Posts Tagged ‘Bus public transportation’

Bus Ridership Outpacing Rail in Public Transit

November 5, 2020
A Greater Cleveland RTA Blue Line train arrives at the Lee Road station.

An analysis published on the website of Trains magazine this week gave a sobering assessment of the future of commuter rail in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although ridership of public transit buses has begun to snap back from pandemic-induced doldrums, rail ridership continues to lag.

Transit officials attributed that to the nature of the ridership.

The bus rider is more likely to be someone of lower income who holds a job at which being physically present at a work site is mandatory.

Rail riders tend to be more affluent suburban residents who work in officers where the work can more easily be transferred to the employee’s home.

Transit officials have taken note of a trend by which office work will at significant levels continue to be done remotely well into 2021.

Even when that work is brought back into the office, transit officials are finding that those who once rode the train are more likely to drive to work because they value the privacy of their own motor vehicle.

 “COVID-19 reduced our ridership to the kind of the folks who are utterly dependent on transit,” said Steve Poftak, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Poftak said his agency’s buses are now handling 41 percent of 2019 passenger levels while rail commuter rail line ridership is 12 percent.

Similar stories are being told in other cities. Chicago Transit Authority bus ridership is now at 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels whereas Metra commuter rail passenger volume is 10 percent.

In Los Angeles the buses are seeing 50 percent of previous ridership while trains are at 10 percent.

New York City bus ridership is half of pre-pandemic levels while Metro North commuter train ridership is 16 percent.

The American Public Transportation Association said consolidated data from across the nation shows commuter rail ridership was down 90 percent during the April to June period while bus ridership was down 65 percent.

Even when companies do bring workers back into downtown offices, not all of them are no longer following the pre-pandemic norm of 9 to 5 shifts.

Instead, companies are having employees report to work at staggered start times and having them work from home on some days and in the office on others.

Some surveys have found widespread desire among office workers to have the option of working from home, including 75 percent in a study conducted by computer giant IBM.

That prompted Metra CEO to tell his board of directors that the rail agency must transform itself because if these trends continue to hold up Metra ridership will be affected in the long term.

Another transit executive, Catherine Rinaldi, president of New York’s Metro-North Railroad, said passengers who had been riding daily before the pandemic aren’t necessarily riding every day now.

“We’ve never experienced anything like this as an industry,” she said.

Some public transit officials say their future may lie in serving the needs of those who can’t work from home, who are employed at low-wage jobs, and may not own a car.

They are the workers who need public transit and where they need to travel may be where transit agencies will put their resources, including ramping up service on high-demand bus routes.

This may mean that some rail lines will lose priority and see reduced service. There will be fewer dollars available for expansion of rail service or capital improvements.

Public Transit Rebounding But Slowly

October 19, 2020

Statistics being kept by Railway Age magazine show that public transit ridership in North America has begun a slow increase after suffering massive declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The magazine noted that some public transit systems saw ridership fall to as low as 5 percent of what it had been and revenue from fares was a mere trickle.

But now it has returned in many of those places to 20 to 25 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority told the magazine that its ridership during the pandemic was down by half.

A task team sponsored by the magazine recently reported that the rise in ridership has been slow and it is uncertain how far it will go toward reaching previous ridership levels.

Hindering the return of ridership has been not just that many workplaces shifted their employees to working at home but also the loss of ridership associated with entertainment and sports venues being closed due to the pandemic.

The lack of tourism has driven down ridership in such cities as New York and New Orleans.

Some transit systems are being kept afloat by emergency financial relief from the

Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which authorized $24.9 billion for public transit.

Some systems have said that funding will keep them going into 2021, but transit agencies are still facing enormous deficits caused by lack of ridership and their corresponding fares.

At the same time, agencies face higher costs in cleaning their train cars and buses to maintain a safe environment.

The Railway Age study found that in some cities bus ridership is returning faster than rail ridership.

It attributed this to the that many low wage workers who hold jobs in “essential” workplaces depend on public transit to get to work.

Many of them ride a bus rather than a train or streetcar. Few higher-income commuters are riding trains because they are working remotely on at least some workdays.

