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Transit Ridership Should Worry Americans More

Ridership declines mean falling revenues for transit agencies, and could be the beginning of a cycle of service cuts and fare increases leading to yet more ridership declines.
April 3, 2018, 9am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Bridget Zawitoski

Around the United States, transit ridership is falling. Disappearing bus riders in particular have driven big drops in Miami, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and 31 of 35 large American metro areas. "Researchers concluded factors such as lower fuel costs, increased teleworking, higher car ownership and the rise of alternatives such as Uber and Lyft are pulling people off trains and buses at record levels," Faiz Siddiqui reports for The Washington Post.

The issue isn't merely that ridership is down around the country, but that this drop in ridership may lead to a vicious cycle. "The problem: The declines mean a decrease in farebox recovery, which can often lead to fare increases and reduced service, as in Metro’s case," Siddiqui writes.

"Exceptions to the trend: Seattle, Phoenix and Houston, which either expanded transit coverage and boosted service or underwent ambitious network overhauls, as in Houston’s case," Siddiqui reports. While improving services by reorganizing them or investing in expansions boosted their ridership, it didn't eliminate all the problems associated with cars. "[Seattle], which has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country, hosts about 45,000 Amazon employees and had added 60,000 workers to its center city core since 2010, according to Andrew Glass-Hastings, Director of Transit and Mobility for the Seattle Department of Transportation."

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Published on Saturday, March 24, 2018 in The Washington Post
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