The Puget Sound region pulled off a blitz of its own Wednesday as Seattle played host to the biggest victory party the Northwest has ever seen – and public transportation executed its plays mobilizing every available resource to get people to the parade and rally.
It’s estimated more than 700,000 fans traveled downtown — a higher turnout than the city’s entire population. It was the largest turnout for any event in the state’s history — and by far a record single day for transit ridership.
An event of this scale and magnitude required immense coordination and teamwork between city of Seattle, police, transit, emergency response personnel and event organizers.
It also required the 12th Man and commuters alike to pack a lot of patience as they faced long lines and delays. Every transit agency that played a role in the historic event appreciates the good spirit and understanding that was on full display during Wednesday’s celebration.
From the early morning hours, buses, trains, ferries and water taxis were filled to capacity as Seahawks fans all across the region descended on downtown Seattle to welcome home the Seahawks and celebrate one of the most impressive wins in Super Bowl history. And the agencies kept service moving until the last group of partygoers headed home that evening.
From the start, it was all hands on deck for transit. Every possible resource was deployed to help keep people moving. More buses were on the street – including buses loaned from neighboring transit districts. And more train and water taxi service helped get people in and out of the downtown core.
Despite the crushing demand, the transit agencies worked behind the scenes to coordinate resources to ensure they could safely carry the maximum number of riders possible and keep the region’s transportation system moving.
Transit by the numbers – an early look at what they did:
King County Metro Transit
Metro, one of the 10 largest transit systems in the country, carries about 400,000 people on a typical weekday. On Wednesday, daily commuters and Seahawks fans filled buses to capacity to downtown Seattle before and after the parade. In all, there were about 1,200 Metro and Sound Transit buses on the streets, including at least 85 additional buses that made 300 or more additional bus trips throughout the day. Bus drivers reported hundreds of full buses – about 20 times as many as a typical weekday. Detailed ridership estimates are not yet available.
Closing Fourth Avenue for the parade forced 33 Metro routes to be detoured much of the day and affected nearly 100 Metro routes serving downtown Seattle. Metro also pitched in and sent eight buses to carry riders from Tukwila, Kent and Auburn rail stations.
Metro’s website had double to triple the daily traffic— 65,000 and 70,000 visits Tuesday and Wednesday, compared to a weekday typical 26,000. The transit alerts page had more than 18,000 visits over those two days compared to a daily average of 62. Metro answered about 4,000 calls at the call center, about twice as many as usual.
Sound Transit marked its busiest day ever. Early estimates put regional train and bus ridership around 200,000. As more data is collected, it appears that number may grow. Average weekday ridership is typically around 105,000.
Link light rail services operated at maximum capacity into downtown Seattle from about 6 a.m. Southbound service remained full through the evening rush hours, pushing total estimated ridership to more than 75,000. Through a strong partnership with King County Metro Transit, Sound Transit put all available trains into service, with trains arriving at stations about every six minutes. During the afternoon Sound Transit for the first time deployed several four-car trains which can carry up to 800 passengers.
Sounder commuter rail carried somewhere around 20,000 passengers into downtown Seattle during the morning, and a similar number of return trips in the afternoon. To accommodate the unprecedented ridership the agency ran one extra southline Sounder train in the morning and two extra trains in the afternoon and evening. Some northline trains operated with extra cars into and out of downtown Seattle.
Morning Sounder service proved the most challenging, since many southline trains were full by the time they left Tacoma. One northline train was full by the time it reached Edmonds. Passengers endured long waits in the cold before they could board, and an unknown number were not able to board. Sound Transit worked with Pierce Transit, Metro and Community Transit to serve some of these riders on backup buses.
ST Express bus services into Seattle also ran at capacity throughout the day and into the evening rush hours, with Pierce Transit, Community Transit and Metro providing added buses and operators to help meet demand. While detailed estimates are not yet available ST Express buses generate nearly 60,000 passenger trips on an average weekday, and yesterday’s ridership substantially exceeded that level.
Community Transit and Sound Transit combined service to Seattle served more than 22,500 passengers, according to preliminary numbers. That is about 5,000 more passengers or 23 percent higher ridership than on a typical weekday.
Combined, the two agencies provided an extra 50 trips into and out of Seattle to meet demand. Most of these buses had in excess of 100 passengers, nearly half of them standing. Community Transit also saw an increase of its local service in Snohomish County as riders took local buses to their Seattle connections. In all, there were a record 55,000 passenger trips in Snohomish County yesterday provided by Community Transit and Sound Transit.
Pierce Transit began preparations for the Seattle Seahawks Parade Day support as early as Monday, Feb. 3, when the Maintenance Department began the process of putting 25 additional coaches into service. The agency opened its Emergency Operations Center first thing on Feb. 5 to manage the anticipated service impacts, including stationing a service supervisor and incident commander in Seattle to coordinate efforts and improve communications with Base Operations in Tacoma.
In addition to the regular Sound Transit coaches staffed by Pierce Transit Operators, Pierce Transit provided 28 additional trips to help with overflow crowds. There were capacity loads and long lines at all major stops. Lines circled the building at Tacoma Dome Station where supervisors estimated between 6,500 and 8,500 more passengers than normal boarded for Seattle between 7 a.m. and noon on Feb. 5. These estimates do not include Sounder service.
Every available transit operator and service supervisor was engaged in the effort to get people to and from their destinations as quickly as possible, and Pierce Transit Police and security officers assisted with crowd control throughout the day. After all, it was a very special day for our region, and Pierce Transit was glad to support our Championship Seattle Seahawks.
To ensure that bus passengers could claim their spot in the growing throng of fans waiting at the Bremerton Ferry Terminal Wednesday morning, Kitsap Transit moved arriving buses from its transit deck to a location at the end of the snaking line. Kitsap Transit ran standing loads morning and afternoon on buses serving the Bremerton and Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminals and on foot ferry serving Bremerton. The largest available buses were put into service across the system to handle the crowds. Three additional operators and buses were added to evening service and staff was added to direct weary fans to their buses as they arrived back in Kitsap County.
Intercity Transit? reported full Express buses beginning with the first northbound trip from downtown Olympia at 4:12 a.m. Standing rides were reported throughout the day on routes connecting to Sound and Pierce transit service and Sounder rail service. The agency provided two buses and drivers to help support overflow travel demand between Seattle and Tacoma.
King County Water Taxi
There was record ridership on the West Seattle Water Taxi, which boosted its midday sailings and carried about 4,600 passengers – more than 10 times the average January 2014 weekday tally of 416. There were 32 roundtrip sailings compared to 13 on a typical weekday. Running its normal schedule, the Vashon Water Taxi carried 928 passengers Wednesday, an almost 20 percent increase over typical daily volumes.