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Richard Rider

Every kind of mass transit ridership is declining annually — and at a dramatic rate

Mass transit — especially trains — are LOVED by politicians.  There are several special interest groups that support passenger trains (and therefore they support allied politicians) — while there’s no organized opposition.  Mass transit makes for GREAT photo ops for the politicos — and the train (or even bus) is always heavily used the day a new line is opened.

The only niggling problem is that the more we spend on mass transit, the fewer people use the service!  This decline has been occurring for many years, but this pronounced drop does nothing to deter politicians.  They gleefully spending billions of dollars annually on 19th century technology that commuters don’t want to use.  The same is true for the badly run bus systems, but at least those operations cost only a tiny fraction of the cute commuter trains — both to build and to operate.

The full article is below, but here’s a salient excerpt:

Nationwide transit ridership in March 2018 was 5.9 percent below March 2017, according to the latest data published by the Federal Transit Administration. Following three years of steady declines, these numbers present a dire picture of the nation’s transit industry.

Ridership declined in all of the nation’s 38 largest urban areas (and the 39th, Providence, gained only 0.1 percent new riders). Transit systems in Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Cleveland, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Tampa-St. Petersburg all suffered double-digit declines, with Austin losing 19.5 percent and Charlotte 15.4 percent despite being two of the fastest growing urban areas in the nation.

Data from 2017 showed that ridership in Seattle and Houston grew from 2016, providing hope to transit advocates that other regions could reverse ridership declines if they emulated the examples of those two cities. But transit systems in both Seattle and Houston lost riders in March 2017.

A recent article in Bloomberg claimed that the decline in ridership “is confined to buses,” implying that cities can reverse the decline by building expensive rail transit systems. But that wasn’t even true when the article was written (it admitted that heavy-rail ridership was declining), and the March data show all major forms of transit are declining: buses, commuter rail, light rail, and heavy rail.

Cities that have spent billions of dollars on rail transit have not been immune from the decline. Charlotte won new rail riders by opening a new light-rail line in March, but it lost 2.5 bus riders for every rail rider gained. Denver also lost about 2.5 bus riders for every new rail rider. Dallas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake, and several other regions lost both rail and bus riders.

Denver-area voters agreed in 2004 to spend billions building new rail transit lines, and the region has opened several lines since then. Yet by 2016 transit carried only about 10,000 more of the urban area’s commuters to work than it did in 2000, while nearly 280,000 more commuters drove to work.

Transit apologists offer many excuses for ridership declines, such as low gas prices and crumbling infrastructure. But gas prices were 10 percent higher in March 2018 than March 2017 and ridership is declining even in areas with brand-new transit infrastructure.
. . .

The full article is well worth reading and sharing.  It’s time to stop this madness.  But we won’t.