A good year for public transit

Sky high gas prices in 2008 meant a big boost for public transit ridership. A huge one, in fact. Today, the American Public Transportation Association released year-end ridership data for 2008, and reported the highest ridership level in 52 years. Exciting!

Ridership increases were to be expected during the early part of the year, when gas was approaching $5/gallon in some regions. What’s particularly exciting about these numbers is that transit ridership increased over 2007 levels even in the fourth quarter, after gas prices had dropped and job losses mounted.

Locally, the news was good as well, with AC Transit boasting a 5.68% increase in trips over last year. The chart below lists annual unlinked passenger trips on AC Transit buses for the past six years.

8 thoughts on “A good year for public transit

  1. bikerider

    “The system’s been handily beating its own ridership projections.”

    That’s setting the bar rather low, don’t you think?

    (BTW, the real measure of cost/benefit of any new rail start is the _net_ new ridership for the _entire_ transit network. Oddly enough, I have not seen this number reported for the Phoenix project.)

  2. Brian

    @ Bikerider

    Yeah, sure Light Rail is such a scam, never-mind all those people on the trams. Move along people, nothing to see there!

    I mean if Light Rail was so good GM wouldn’t of bought up our Key System and destroyed it right??

    Just because AC Transit (formed the year after the last rails were ripped up, and GM lost interest) has been failing for 50 years, buses are still the BEST. We all just need to sh– up and get on the bus. Never mind the sh-t ride quality, and noise, and pollution.

  3. Robby

    70 million bucks was just spent on BARTs oakland airport connector in the stimulus package. 25 million was spent on AC Transit. Perhaps more should have been spent on the needy bus systems which gets used more than BART does. BART always had a better lobby for it than AC Transit though, and it has richer riders. i think it’s politics as usual. The poor folks use busses, and they are facing cutbacks on buslines and increases in fares.

    I don’t know about the logic of that… Although it probably is the quickest way to increase stimulus spending to jolt the economy. and throwing it at AC Transit’s deficit of 45 million dollars might not be the best way to stimulate the economy (net positive spending would be less I assume than if it was spent on a new project ie the BART connector), but I think it would be the right thing to do.

  4. David

    Why do poor folks use busses?

    1) can’t afford a car
    2) can’t afford gas
    3) time is worth less–i.e. when you’re making $10/hour, it’s ok to spend a half hour going 6 miles. When you’re making $50/hour, you drive.

    No amount of social engineering will change that.

  5. Chris Kidd

    With more efficiently designed bus routes, newer busses that cut down on enter/exit time, priority stop lights, and dedicated bus lanes, travel by bus in a downtown setting is comparable -if not faster- than travel by car, especially when considering the time taken to find parking for your vehicle in a congested area. So what other reason is there for The Riches to drive? Vanity.

  6. Robert

    Sorry Chris, but vanity is not the reason the “riches” (by which you apparently mean the working and middle classes) don’t ride mass transit. It is that mass transit does not adequately serve our needs. That and, of course, the fact that we don’t actually have all those things that would improve transit times downtown.

    Mass transit still does a very good job, and is very popular, at delivering people from a spread out suburban environment to a concentrated work location. Witness the success of BART to SF during rush hour. We live in an era now of distributed housing and distributed work locations in the office parks that have sprung up throughout suburbia. Transit currently fails miserably in accomodating that model. Combine this with the fact that people frequently do not go straight to work from home or from home to work, but rather run errands on the way (dry cleaner, grocery store, drug store, etc) and transit as currently structured fails to meet our needs. Until a new transit paradigm is developed that meets those needs, transit systems will continue to flounder it will mostly folks who cannot afford a car that take transit.

  7. Steve Lowe

    A bad year for public transit, not good! High Speed Rail has been programmed by MTC, presumably with help from all our mighty Bay Area pols, to connect from SF to SJ, and from there on down to LA. East Bay gets zero yet pays for HSR along with all the other propagandized mediaheads who vilify Oakland so they can venerate SF as the Emerald City.

    Is there a better, more expedient plan for HSR? Yep! Let BART be the feeder to the Bay Area’s Grand Central Station at Union City, and we can start upgrading our BART stations – and the rest of the system itself – immediately throughout the entire Bay Area instead of waiting ten years for HSR to pull into San Francisco.

    On the other hand, if you enjoy the abuse and dirty air that comes with being the acknowledged Transportation Hub of the Bay Area (where high tech inprovements must wait in line while SF gets its needs met first), then keep on thinking that it’s been a great year for public transit – while your favorite politician pulls the wool further down on your face.

    – S