Public Transit Gets the Swiftie Bump

Taylor Swift fans are flocking to public transit to attend her concerts, breaking ridership records in cities around the country. Will they keep using transit after the show?

2 minute read

May 21, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Struggling transit agencies around the country are getting a much-needed boost—if Taylor Swift happens to be playing in their city, that is.

As Jared Brey reports in Governing, Atlanta’s Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) saw triple its normal ridership at the stations surrounding Swift’s concert venue on the weekend she performed. “When Swift played Philadelphia in May, SEPTA, the city's transit system, added late-night trains in its regional rail network, and counted a combined 27,000 fans entering the subway station next to Lincoln Financial Field in the hour after the shows ended.” In Boston, the city sold out of transit tickets for the night of Swift’s show before adding more capacity.

The ridership boost is useful, but do one-off events do anything to improve transit ridership long-term? “What would convert a special-occasion rider into a regular one?” For SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch, the answer is “a great experience” that includes “everything from frequency, reliability and navigability to cleanliness, good lighting and security presence.”

To accommodate post-pandemic trends, agencies are now looking to increase frequency and service during off-peak travel hours and adapt to provide temporary boosts in service during major special events.

Ultimately, the Swiftie bump is a blip on the radar of transit ridership, but it could convert riders down the line. According to Matthew Dickens, director of policy development and research at the American Public Transportation Association, “big events are a chance to introduce new people to the transit system, and that research shows that people who first use transit when they're young are more likely to ride regularly when they're older.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Governing

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