Category Archives: Ridership Numbers and Records

Why Transit Ridership is Down

Inside 2321. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012. March, 2014.
Inside HART 2321. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012. March, 2014.

You’ve probably noticed in recent months that overall transit ridership has declined. In some regions, transit ridership has declined to the point where transit agencies are seriously having to examine cutting service and raising fares just to stay afloat. Here in Tampa Bay, ridership on both Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) have seen ridership declines over the course of 2016. While the overall downward trend may be alarming to some transit riders, it is important to know what factors are going into any widespread transit ridership decline.

Improving Economic Outlook

Back in 2008 and 2009, transit ridership was surging at a time when transit agency budgets were shrinking. This was largely because gas prices were at all-time highs, unemployment was up, and the overall state of the economy was very gloomy. Fast forward to the present time – August 2016, and gas prices still hover near their lowest levels since 2007/2008, unemployment is down, job markets are changing, and the overall state of the economy – while not entirely positive – has very much rebounded from the lows of 2008/2009. This upcoming election is going to change the playing field yet again for transportation – so it is very important that everyone thoroughly research the candidates and issues at hand.

Expanded Transportation Options

The number of transportation options have expanded in recent years – especially in larger metro regions.  These options range beyond driving alone, and using bus and/or rail lines – and include biking/walking, carpool/vanpool, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, carsharing services like ZipCar, and even telecommuting and revised work weeks. All of these allow for people – especially Millennials – to broaden how they get around. On one note – the recent tension between local and state governments and the ridesharing companies may cause transit ridership to tick upwards again. This is especially the case in Hillsborough County, where the fate of Uber and Lyft hang in the balance of the notorious Public Transportation Commission (or PTC). The PTC oversees taxicab and limo companies – which argue that ridesharing companies are operating illegally because they (the rideshare companies) are not held to the same standards as they (the taxi and limo companies) are. Despite efforts to try and come to a consensus, the PTC has not budged on background checks and vehicle inspections. Therefore, the PTC is going evaluate whether to impose new rules on the rideshare companies anyways – something that could signal an immediate exit for both Uber and Lyft from Hillsborough – which in-turn could spark a jump in bus ridership for HART.

Big Auto shelling out car-buying incentives

With gas prices being lower and the overall economy in a better state than it was in 2008, the auto manufacturers are spending tons of money trying to get Milliennials back into cars – and in the case of the US automakers – gas-guzzling SUVs. You’ve probably been seeing various ads featuring Millennials and how “they love their cars”, so it should be no surprise here that this effort is also contributing to the overall decline in transit ridership – but specifically amongst choice commuters like many Millennials.

Transit agencies have limited offerings

Another reason for the decline in transit ridership is the fact that many transit agencies have had to scale back their offerings. Some bus and rail lines do not provide convenient and frequent service, and some lines have had to be cut back or eliminated due to budget cuts. This in-turn forces transit riders out of the system and into the realm of other options available – especially again…choice commuters.

Public distrust towards the transit agencies

If you’ve heard about the DC Metro saga, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Unfortunate events like the poor maintenance within the DC Metro system have also discouraged transit riders from using their respective systems. Poor transit agency management and decisions can also drive customers away from bus and rail lines and back into cars. It is already bad enough when transit agencies have to juggle with limited funding, but it is far worse and damaging when agencies have to deal with worsening ridership figures due to a large chunk of riders leaving the system – because they hate the management and decisions they’ve made.

In Conclusion

So to conclude; is it doomsday for the transit agencies? I wouldn’t say so. But, depending on how the upcoming elections pan out – we could either see transit funding and levels remain about where they are here in the US, or we could see a dramatic decline in transit funding and services. Once again, it is important for everyone to thoroughly research the candidates and issues at hand. Above all though – register to vote before it’s too late! I don’t care what or who you are voting for. Sitting out a crucial election like this one is the absolute worst decision that you can make.

With that being said, in the coming days – I will be launching a Transit Rider Interview initiative to try and gauge how transit riders feel about their current transit system(s). I will be following up with another blog post that goes further into what the initiative is about.


