This past Thursday, I saw a tweet from Valley Metro RPTA that said: “Thx to psgrs, ridership up 5% in 2011-12 at 71 million boardings for bus & light rail.”
71 freakin’ million. That’s a lot of boardings. No, it isn’t individual riders, it is boardings. Yes, I know some people question how they come up with boarding numbers, but they have been tracking the ridership for a long time and the fact is… The numbers are UP. I’m no math wizard but 5% of 71 million is probably a pretty big number.
That increase in overall transit ridership got me thinking of the light rail numbers. Yep, they continue to climb, as well. METRO shares the light rail ridership numbers on a monthly basis. Some of you probably know that we watch the numbers around here for fun.
Let’s take a look at the first 6 months of 2012 light rail ridership in the Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa areas.
January 2012 light rail ridership: 9.1 % increase over 2011
February 2012 light rail ridership: 5.4 % increase over 2011
March 2012 light rail ridership: .6 % increase over 2011
April 2012 light rail ridership: 4.8 % increase over 2011
May 2012 light rail ridership: 9.8 % increase over 2011
June 2012 light rail ridership: 7.6 % increase over 2011
As you can see, most months have posted pretty significant increases in light rail ridership. The 5 % increase of bus and light rail ridership shows a bunch of boardings, but the light rail factor is pretty darn interesting, to me. For the first six months of 2012, there have been over 6.9 million boardings. Heck, that seems like a pretty significant number, to me.
A New Introduction:
Does light rail introduce riders to other modes of transit? I’ve asked this question for years now. Think about it… We know for sure that a significant percentage of light rail riders around here are recreational riders and college students. Do they use the light rail and say… “That wasn’t too bad, maybe I should try the bus sometime, too” or do they leave the bus to “other” people. I happen to think that a good experience with light rail is a great intro to other forms of transit.
We often hear people at METRO talking about a “total transit network” where “coordination of local and express bus, light rail, bus rapid transit, streetcar, commuter rail and an overlay of a robust paratransit system provides accessibility to all.”
As our rail and streetcar systems expand, it will be interesting to watch how transit numbers react in the Valley.
We all remember the people that said the light rail would be a flop. After a few years, we still continue to see reports of significantly higher ridership than original projections. Businesses appear to be doing well along the line, there is an ever increasing demand for housing along the line, and new projects are being built.
Maybe this multi modal transit thing will catch on….