KC Metro

In May Metro’s average weekday boardings jumped to 390,218, or 5% up on May 2010.

The data isn’t online, but the Metro press release claims Vanpool boardings are up a staggering 29% on last year and singles out RapidRide A as producing a “one-third” increase over the last 12 months. 2011 system ridership is up by 2.4% over the same period last year.

Metro credits a gas price increase of 31% and employment growth of 2.6% as driving increased demand for transit.

36 Replies to “Metro May 2011 Ridership Up 5% Year-on-Year”

  1. If transit paid for itself we’d have increased service instead of decreased service as a result. Sort of like state colleges. Enrollments going up means that we have fewer resources for each one so it’s not actually a good thing. Quite the opposite of private businesses.

    1. Except that transit is not like state colleges. The marginal cost of accommodating a new rider is next to nothing. The higher the ridership, the better.

      1. The marginal cost of accommodating a new rider is next to nothing, until you hit the one rider that exceeds the system’s capacity. That one rider is expensive (for him you have to operate more buses, maybe even buy more equipment). It doesn’t make any sense to attribute all those additional costs to that one new rider…

        Because the transit system has to have enough capacity to handle peak loads, accommodating more non-peak riders can be pretty cheap. Accommodating more peak-hour riders, on the other hand, can sometimes be quite expensive.

      2. (Of course, the system may operate more efficiently with high ridership than without, because some of the costs are spread around more users. The same is true of colleges, and most businesses. They all share in common the fact that, if they operate at a profit, they’ll be able to invest in handling the higher ridership without taxing people. Profitable transit would cost a lot per-ride… currently we subsidize both private and public transportation quite a lot, and end up with some similar problems.)

    1. Yeah October is generally the highest-ridership month for transit around the country, a lot of it has to do with all schools and colleges being back and session and not many people taking vacations then.

    2. The October hump of ridership year after year on Metro is quite different from what Link light rail experienced in its second year ridership in October: http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/Linkpassengercount.htm .

      Link ridership this past May came in 9% higher than a year earlier, and the ridership on May 27th set a record for revenue service to date, almost 30,000.

      Still, that one-day light rail ridership record through May is below the 31,759 Sound Transit staff last summer (with recession well underway) put into the 2011 approved budget as the daily average across all weekdays of 2011. http://ow.ly/d/cSe .

      A colleague has just pointed out to me that a 2006 ST Board Briefing Book refers to a 2030 East Link ridership of 31,000 to 36,000. The draft EIS in December 2008 upped the estimate to 45,000 boardings/day, and the supplemental draft EIS in late 2010 pushed it up further to 50,000. In both cases this was with East Link completed to downtown Redmond.

      As I said to Larry Phillips on Seattle Channel TV, Sound Transit’s forecasting methodology should undergo an autopsy. Billions in spending are being justified by ridership promises that are inflated beyond what reality delivers.

  2. If Metro’s boardgins are up 5%, their fare revenue should also be up 5%.

    What Metro should do is charge a diesel surcharge on each boarding of 25 cents or more. Sort of like taxis and airlines sometimes have a fuel surcharge when the price of fuel spikes. An extra 25 cents for each boarding on 390,000 boardings/day brings in almost $100,000 more per day. That would be something like $30 million per year in additional revenue for Metro.

    With the recent increase in gasoline prices, plus the city’s parking rate hike, it makes perfect sense to raise bus fares, since it costs more to drive now than last year. Also, when the tolling on the 520 bridge starts (assuming it actually ever does start), people are going to be willing to pay a lot more to ride a bus over the 520 bridge than they are now, since the cost of the tolls is going to be pretty stiff for drivers.

    Due to at least those 3 factors, this is the perfect time for Metro to institute substantial fare increases. Increased fare revenue, coupled with reducing or eliminating inefficient routes could easily solve Metro’s revenue “shortfall.”

      1. Well, Link charges less per boarding on some trips than Metro, because Link has a much higher tax subsidy per boarding than Metro. We all know that Link light rail has operating costs per boarding higher than Metro buses.

        And, the capital cost of Link, at about $160 million per mile for Central Link, and $600 million per mile for U-Link, is vastly higher than Metro’s capital cost. Right?

