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Arlington's ART Buses Buck Trend of Decling Ridership

 The Arlington Sun Gazette reported this morning that except for the Arlington County ART bus system and Loudoun County Transit, "Transit ridership across Northern Virginia was down 6.1 percent in the fiscal year ending in June compared to a year before, according to new data, with nearly every regional bus and train system seeing declines."

The Sun Gazette continued, writing:

"A total of 148.5 million trips were taken  on the Metro system and seven other regional transit systems during the year ending June 30, down from 158.1 million a year before, according to figures to be presented Sept. 1 to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

"More than two of every three transit trips taken in the region during the year (102.7 million) was on Metro’s rail system, which posted a ridership decline of 6.7 percent. Declines occurred at all stations in Virginia except the Greensboro, McLean and Tysons Corner stations on the Silver Line.

"Metrobus ridership totaled 20.1 million during the fiscal year, down 4.6 percent."

But the Sun Gazette also noted:

"Among local transit systems, only two – Arlington Transit (up 13.8 percent to 3.2 million rides) and Loudoun County Transit (up 0.9 percent to 1.8 million) saw year-over-year increases.

"Other bus and rail systems posted declines: Fairfax Connector (down 8 percent to 9 million rides), Prince William OmniRide and OmniLink (down 8.7 percent to 2.8 million), Virginia Railway Express (down 3.4 percent to 4.4 million), Alexandria’s DASH system (down 2.6 percent to 4.2 million) and Fairfax City’s CUE (down 12 percent to 679,000)."

Never fear, though, taxpayers of Northern Virginia, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) is looking for answers. According to this news item posted Monday, August 29, 2016, NVTC says:

"Bus ridership is down in the United States but a definitive explanation is hard to come by, according to a panel convened by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in July. Slate.com reports that bus trips have fallen nationwide from 5.86 billion in 2002, a peak year, to 5.11 billion last year, and dropped almost 3 percent from 2014 to 2015.

"During the same period, all NoVa bus systems experienced declines except DASH and Loudoun County Transit. When combined, trips on NoVa’s seven bus systems dropped about 3 percent from 2014 to 2015, in keeping with the national trend.

"Sixty percent of WMATA bus and rail customers cited these reasons for riding less:

  • lack of service reliability
  • lack of sense of safety
  • value of service for price paid
  • less traffic congestion

"Panelists cited other possible factors:

  • shifting demographics
  • changing land use patterns
  • availability of alternative modes
  • increased teleworking
  • fare increases

"NVTC will continue to work with WMATA and NoVa bus systems to explore the reasons underpinning the drop in ridership and find solutions that can be implemented at the local and regional levels." (emphasis added)

Unfortunately, the Sun Gazette story is not clear that ridership is being compared through EOFY 2016. Even worse, the NVTC website only contains ridership data through the end of FY 2015. We have asked NVTC to clarify, and will update this post as indicated.

And while ridership is useful information, it needs to be reported along with the cost of providing those rides, but the cost data is not available.

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