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Legalese | Disclosures

Transit Ridership Summary updated with December, 2014 figures

The Transit Ridership Summary table has been updated with December, 2014 figures! If you’re new to my site, this table can be accessed and downloaded through Dropbox. Don’t have a Dropbox account? Not a problem! Anyone can access and download this file. Even then, Dropbox provides a free “basic” service for you to upload and share files to.

For those of you who may have missed my original post, I am now listing ridership figures on an Excel spreadsheet, as opposed to creating a detailed blog post every month with figures. Please note that since I am publishing figures for three transit agencies, HART, PSTA, and HRT, that there may be a delay in posting, since each agency releases ridership figures at different times.

As always, these ridership figures are obtained from publicly accessible sources, such as board meeting packets, and cannot be considered as copyrighted or proprietary.

Access the May – November Transit Ridership Summary

Transit Ridership Summary updated with November, 2014 figures

Note: November ridership figures for Hampton Roads Transit are currently unavailable.

The Transit Ridership Summary table has been updated with November, 2014 figures! If you’re new to my site, this table can be accessed and downloaded through Dropbox. Don’t have a Dropbox account? Not a problem! Anyone can access and download this file. Even then, Dropbox provides a free “basic” service for you to upload and share files to.

For those of you who may have missed my original post, I am now listing ridership figures on an Excel spreadsheet, as opposed to creating a detailed blog post every month with figures. Please note that since I am publishing figures for three transit agencies, HART, PSTA, and HRT, that there may be a delay in posting, since each agency releases ridership figures at different times.

I’ve learned that HART is usually ahead of PSTA and HRT in compiling and posting their ridership stats from the previous month. Usually, their previous month’s ridership is ready by the end of the current month, and published to the next month’s board meeting agenda. So in this instance, November’s numbers were compiled during early December, ready for posting in late December, and recorded in the January, 2015 meeting agenda. December’s numbers in detail will be recorded in February, 2015’s meeting agenda.

 PSTA is sorta in the middle, but partly because their board meetings are held towards the middle or end of the month. HRT is pretty much the same way, with their board meetings typically held towards the end of the month. With HRT however, they can easily, and often do, fall behind in publishing ridership reports. Thus, HRT’s ridership figures aren’t often available for about two months after the fact. As of this post’s publishing, HRT is still showing October figures on their website. Hopefully by the end of January, they will be posting November’s stats.

As always, these ridership figures are obtained from publicly accessible sources, such as board meeting packets, and cannot be considered as copyrighted or proprietary.

Access the May – November Transit Ridership Summary

Ridership remains strong for HART and PSTA, but are down from October

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, transit ridership often fluctuates. For some reason, November seemed to be a down month for both HART and PSTA. HART’s November ridership was down 17.5% from the previous month (October), and PSTA’s November ridership was down 14.4% from October. In comparison to how these numbers fared against November, 2013; HART was up by 0.4% (against 1,220,890 from November, 2013) and PSTA was up by 0.6% (against 1,148,421 from November, 2013).

December shows strong ridership for HART

HART has already blogged about December’s numbers, and so far…things are showing pretty strong. 1,272,735 customers boarded the HART system, which is 5.7% (or 69,006 more customers) more than December, 2013. MetroRapid alone saw 49,584 customers, which is up 8.3% from November, 2013. The modified Route 46 through Brandon continues to see gains in ridership as well, up 140.5% over November, 2013, when the route still served Davis Island and did not have midday service that was restored in March, 2014. And all this while gas prices are at their lowest levels in six years! And they continue to fall!

“Just as our current passengers are using our service more, we continue to attract new passengers with service and amenities that are increasingly relevant and attractive. Public transit in Hillsborough County continues to improve, and I encourage people who haven’t been on a bus lately to give it a try” – HART CEO Katharine Eagan

So look out for more awesome ridership numbers as we head into February!

Transit Ridership Summary updated with October, 2014 figures

The Transit Ridership Summary table has been updated with October, 2014 figures! If you’re new to my site, this table can be accessed and downloaded through Dropbox. Don’t have a Dropbox account? Not a problem! Anyone can access and download this file. Even then, Dropbox provides a free “basic” service for you to upload and share files to.

