There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Monday, October 27, 2008

A ray of good news in midst of budget storm

General Manager Mike Wiley reports:

Oil prices have gone down, and gas prices are going down. In spite of this, RT’s ridership for the month of September continues the District’s exceptionally positive increase. Although gas prices have gone down to the same levels as last year, many commuters that tried transit when fuel was at $4 a gallon are now realizing they save much more then $20 a tank. Compared to September 2007 system wide ridership increased over 23% and rail ridership increased 22%. This month also saw a 23% increase in bus ridership despite a 5% bus service reduction implemented in January 2008.
The thing I like the most about this is the strength of bus ridership. Bus ridership is now higher than at any point in the last 12 months. (See chart above) Light rail, on the other hand, lags well behind its previous peak.

I like the bus. It matters that the driver is in the same room with you. There's a certain shared interest in the environment. Light rail operators, secure behind their locked doors, just seem more -- well, removed.

So this brings up a question: Is bus ridership up because more people are enjoying the ride? Or is bus ridership up because more people find themselves in an economic squeeze that forces them on the bus?

I see the glass half-full: I see a demonstration that if RT added lines, improved frequency and otherwise made bus service more available, many more people would join the crowd.

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