Sound Transit held a birthday party inside the Capitol Hill and University of Washington light rail stations Friday, celebrating the extremely popular first year of University Link ridership.
U Link opened to the public on March 19, 2016, six months early and $200 million under budget; an achievement King County Executive Dow Constantine could not stress enough in the weeks leading up to the launch.
More than 30,000 people rode the 3.15-mile U Link line during its first day in service.
Sound Transit reports average ridership has grown to 65,100 people since U Link opened. The agency recorded an 89 percent increase in ridership from February 2016 to 2017. Just for February, Sound Transit recorded a 78 percent increase compared to 2016 numbers.
"The demand for light rail service —during the work week and weekends — is proof that investments in its continued expansion is critically needed," said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff in a news release. "Light rail expansions now and in the future will provide a vital regional transit network that is essential to supporting population growth, jobs and a robust regional economy.”
While U Link has boosted the popularity of link light rail in Seattle, expansion efforts to Lynnwood, Federal Way, Everett and Tacoma could suffer a massive blow if President Donald Trump’s proposed budget passes. Lynnwood Link would lose $1.17 billion in federal New Starts funding, according to Sound Transit, and a $500 million request for light rail extension to Federal Way would be blocked.
The transit agency had assumed $5 billion in federal contributions over the next several years, which will not come if the New Starts program is eliminated, according to Sound Transit.