UPDATE, 6:02 p.m. | Waves of pedestrians flooded downtown shortly after 5 p.m. as Pharrell/Soundgarden concertgoers made their way to sports bars and toward home.
Some joined commuters in a teeming Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, where light-rail riders waited for southbound trains and Metro riders jumped on northbound buses.
Light-rail trains were taking on heavy loads but had experienced no major delays, Sound Transit said.
Sounder trains normally carry about 2,700 people on a weekday but had seen about 3,700 riders as of 5 p.m. Thursday, according to Sound Transit.
ORIGINAL POST | Buses and trains were packed by mid-afternoon Thursday in Seattle as Seahawks and Pharrell/Soundgarden fans rushed in the direction of CenturyLink Field and commuters took off for home.
Exact ridership numbers for the busy day weren’t immediately available from Metro and Sound Transit. But both agencies said they were carrying many more riders than usual and tackling heavy crowds.
Most weekdays, Metro bus ridership into downtown Seattle peaks in the morning and again in the late afternoon, adding up to 400,000 rides a day. Not Thursday.
“We’ve seen a steady stream all morning and throughout the day,” Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer said at about 3:30 p.m., predicting an even greater crush in the late afternoon and early evening.
Buses rumbling downtown from Northgate and Ballard in Seattle and from Eastgate in Bellevue were particularly crammed as of mid-afternoon, with at least one Northgate bus unable to take on all the riders who were waiting to board.
Buses moving in the opposite direction, leaving downtown for Bellevue and Renton, also saw heavy ridership hours earlier than usual.
“That could be people heading home to watch the game on TV,” Switzer said.
Metro did issue advance warnings about delays and crowded buses, urging riders to allow extra time for trips Thursday or to revise their travel plans.
Sound Transit carries 33,000 light-rail riders on an average weekday and 29,000 on an average Sunday.
“We’ll easily top 40,000 today, if not 50,000,” spokesman Bruce Gray said at about 3:30 p.m. “We’ve been running rush-hour level service on light-rail since about noon. We’ve bumped up service and will keep that level through post-game.”
Rush-hour service means the trains running 7 ½ minutes apart rather than the normal 10 minutes apart.
Meanwhile, Sound Transit officials were preparing to call an audible or two.
“If we start to see the International District Station fill up like it does after big events, we’ll direct more folks down to the Stadium Station where we can pull extra trains out of the yard,” Gray said.