APTA: Economic Slump Hitting Transit Ridership…But Not in L.A.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) got the mainstream media’s attention during the holiday season after reporting
that the dismal economy had helped push transit ridership down by 3.8
percent during the first three-quarters of 2009, when compared with the
previous year.

trans5.jpgRidership on L.A.’s heavy rail system grew by nearly 6 percent during the first three-quarters of 2009. (Photo: LA2Day)

But
amid the bleak data from cities such as Cleveland, where rail ridership
fell by more than 14 percent during the first nine months of 2009, and
Miami, where the funding-starved Tri-Rail system saw more than 10 percent fewer riders during that period, the APTA report found some transit success stories.

Los Angeles’ Metro subway, one section of which topped
2020 ridership projections in its first year of operation, saw
ridership grow by nearly 6 percent during the first nine months of 2009.

Baltimore’s
light rail grew by an even greater margin, according to APTA, with
unlinked passenger trips topping 6.7 million during the first
three-quarters of last year. That represents a 13.9 percent increase
over the same period in 2008, when riders took an estimated 5.9 million
unlinked trips.

The SEPTA light rail system in the
Philadelphia area also climbed higher in APTA’s report, tallying more
than 21.2 million unlinked trips during the first three-quarters of
2009 after marking 18 million during the same period in 2008 — an
increase of 17.5 percent.

Among commuter rail networks, New Mexico’s much-anticipated
Rail Runner extension from Albuquerque to Santa Fe helped ridership
more than double during the first nine months of 2009, and Boston’s
system reported a ridership increase of more than 2.3 percent compared
with the same period in 2008.

The situation was much
bleaker for the country’s biggest bus systems, which saw an overall
ridership drop of nearly 5 percent during the first nine months of
2009. San Francisco was the only major city in APTA’s report to mark an
increase in bus travel, with unlinked passenger trips rising by about 1
percent.

  • MarkB

    It’s a tad optimistic to call the Orange Line (“Los Angeles’ Metro subway, one section of which topped 2020 ridership projections in its first year of operation”) a subway, don’t you think?

  • MarkB

    …and the Gold Line isn’t heavy rail.

    Other than those items, great article!

  • Spokker

    The Orange Line numbers are declining, and are actually hidden now and merged into regular bus ridership.

    http://transittalk.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=orangeline&action=display&thread=810

  • Tom Rubin

    The comment, “Los Angeles’ Metro subway, one section of which topped 2020 ridership projections in its first year of operation, saw ridership grow by nearly 6 percent during the first nine months of 2009,” appears to be discussing the heavy rail, the Red/Purple Lines.

    In checking the APTA Transit Ridership Report for this period (http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2009_q3_ridership_APTA.pdf), we find that MTA Heavy Rail ridership did increase by 5.99%, which is certainly consistent with her “nearly 6 percent,” so it appears that, in fact, she IS talking about heavy rail in that sentence.

    While there are two current MTA light rail lines with relatively short subway sections (Blue Line South from Seventh/Flower and Gold Line Eastside), when most people see the terms “Metro” and “subway” used together, they are thinking of is the heavy rail Red/Purple Lines, which opened in phases from 1993 to 2000, so again, I think one has to conclude that she is discussing the “real” LA subway and nothing else.

    The final section to open of what was then just called the Red Line, from Hollywood to North Hollywood, DID exceed its riderhip projections in the year it opened (2000). However, it should be remembered that the overall ridership projections for the entire Red Line were 298,000 daily trips (for the year 2000), and the first year ridership never hit 120,000 daily — and, a few years later, MTA admitted that it had been using an improper counting methodology for the Red Line that appears to have been overreporting by trips by 30-40%.

    I might note that, while MTA heavy rail ridership was up 5.99% for the first nine months of 2009, light rail ridership fell by .25% over the same period — in fact, heavy rail ridership is now greater than light rail ridership for the first time — and bus ridership, which is 80% of all MTA ridership, fell 6.46%, and total ridership was down 4.72%, which was greater than the U.S. total decline of 3.82%.

    Tom Rubin

  • MarkB

    @Tom:

    The sentence reads: “Los Angeles’ Metro subway, one section of which topped 2020 ridership projections in its first year of operation…” where “topped” is a link which leads to this sentence: “Weekday ridership on the new Metro Orange Line, the 14-mile transitway that opened last fall in the San Fernando Valley, averaged 21,828 boardings, a milestone the Environmental Impact Report predicted wouldn’t be reached until 2020. ” Clearly, the Streetsblog author is counting the Orange Line as a subway.

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