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US Mass Transit Ridership Increasing

3 October 2005

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that ridership of mass transit in the US is increasing in a number of metropolitan areas.

Transit organizations are reporting indications of ridership growth such as increased fare revenue, more crowded rail cars and buses, higher traffic on web sites, and more inquiries about vanpools.

According to research cited by APTA, if Americans used public transportation at the same rate as Europeans (roughly 10% of total daily travel needs) the US would reduce its need for imported oil by more than 40% (at the current level of domestic production).

Increased use of public transportation is the single most effective way to reduce America’s energy consumption, and it does not require any new taxes, government mandates or regulations. With today’s growing concern about energy security, transit is emerging as a critical part of the solution.

— APTA president William W. Millar

While high gas prices have contributed to the recent growth in ridership, numerous transit systems were seeing increases even before the gas prices started skyrocketing this summer.

In the second quarter (April-June) of 2005, the national transit patronage grew 2.1% compared to the same period in 2004, with particularly strong growth for systems in Minneapolis, Houston, New Orleans, Galveston, Newark, San Jose, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

Quantitative and anecdotal examples that reflect indications of ridership increases, based on responses to APTA’s inquiries, as well as information from APTA’s second quarter (April-June) 2005 ridership data research, include:

  • Austin (TX) Capital Metro has seen ridership increases particularly on its Express routes, its vanpools have been full with waiting lists since June, and call volume into its Rideshare office increased by 40% from July to August.

  • Buffalo Niagara (NY) Frontier Transportation Authority: Metro ridership for the first nine months of 2005 is up 348,564 riders or 2.3% as compared to the same period in 2004.

  • Charlotte (NC) CATS: For the seventh consecutive year, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) continued to break records in ridership. CATS ended fiscal year 2005 strong with an 8.2% increase in ridership growth, up from a 5.3% increase in fiscal year 2004.

  • Cincinnati (OH) SORTA: For the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, as of Sept. 12, Metro ridership is up 2% for the month, compared to the same time period in 2004. This is despite the first base fare increase in 12 years that went into effect in Feb. 2005. The 2% increases translates to about 14,000 additional rides from Sept. 1-12.

  • Cleveland (OH): 8.6% ridership increase on its heavy rail system in second quarter of 2005 over the same period in 2004.

  • Columbus (OH) COTA: A preliminary look at COTA ridership for the week ending Sept. 11 indicates a marked increase over the prior year. The final report has not been issued, but preliminary figures show an increase in the average weekday numbers of 9%.

  • Dallas (TX) DART: Parking lots at DART stations are routinely full these days, and the system reports a growing number of inquiries from potential passengers in areas not served by DART about getting service.

  • Denver (CO) RTD: RTD has seen steady ridership increases over the past 10 months or so. For May, totals were up 4% (over May of a year ago), while June and August were up 3% each.

  • Dover (DE) DART First State: Between January and June of 2005, DART First State has had ridership increases over the same time period in 2004 of 4.6% on its fixed route buses, 11.7% on its R2 rail line, and 37.6% on its long distance commuter Route 301 system, as well as a 34.41% increase in visits to its website.

  • Eden Prairie (MN) Southwest Metro Transit: This summer has provided record ridership for the agency. Year-to-date, they are up around 6% over 2004, and during the month of August, they had 15% more riders than the previous August. An early indication for September ridership looks like they may be on our way to setting new records.

  • Fort Worth (TX) The T: Calls into Fort Worth’s rideshare line for carpool and vanpool matches have increased from 10 to 30 per day during August 2005.

  • Dallas/Fort Worth (TX) Trinity Railway Express (TRE): The Trinity Railway Express’ ridership has increased by 15% so far in September.

  • Galveston (TX): 26.6% ridership increase in second quarter of 2005 over the same time period in 2005 since one-mile extended rail service began in March 2004.

  • Grand Rapids (MI) The Rapid: The Rapid reports that inquiries on both its information telephone line and e-mail are up and it is clearly people who are new to the system and looking for alternatives. They have a number of colleges and universities in their service area and its information tables at the orientation and other on-campus events are getting cleaned out.

  • Houston (TX): 79.9% ridership increase in second quarter of 2005 over the same time period in 2004 since extended rail service began in March 2004.

  • Kalamazoo (MI) Metro Transit: The agency has noticed an increase in phone calls from people gathering information about bus routes who stated they wanted to try the bus as a way to save money.

  • Lexington (KY) LexTran reports a 6% increase in ridership over a three-week period (late July-mid August) that can be attributed to fuel prices.

  • Los Angeles (CA) Metro: Metro-Link ridership is up by 7.6% since this date last year, and it increased on city buses and subways rose by 7.82% in August 2005.

  • Miami (FL) Miami-Dade Transit Department: The system’s June 2005 ridership is showing an increase over June 2004, from 8.2 million to 8.3 million boardings. Parking at all of its bus park and ride lots also went up right after the first big spike in gas prices in August. Overall, the system has enjoyed a 25.6% ridership increase in the last three years, following the adoption of a half-percent sales surtax dedicated to transportation improvements.