For those of you who may have missed my original post, I am now listing ridership figures on an Excel spreadsheet, as opposed to creating a detailed blog post every month with figures. Please note that since I am publishing figures for three transit agencies, HART, PSTA, and HRT, that there may be a delay in posting, since each agency releases ridership figures at different times.

As always, these ridership figures are obtained from publicly accessible sources, such as board meeting packets, and cannot be considered as copyrighted or proprietary.

Access the May – October Transit Ridership Summary

HART and PSTA shatter ridership records for October! HRT does pretty good as well!

In what has to be the best October yet, HART has reported that 1,438,947 rides were taken on board its bus system, which is the highest singular month of bus ridership in the agency’s 35-year history! October, 2014’s bus ridership (which includes local and express bus routes, as well as MetroRapid and Flex services) reflects an almost 6% increase over October, 2013, which equates to 79,183 more riders for the month!

In addition to the overall bus ridership record, MetroRapid set its own all-time high at 57,513 rides for October, 2014! Streetcar ridership was modest compared to last October, with 23,893 riders using the line, an 8.2% increase over October, 2013.

HART’s Universal Pass Agreement with the University of South Florida Tampa Campus has contributed to the increased ridership for October, with an increase of 9.5%, or 4,737 trips, over October, 2013! More stats can be found on HART’s Blogger Blog, and the full stats can be found in HART’s board meeting packet for December.

HART wasn’t alone in the good news of October, PSTA also shattered its all-time monthly record with 1,349,649 customers using its bus and paratransit services! That’s a 5.5% increase over October, 2013, and a 4.5% increase over October, 2012, when the agency set its previous all-time record!

HRT in Hampton/Norfolk, VA did better this October, with 1,561,165 customers using the system, compared to October, 2013. Although a 2.1% increase over October, 2013, the 2014 figures fell short of its records from October, 2012 by 3.7%, when 1,621,289 customers used the system. Nonetheless, HRT’s ridership continues to be very strong!

So in comparison, here’s all three agencies side by side.

HRT (Hampton/Norfolk): 1,561,165

HART (Tampa): 1,438,947

PSTA (St. Pete/Clearwater): 1,349,649

Transit Ridership Summary updated with September, 2014 figures

The Transit Ridership Summary table has been updated with September, 2014 figures! In addition, I’ve also included preliminary figures for HART’s bus and streetcar ridership for the month of October. More on how well HART did for October in just a few moments.

The Transit Ridership Summary table can be accessed and downloaded through Dropbox. Don’t have a Dropbox account? Not a problem! Anyone can access and download this file. Even then, Dropbox provides a free “basic” service for you to upload and share files to.

For those of you who may have missed my last post, I am now listing ridership figures on an Excel spreadsheet, as opposed to creating a detailed blog post every month with figures. Please note that since I am publishing figures for three transit agencies, HART, PSTA, and HRT, that there may be a delay in posting, since each agency releases ridership figures at different times.

As always, these ridership figures are obtained from publicly accessible sources, such as board meeting packets, and cannot be considered as copyrighted or proprietary.

Access the May – September Transit Ridership Summary

HART shatters ridership records for October!

In what has to be the best October yet, HART has reported that 1,438,947 rides were taken on board its bus system, which is the highest singular month of bus ridership in the agency’s 35-year history! October, 2014’s bus ridership (which includes local and express bus routes, as well as MetroRapid and Flex services) reflects an almost 6% increase over October, 2013, which equates to 79,183 more riders for the month!

In addition to the overall bus ridership record, MetroRapid set its own all-time high at 57,513 rides for October, 2014! Streetcar ridership was modest compared to last October, with 23,893 riders using the line, an 8.2% increase over October, 2013.

Finally, HART’s Universal Pass Agreement with the University of South Florida Tampa Campus has contributed to the increased ridership for October, with an increase of 9.5%, or 4,737 trips, over October, 2013! More stats can be found on HART’s Blogger Blog, with the full ridership report to be released sometime towards the end of November.

Transit Ridership Summary for May – August, 2014

After a few months hiatus, I’ve decided to compile transit ridership figures through a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet, which I can easily update each month, rather putting up detailed blog posts each month.

