Most of the U.S. saw public transit ridership continue its downward trend last year, but San Diego’s ridership, particularly on light rail, was up.
Despite goals to increase transit use in the city and cut greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicles, San Diego had been losing transit ridership since 2014. That decline may finally be slowing down. "The Metropolitan Transit System announced last month that ridership on the bus and trolley systems had gone up by more than 50,000 passenger trips in the first seven months of the fiscal year, compared to the same period one year prior," Andrew Bowen writes for KPBS. This is a small increase for a system that provides more than 80 million trips a year, but it does represent a reversal.
Officials point to a few different policy changes for the recent ridership bump. First, they've increased frequency on some key bus lines, meaning riders spend less time waiting for the next bus to come. Second, they point to a free transit day in October, which brought a lot of new users onto the system. Moving forward, officials hope a recent policy change eliminating a requirement for developers to create off-street parking for some building types will further incentivize transit use.
"A challenge more specific to San Diego is its sprawling land use and pockets of low-density neighborhoods in the city's urban core," Bowen reports. Proposals exist to urbanize areas near transit like Linda Vista, but the clock is ticking. The city created a "Climate Plan" in 2015 with enforceable targets for emissions rates by 2035. The city will have to move a lot more people out of cars and onto buses and trolleys if it is to hit those targets.
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