        As I have written many times, if the billions of dollars in tax revenue that is being wasted on Link were spent on buses, instead, there would be a lot more people in our area taking transit now than there actually are.

      2. Metro’s already comparatively extensive bus-only system has (and had, before the introduction of our first miniscule rail segment) one of the worst farebox recovery rates in the country.

        No rail+bus system in a city of comparative size and with rail extensive enough to provide a true backbone to the system does close to as poorly.

        So your solution is an exponential increase in bus spending, for an incremental increase in service quality that can only possibly yield an incremental increase in new riders?

        What do you think that might do to the farebox ratio?

      3. hmmm. Didn’t the article state that RapidRide A has already experienced a 33% increase in ridership in one year? 33% is “incremental” in your opinion? RapidRide capital is a fraction of Link light rail, and RapidRide operating costs per boarding are far lower than those for Link light rail.

        And just how many additional transit riders are there in our area due to the $2.6 BILLION spent on Central Link? Now, Central Link exactly fits your description of, “an exponential increase in [transit] spending, for an incremental increase in service quality that can only possibly yield an incremental increase in new riders”

        Doesn’t it?

      4. RapidRide involved a 100% increase in service for a 33% ridership gain. Of that 33% increase, fewer than half are new to transit. Yes, I call that incremental. Yes, that leads to a lower rate of farebox return.

        Stop arguing about capital expenses, Norman. Just stop. The capitol expenses for our far-from-finished rail system are a necessary evil to correct decades of failure to build real transit when the capital costs would have been a tiny fraction of what they are now.

        You know why we didn’t build real transit when we should have? Because of people who think like you.

        Still waiting for you to offer a shred of evidence that rail-based transit networks don’t offer much better service, at lower fares, and with much better farebox return than what you advocate. (Hint: you won’t find any.)

    1. A couple of counterarguments. One, there is not a linear relationship between ridership and fare revenue. Many people have monthly passes, etc. and use them more as gas gets more expensive. So 5% more riders may well mean only 3% more farebox revenue. Second, many riders have cars so if you increase the fare too much (and it’s already increased 80% over the last 4 years), it will make more economic sense to drive. For example, even with $4/gallon gas, it is generally cheaper for me to drive than to take the bus (bus fare is now between $4 and $5, round trip but I can go at least 20 miles for only $4 in gas), unless I have to pay to park. Most of the car costs–to buy the car itself, insurance, tabs, most maintenance–I pay regardless of whether I take the bus. As to your point about tolling, I agree it will spur many people to take the bus if their route is over 520, but most metro riders are going different places, so it doesn’t really justify a system-wide fare increase, particularly on top of those we’ve already had.

      1. My contention is that Metro can raise fares a lot — much more than 25 cents per trip — and result in increased revenues for Metro. In other words, the increase in average fare will more than offset any dip in ridership. I would bet you that this has indeed been the case every time Metro has increased fares — total revenue from fares went up, even if ridership did fall slightly. Unless someone has figures that show otherwise, I am going to assume that is the case.

        What is the actual average fare per boarding that Metro collects now? About $1.00 per boarding, or something like that? Don’t you think that is absurdly low?

        And what about the fare increase on Link this month? Is there any indication that the 25 cent fare increase has had any negative impact on ridership at all? I guess we will get some idea of that in a couple of months, when the July ridership numbers come out. But, I don’t expect that fare increase to affect ridership at all. Do you?

      2. Ah, right. Thank you for reminding me that your central argument was a bid for massive fare increases.

        Remind me how you expect to attract riders — many of whom have relocated from other cities that offer better transit for already-lower fares — by providing worse service for significantly more?

      3. Amd the Link fare increase brought most destination pairs in line with parallel (but worse) Metro bus services. In fact, some Link trips still charge less for something better.

        Ridership did not suffer as a result of Link’s increase, because no one in their right mind would switch to the less appealing and more expensive service.

        But raise fares on the worse (bus) option even further, and those without access to rail will abandon public transit entirely. That is, of course, your hope, isn’t it?

    2. correct and fare enforcement 268 in farebox revenue.If 10% of fare evaders paid that would be 26 million.

  3. Vanpools are the best form of transit. They require almost no public subsidy, and they are far more energy-efficient than buses or light rail.