The task force doesn’t expect discretionary rail travel to begin picking up until the middle of next year at the earliest.

Cincinnati Votes OK Tax Hike to Benefit Transit

May 16, 2020

Voters in Cincinnati recently approved a tax increase that will benefit Cincinnati Metro, the first such tax increase for public transit in the Queen City since 1972.

Hamilton county voters approved a 0.8 percent sale tax increase 67,698 to 66,718.

Voters had turned down levies to raise sales taxes to improve city bus service in 1971, 1979, 1980 and 2002.

About $100 million of the tax hike will be devoted to the bus system and $30 million a year applied to road and bridge projects.

Cincinnati Metro has said it will create new bus routes, provide longer and more frequent service on existing routes, add more crosstown service, and increase weekend service.

In the long term Metro wants to create Bus Rapid Transit routes in which at least a portion of a road is decided to use by buses.

The levy passage will result in Cincinnati’s 0.3 percent earnings tax that currently supports the bus system being removed so the increased sales tax could end up being a tax cut for some.

Metro board chair Kreg Keesee said the agency, which is part of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, won’t start collecting increased revenue until January.

Keesee said it will take a couple of years to implement all of the proposed changes.

Public transportation ridership in Cincinnati has fallen 75 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic with much of that loss attributed to the closing of schools.

Metro Driver Tests Positive For COVID-19

April 24, 2020

An Akron Metro RTA bus driver has tested positive for the COVID-19 and has been placed in quarantine along with 13 Metro employees.

The bus driver last worked on Wednesday and was diagnosed on Thursday.

In the two weeks before testing positive, the operator drove the following routes, Monday through Friday:

Route 1: Inbound to transit center, 10:30 a.m., outbound 1 p.m., inbound 2 p.m., outbound, 4:25 p.m., inbound 5:32 p.m.

Route 2: Outbound from transit center 11:20 a.m., inbound 12:21 p.m., outbound 2:50 p.m. and inbound 3:49 p.m.

Any passengers who rode the routes the bus driver was on should monitor themselves for possible symptoms, contact their doctor if any symptoms develop, and self-quarantine for two weeks to avoid possible exposure to others.

Metro’s Director of Public Relations and Marketing Molly Becker said five Metro employees have been asked to contact their medical provider for further guidance.

The agency said the buses the driver operated have been sanitized.

The transit agency said it has seen a substantial decline in ridership during the pandemic and has asked the public to only ride if they are traveling for essential purposes.

Executive Director Dawn Distler has said ridership have dropped by nearly 60 percent compared with February’s patronage.

Since March 17, Metro has not been collecting fares from passengers, a practice that will continue for an indefinite period of time.

To promote social distancing aboard buses, Metro has assigned “chaser” buses to some routes during peak travel times.

Only about 15 passengers are allowed onboard at any given time and the chaser buses pick up riders who were left behind due to a full bus.

A recent article in the Akron Beacon Journal said most of those riding Metro are either headed home or going to a job at a business or service that has been deemed as essential.

Metro driver Wayne Cole told the newspaper that during the pandemic there’s been less talking with him and among passengers, and a noticeable amount of anxiety.

“You can feel the tension,” he said. “You can feel the fear. I think its paralyzed people a bit.”

Cole, a 20-year Metro driver, said the last time he saw similar behavior was following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Becker said this is the first time since she joined Metro that people have been told not to ride unless they must.

As an illustration of falling ridership, Route 2 on an average weekday in February would handle 1,842 riders. Last week, it was 959 riders, down 48 percent.

The route operates from the downtown Akron transit center southward to Interstate Parkway and Fortuna Drive.

During the pandemic the transit center has been closed to the public, and schedules and service have been reduced.

The agency’s 230 buses are getting more frequent cleaning, including a deep, three- to four-hour cleaning each day.

Previously, such cleanings were conducted on each bus on a monthly basis.

Metro has spent thus far this year $21,000 on cleaning supplies. Normally at this time it would have spent $2,000 to $5,000.

Columbus Public Transit Ridership Rose in 2019

February 22, 2020

Ridership of public transportation provided by the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus posted a 1.2 percent increase to more than 19 million last year.

It was the highest ridership numbers recorded by COTA since 1988.