  • Milwaukee (WI) County Transit System has seen an increase in ridership all year at about one percent, the first system-wide increase in five years. The MCTS park-ride express service has also seen an increase of 9% in July compared to July of 2004. In addition, its corporate pass program grew one percent in a week due to new sign ups. The sign ups usually occur just before a billing quarter begins, but these sign ups are in mid quarter and happened to be the week the gas prices peaked.

  • Minneapolis (MN) 100% ridership increase in the second quarter of 2005 over the same time period in the previous year since new rail services began in June 2004.

  • Nashville (TN) Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority: Ridership for the Metro Nashville area is up by 23% over this time last year. Officials attribute the increase to the high cost of fuel, the recent addition of 76 new buses and 49 vans into the fleet, a more aggressive marketing effort, the popularity of a new All Day Pass, and recent additions to the agency’s commuter benefits program

  • New Jersey Transit: 6.1% ridership increase on its heavy rail system in second quarter of 2005 over the same period in 2004.

  • New Orleans (LA) (pre-Katrina): 26.9% ridership increase in second quarter of 2005 over the same time period in 2005 since Canal Streetcar went on line in April of 2004.

  • New York, Port Authority, Metro-North and Long Island Railroad: Port Authority’s ridership increased 10 out of 12 months in FY 2005 (July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005). Overall, the system’s ridership increased by 2 percent during the fiscal year, which equates to over 1.1 million rides. Metro-North, which connects New York and Connecticut suburbs with New York City, saw its largest ridership increase in nearly four years in August, with 3.8% additional passengers and 5% growth in monthly pass sales. Crews on the Long Island Railroad report that trains are noticeably more crowded during all time periods.

  • Newark (NJ): 21.1% ridership increase in second quarter of 2005 over the same time period in 2005 since new route and extended line began in April and September of 2004.

  • Oklahoma City (OK) METRO Transit reports ridership increases of 16.26% in July and 10.66% in August over the same months in 2005, and an overall increase of 4.1% from September 2004 through August 2005 over the same time period in 2003-2004.

  • Orlando (FL) LYNX: Ridership for 2005 is expected to exceed 24.5 million, an increase of 1.1 million over last year’s record setting number.

  • Painesville (OH) Laketran: For the first time ever, Laketran carried more than 100,000 passengers within a single month (105,470). A study in August 2005 found total ridership numbers had swelled 13% and fixed routes have risen 28% since August 2004.

  • Phoenix (AZ) Valley Metro: The system’s Bus Rapid Transit ridership has increased substantially over the past year, averaging at a 23% increase for the four lines currently in operation. As far as bus ridership goes, they saw a 4% increase from August 2004 to August 2005, a 4.7% increase from July 2004 to July 2005 and a 3.5% increase from June 2004 to June 2005. Rideshare matchlist requests have doubled from 839 in May to 1700 in August. They have had two straight months of their largest number of vanpool start-ups in August and September with 10 each. Their vanpool provider says they are ranked second in the country for new start-ups.

  • Richland (WA) Ben Franklin Transit is seeing a ridership increase of about 3%, and significant increases in the volume of calls they are receiving. Most callers are inquiring about fixed route service, and the calls are longer and more detail oriented. People are asking how to ride, the cost to ride and how long it takes to get to various destinations. The system recently ran a shuttle for the county fair and saw a ridership increase of 34% over 2004.

  • Saint Louis (MO): 17.2% ridership increase in second quarter of 2005 over the same time period in 2005.

  • San Francisco/Oakland (CA) BART and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority: BART reports a ridership increase of 3.8% from September 1-13 over the same time period in 2004, and on September 15, had the highest number of riders in a year, a total of 434,000. Ridership on the Capitol Corridor Intercity in the past 12 months consolidated has increased by 8% over the same time period last year.

  • San Jose (CA): 18.4% ridership increase in second quarter of 2005 over the same time period in 2005 since new light rail service extension began in June 2004.

  • Tulsa (OK) Transit reports that ridership on city buses is up more than 15% since June and 36% over the past year, and traffic on its website has nearly doubled.

  • Washington DC Metro has broken several ridership records in 2005, with increases of more than 4% in August and 10% on the year.

October 3, 2005 in Fuel Efficiency, Market Background | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (3)

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Comments

Having worked in public transit for 24 years I know the only way to reach that 10% figure (its roughly 2% now) is to eliminate bus fares. Every fare increase resulted in drops in both the ridership as well as farebox revenues. Public transit is already heavily subsidised by taxpayers so the elimination of fares would not cost that much more. I think a small parking space tax could do it. Grand Rapids has a free downtown shuttle service that used to have free parking lots. It was payed for by those choosing to use parking meters. It had more riders than any other route.

I have to wonder how much this increase in ridership is due to the growing numbers of working poor, those numbers were rising before gas prices too.

Commuter vehicles that run on Alternative Fuel such as Natural Gas, Ethanol and others should be offered incentives or rebates from the government to purchase or drive them. And the more people you commute with would increase incentives. Public transportation is great but most people feel inconvienced by it as they do not want to walk that extra block. The web site i included will give you an option to an alternative fueled vehicle available in Fall 06

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