This file can be accessed and downloaded through Dropbox. Don’t have a Dropbox account? Not a problem! Anyone can access and download this file. Even then, Dropbox provides a free “basic” service for you to upload and share files to.

From this point onward, I will publish a post as to when the ridership summary table has been updated. Please note that since I am publishing figures for three transit agencies, HART, PSTA, and HRT, that there may be a delay in posting, since each agency releases ridership figures at different times.

As always, these ridership figures are obtained from publicly accessible sources, such as board meeting packets, and cannot be considered as copyrighted or proprietary.

Access the May – August Transit Ridership Summary

February, 2014 Ridership Report

RidershipReportTitle-2014-02

The numbers are out once again! And the month of February brought forth strong transit ridership along Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), and Hampton Roads Transit (HRT). Let’s take a quick glance at the numbers! For the report, I’ve been able to get clarification as to what modes of bus transport are included in the calculations. Please note that Rail and Ferry services are not included in these numbers.

RidershipReportScreen-2014-02

For HART, February, 2014’s bus ridership numbers could not be anymore stronger! Bus ridership on the HART system grew by 3.5% over February, 2012, with MetroRapid taking in 50,587 riders! February 4th saw the highest single-day ridership for the month, with 59,000 boardings, and 15 out of 20 weekdays saw ridership surpass the 50,000 mark!

About the only sore spot for HART is the In-Town Trolley, which has seen ridership continue to diminish. There is currently a study underway to re-evaluate downtown Tampa transit services, including possible improvements to the TECOline Streetcar Line (which has also immensely suffered from low ridership and service cuts), a revamp of the downtown bus circulator system, and the possibility of re-opening Marion St to general traffic. I’ll have more on this in an upcoming post.

PSTA suffered a relatively small decline of less than 1% in February, 2014 vs February, 2013. While this could be for a variety of reasons, bus ridership remains strong along the PSTA system, with 1,093,069 riders using the agency’s fixed-route bus and trolleybus routes, and flex-route connector services. Ridership on the St. Pete Downtown Looper Trolleybus and the Clearwater Jolley Trolley, which are partially funded by PSTA, saw passenger numbers reach 5,048 and 41,537 respectively. Let’s hope that the Safety Harbor Jolley Trolley trial phase is a huge success!

HRT suffered a bus ridership decline of 6.9%, likely due to the episodes of inclement weather that has struck Hampton Roads during the month of February (winter just does not want to let go of the north it seems). Average bus ridership during all days of the week took a hit, with average weekday ridership decreasing by 7.2%, Saturday by 2.4%, and Sunday by about 1.1%. Comparing February, 2014 ridership against the same month in 2013 and 2012, bus ridership declined by 6.5%.

One huge sore spot for HRT is the GoPass 365 program. This program allows participating employers and education institutions to hand out a specific number of passes to employees and students. These passes allow participants to use the HRT bus, light rail, and ferry systems without having to pay the normal fares. The program began in mid 2011 with ridership from participating organizations growing since then. Originally, the program was structured in a way that one only had to show their employer or institutional ID card to board the bus, train, or ferry.

Unfortunately, overall system ridership has not seen a dramatic increase as HRT had hoped for, which in-turn has hurt farebox revenues and budget/revenue projections. This has forced HRT to make changes in the way that the GoPass 365 program operates, as well as resulted in several organizations pulling out of the program for next fiscal year (which will be FY 2014/2015). One of the participating institutions that saw the largest overall GoPass 365 ridership during FY 2013/2014 was Tidewater Community College. They are among the several organizations that have decided to not renew their contract with HRT due to the changes that are planned for FY 2014/2015. I suspect that if further changes are not made to stifle these negative trends, the GoPass 365 program will end up being eliminated altogether.

SOURCES

January Bus Ridership Report

Despite colder than usual weather that hit the Tampa Bay area during the month of January, HART and PSTA both shattered previous ridership records for the month! Let’s take a glance at the total bus ridership for both systems. Please note that HRT’s January numbers were not available at the time this post was published.

