Tacoma Link ridership limped to the finish line in 2016, ending December down 6.3 percent year over year from 2015.
The flagging December number pushed annual ridership to its lowest level since 2010.
Sound Transit, which operates the line, reported this month that 937,885 people rode Tacoma Link in 2016, down 3.6 percent from 2015.
The agency had predicted a year-over-year decline, but 2016 ridership failed to hit the 963,000 people Sound Transit had projected.
Sound Transit pointed out that 2016 ridership still was the sixth highest since the line began operating in 2003.
It blamed the bad December, which saw an 11 percent decrease in weekday boardings, and the overall decline, on reductions in Pierce Transit bus service for downtown Tacoma.
Transit observers in Pierce County also blame a loss of jobs in the downtown core, and some riders have told The News Tribune the line does not serve their needs. Lack of parking at the Tacoma Dome Station also plays a part in some people’s decision not to use Tacoma Link.
Sound Transit has said it hopes extending Tacoma Link through the Stadium District and onto the Hilltop will help boost ridership. Surveying work is underway for that extension, which the agency plans to open in 2022.
The declines in Tacoma come as the agency is celebrating ridership gains elsewhere.
Sound Transit issued a news release last week in which it touted a 65.8 percent increase year over year in ridership on its light rail lines in 2016, driven mostly by the opening of stations at Capitol Hill and the University of Washington in Seattle and Angle Lake in SeaTac.
The agency reported a 23 percent increase in ridership across all platforms — express bus, light rail and Sounder commuter trains — and said nearly 43 million people used its services in 2016.