One of the more interesting Sound Transit publications are their ridership reports they publish quarterly. For example they provide costs per boarding (cpb) and boardings per trip (bpt) so costs per trip (cpt) can be determined. The numbers for a Sounder Train for 2011 were $12.71 cpb x 379.98 bpt= $4829.54 cpt.
The northern line (Everett to Seattle) made 8 trips per day for a total of 2080 trips per year (assuming 260 commuter days) and total cost of $10,045,443 for the year. The total number of commuters for the year was 233,674 so the cost per commuter ride was $42.99. Sound Transits 2012 budget document (more on that in a late blog) estimates the average Sounder commuter paid $3.05 per trip in 2011. Thus ST lost $39.95 per trip or $79.90 for each riders round trip or $20,774 per rider per year.
The small print at the bottom of the report explains these costs do not include depreciation (presumably significant on $4-5 million train cars). They don’t mention the costs associated with the nearly $500 million ST invested to initiate the service.
Sound Transit’s ST 510 provides bus connections between Everett Station and Seattle (5th and Pine) every 10-15 minutes from 5:20 to 8:31 AM with the same return frequency from 2:26 to 5:28 PM. (Less frequent service is available from 4:10 AM until 11:00 PM.) ST’s ridership reports Express bus ridership costs, on average, $7.06 cpb of which riders pay (per budget document) $1.73. Thus, ST subsidizes each bus rider $5.33 per trip or $2771.60 per year.
To be fair, very few commuters will use public transit 260 days per year. However, it doesn’t take a CPA to figure out which option is better cost wise. Commuter rail takes 59 minutes from Everett to the King Street Station. It takes 56 minutes for ST 510 route from Everett Station to 5th and Pine in Seattle; much closer to most commuters final destination. It’s no wonder about 1 million riders used ST510 in 2011. (Their report combines ST510 riders with ST512 riders which goes via Lynnwood so exact ST510 number not known.)
ST should be asked to explain why they continue with this service. Those who want to commute by rail from Everett to Seattle and back also have Amtrak as an option. It leaves Everett at 10:02 AM and returns at 6:50. Not as attractive time wise put available if needed.