    Tolling on the 520 bridge should greatly increase the interest in vanpools over that bridge. Vanpools save passengers a lot of money even when there are not tolls. With significant tolls, the savings of using a vanpool are multiplied substantially.

    I wish they would get the tolling on the 520 bridge started, already. It should be very interesting to see how the tolls affect traffic volumes, congestion, speed, and ridership on the buses over the bridge, as well as vanpool demand.

    1. Vanpools are an efficient form of transit with low capital requirements for a pretty limited group of people, and with a pretty limited set of uses. They enforce total schedule coordination onto their users, which is a pretty serious limitation. If there is such thing as a “best” form of transit, it probably isn’t the vanpool, though it certainly has its place.

    2. Norman, have you heard of Avego? They’re running a pilot ride-sharing program for crossing the 520 bridge. Kind of like an ad-hoc vanpool system, based on the idea that, at any given time, at least 2-3 people on the mess that is 520 are going to the same place (probably Capitol Hill :D).

      It will be interesting to see how this turns out!

    3. Give it up folks, Norman is trolling. He touts buses and vanpools but never talks about significant enhancements to our HOV system or, gasp!, taking away GP lanes for HOV. To Norman, the promise of better vanpools and buses are merely there to deflect attention away from his real aim – MORE ROADS for MORE CARS.

      1. Nonsense. Vanpools and buses reduce the number of vehicles on roads. This is very simple, and very obvious, but, for some reason, Velo is not able to grasp it.

        Put 15 people in one van, and you replace at least 9 cars with one van. That is one vehicle instead of 9 or more. At least 8 fewer vehicles.

        Do this with about 100 vans, and you take 800 vehicles or more off that road. You don’t need more lanes when you reduce the number of vehicles.

        People join vanpools to save money. Even if vanpools are no faster than driving yourself, people still will use vanpools because they save a lot of money on gas, maintenance, parking, etc. And particularly if there are tolls on the roads the vanpools take.

      2. I find it hilarious that Norman, of all people, thinks us transit advocates on the Seattle Transit Blog don’t understand that putting people on transit means fewer people driving.

      3. It is funny that Velo does not understand that buses and vanpools take cars off roads.

        Whereas Link light rail just took a few buses off a few roads.

      4. I’m not sure how you got that I don’t understand the positives of Vanpools by calling you out for trolling, but whatever. What I said still stands.

        At best, Norman, you are headstrong in your arguments and debate in bad faith. At worst, you are some sort of corporate funded anti-transit mouthpiece trying to pollute the comments on this blog. I’m not sure which you are, but frankly most of us wish you would go away.

      5. Norman,

        Can I assume you support the CRC, since the money goes solely to Metro and bus service, and not trains?

      6. Velo, quite frankly, you have no idea what you are talking about. Where have I ever opposed HOV lanes? In fact, I support HOV lanes across the I-90 bridge center span, instead of wasting billions of dollars on light rail over that bridge. Stop putting words in my mouth, when you don’t have a clue.

        And, are you trying to hurt my feelings with that cute little insult? That is just so mean.

      7. Not to mention those 800 vans which can carry about 7200 people have to be parked in at least 2 places a day. Who’s subsidizing that?

        Vanpools have a limited utility in reducing the commuting costs for a limited number of people. It doesn’t incentivize them to utilize more efficient transit. It doesn’t reduce suburban sprawl or its effects on our environment. It continues the use of petroleum based vehicles as the long term price of oil continues to trend higher. And no, the recent dip in prices is not a harbinger of long term lower prices, it is only a pause caused in part by a coordinated intervention in the markets by several countries.

  4. I believe it. Seems like my bus to/from work has been picking up more regulars.

    1. Believe me, it has. Out of 3 trips a day for the past 3 weeks I can count the number of non-standing loads on one hand. I’ve even seen large groups of people braving the transfer from the 240 & 560 to the 550 at South Bellevue Park & Ride – in both directions. I dropped off about 10 people yesterday who were heading for a transfer to one of those routes.

      Keep an eye on per-boarding cost as all this traffic should keep pushing that down – diesel prices are also easing a bit which should help in the short term.

  5. If you go to Metro’s website and let your cursor hover over the top of the bars in the barchart, you’ll get the actual data (number of estimated weekday boardings) as a popup.

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