Ridership began growing after COTA revamped its bus network in 2017. A year later the agency launched the CMAX Line and the C-Pass program that provides free bus passes to some downtown workers.

COTA also launched a pay by phone option last fall.

In a news release, COTA said it was one of just six transit agencies serving the top 30 markets to see ridership growth in 2018.

The agency’s board of trustees recently approved increasing the frequency of service on several popular routes.

The board also approved a plan to built 150 additional bus stop shelters over the next few years.

Public Transit Ridership Fell 2.9% in 2017

April 23, 2018

Public transportation ridership fell in the United States last year by 2.9 percent to 10.1 billion trips compared with 2016 figures the American Public Transportation Association said.

Heavy rail ridership fell 2 percent to 3.8 billion trips while light- and commuter-rail ridership held steady.

There were 497 million commuter rail trips last year and 548 million light rail trips, marking 0.19 percent and 0.83 percent decreases, respectively.

Ridership on light-rail lines increased at 11 of the 29 transit systems. Bus ridership nationally fell 4.3 percent to nearly 5 billion trips.

APTA said there are four broad factors that adversely affected public transit ridership, including declines in time competitiveness, declines in cost competitiveness, a drop in rider loyalty and other external factors beyond transit agencies’ control.

“While we are in a time of great change, in part due to technological innovations, public transit remains a critical part of any community’s transportation network,” said APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas. “Public transportation organizations are revamping their services and experimenting with pilot projects to be more time and cost competitive, and more customer focused to meet the needs of today’s riders and the growing population.”

The Double Edge Sword of Rising Gas Prices

August 25, 2017

Lower gasoline prices present a dilemma for public transportation agencies.

On the upside, that means lower operating expenses for their buses. On the downside, it means more people are likely to drive than take public transportation.

It is not just local public transit that is suffering. Amtrak and intercity bus services have seen their ridership tumble due to lower gas prices.

A DePaul University study released this week found that eight of the 50 most heavily-traveled routes between cities 120 to 400 miles apart in America have lost express bus or Amtrak service since 2014.

Nine metropolitan areas in the United States with populations above 700,000 have no Amtrak passenger rail service or express bus service at all.

The decline of ridership on Amtrak and bus services such as Megabus and BoltBus has declined since 2015 in rough tandem with a decline in U.S. gasoline prices, the DePaul study found.

It concluded that so long as gasoline remains cheap, public transportation is bound to suffer.

When gas prices rose past $4 per gallon a few years ago, many transportation companies added a fuel surcharge to their normal pricing to cover their increased costs.

Ridership of public transportation and public intercity transportation typically rises when gas prices increase.

But gasoline prices this week across the United States averaged $2.34 per gallon, the American Automobile Association reported.

The DePaul study said the low cost of gasoline made driving cars an inexpensive transportation option, which led to the loss of intercity bus service in particular.

Joseph Schwieterman, co-author of the study and director of the Chaddick Institute at DePaul said there is wide agreement that gasoline taxes eventually will have to go up to help fund aging road infrastructure.

Although more expensive gasoline could lead more people to consider taking the bus, he said it could be a “double whammy” for bus operators because ridership gains could be offset by higher fuel costs to operate their fleets.

The DePaul study found that travelers tend to favor airplanes for trips of more than 400 miles. They favor their own automobile for trips of less than 100 miles.

Bus Public Transit Ridership Declining

August 22, 2017

Ridership of public transportation bus systems in the United State is on a steady decline across the country.

U.S. Department of Transportation figures shows that during the second quarter of 2017 city bus ridership fell 13 percent when compared with the same period in 2007.

The data show that 3.8 million people took the bus, which was the most popular form of public transportation. Many riders are low-income workers.

Declining ridership has meant that many transit agencies have increased fares and reduced service. In many cities, transit agencies are operating fewer bus routes.

Among the factors depressing bus ridership are the rise of Uber and Lyft, low gasoline prices, and younger adults moving to city centers within walking or biking distance of work.

Ridership of the nation’s subway systems has increased by 12 percent over the past decade. Intercity bus companies showed a 22 percent increase in trips between 2010 and 2015, according to the DOT data.