January Ridership 1

For the PSTA bus system in particular, January brought in the second-highest ridership for January ever! Although they were hoping to set another all-time record, the weather just didn’t let things play out that way. Nonetheless, PSTA is continuing to see modest gains in monthly and daily ridership, and many busy routes have packed buses. So much so, that it’s standing room only on some buses.

PSTA is hoping that the Greenlight Pinellas initiative, now entering its crucial second phase called YES for Greenlight, will help improve existing bus services, as well as build a framework for an eventual passenger rail system in Pinellas County. I’ll have a blog post up soon in regards to what challenges lie ahead for Greenlight Pinellas.

Going to the HART bus system, services like MetroRapid and HART’s continuing partnership with the University of South Florida (called the U-Pass program) are leading the way for record bus ridership for 2014! MetroRapid’s January, 2014 ridership was 49,184, and we could soon see those numbers surpass the 50,000 mark! While I can’t say that February will be that milestone month, I do think that that milestone will be reached by April, 2014.

100_4047

The USF U-Pass program allows active USF students (with a valid USF ID card) to use HART local, limited express, and HART FLEX routes, as well as MetroRapid, at no additional charge (see my blog post about the USF U-Pass Program and the USF Bull Runner Shuttle for details on how the program works). The U-Pass Program represented roughly 4% of HART’s January gains, with FY 2013/2014 usage increasing by 12% over FY 2012/2013! I suspect that these increases will continue through 2014, especially with the recent increase in bus service for the USF Tampa Campus area.

Back in November, 2013, HART increased evening bus services for both Routes 5 and 6, which allows students to commute home from evening classes, as well as provide a continual transit link to the USF Tampa Campus for those study breaks at the campus library, which is open 24 hours from 12 Noon Sunday through 6pm Friday during the Fall and Spring semesters! Route 5 in particular serves the heart of the USF Tampa Campus, serving the Engineering and Medical campuses. Route 6 traverses USF Holly Drive’s residence halls and allows for a quick walk to the USF Marshall Center (Student Union). Additionally, Route 18 travels through the USF Tampa Medical Campus, and Route 57 and the MetroRapid North-South Line allow for students to enter the Tampa Campus from the north via Fletcher Ave.

So what will the month of February hold for public transit? We shall see…

Sources: HART, PSTA.

HARTride 2012

No new funding = Bare-Bones service

As you may have heard; HART and PSTA posted news last week of record ridership during the month of April, which continues to be an amazing trend despite the current state of the economy throughout the Bay Area.

However, I really have to make things clear about the reality of the current transit funding situation, because some people don’t seem to realize that you can’t have expanded transit service without money to fund those services. When I was reading comments on HART and PSTA’s Facebook pages, some people were asking why can’t we get more routes or buses? Again, if there is no funding available, then there is simply no way to get new buses or routes…it’s as simple as that.

Continue reading No new funding = Bare-Bones service

Merry Christmas & the Year-End Transit Roundup!

Hi everyone!

I know that I’ve been lagging behind on posting as of late. I’ve been trying to get into a regular schedule, but November and December have been much busier than I thought. Holiday event planning is definitely no easy task, and I’ve been having to help my family out with several different events that took place during the past couple months. Add to that; my computer problems during August and September, and my hiatus from earlier in the year. I know that in the end, I probably let down some of my viewers, and I sincerely apologize for that. I hope that with the new year, I can finally devote some time to make some major updates.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I would like to wish you, and your family a very Merry Christmas! I certainly hope that you are able to enjoy this wonderful day, no matter where you are located!

With all this said, I would like to take some time to reflect back on some of the major transit-related developments that occurred in 2012. I have grouped everything by month, and color coded each event as they pertain to the particular focus region that I cover in my blog.

BLUE: Tampa Bay (HART, PSTA, MCAT, SCAT, PCPT, Hernando THEbus, Citrus County Transportation)

GREEN: Orlando Area (LYNX, SunRail)

RED: Hampton Roads, VA (HRT)

TEAL: New York City, NY (NYCMTA)

PURPLE: Paris, France (RATP, STIF, SNCF)

Continue reading Merry Christmas & the Year-End Transit Roundup!