and-ride usage is also up and has surpassed levels not seen since the recession, with demand strongest among suburban commuters, especially on the eastside.

Several eastside lots continue to operate at or above capacity, including South Bellevue (107%), Bear Creek (110%), Redmond, (100%) and South Kirkland (104%).

The data continues to suggest strong linkages between park-and-ride usage, transit ridership and economic growth.

This snapshot of Metro ridership comes as it begins planning for a 17 percent reduction in bus service if the state Legislature fails to authorize funding to fill the agency’s projected $75 million annual budget gap. Sixty-five routes are at risk of being canceled, and service reduced on another 86 routes without a permanent and sustainable source of revenue.