Last week, the Antiplanner reported that July 2017 transit ridership was 3.6 percent below the same month of 2016. Now the Federal Transit Administration has posted data for August 2017 showing that ridership for that month was 4.0 percent less than in August 2016.
Naturally, the Antiplanner has posted an enhanced version of this data file showing totals by year from 2002 through 2017, as well as totals by transit agency and for the 200 largest urban areas. The file also shows the change in transit riders in August 2017 vs. August 2016, January-August 2017 vs. same in 2016 as well as 2014 and 2010, and 2016’s total vs. the peak for each mode, transit agency, or urban area from 2008 through 2015.
These numbers have to be frightening transit industry leaders. Update: They are. Just comparing the first eight months of 2017 against 2016, ridership has fallen by more than 10 percent in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Charlotte, El Paso, and Albuquerque, and nearly 10 percent in Miami, Cleveland, San Jose, and Raleigh, among other urban areas. Since this decline is, in most cases, on top of declines in 2016, we’re seeing 25 to 40 percent declines in some urban areas over the past few years.
As noted last week, there was an error in Seattle’s July data which was corrected in the August data showing that Seattle remains about the only major urban area whose transit ridership is unambiguously growing. Houston was on that list based on the July data, but Houston’s August ridership plummeted by nearly 18 percent from its August, 2016 level, bringing Houston’s year-to-date ridership into the red as well.
“Damn the ridership declines,” many transit agencies have declared, “Full speed ahead” in building expensive new transit lines. Charlotte has seen a 23 percent loss in riders since 2014, yet is planning a new commuter-rail line. Tampa ridership is down 13 percent since 2014, yet it is planning to build a light-rail line. Even writing such plans is a waste of taxpayer dollars, much less actually building the lines.
In addition to the August 2017 data, the FTA has posted the complete National Transit Database for 2016. The Antiplanner will report on this tomorrow.