In Washington, the trend toward transit goes back ten years. Metrorail ridership started to go up in 1998 after a decade of little change. Since then it has grown at breakneck speed. Average weekday ridership rose from 528,000 in May 1998 to 752,000 in May 2008 – an increase of 42% in just 10 years. That far exceeds population growth. Despite the worsening economy and falling gas prices, ridership in recent months has continued to be significantly higher than a year earlier.It's become cooler to save money, walk more to your destinations and take transit. But this was also because Washington gave the option. You see, it isn't so cut and dry as the sprawlagists would like you to believe. Give people the choice to drive or take transit, some will choose transit and some will choose to drive. Give them one choice and well they will drive. It's pretty simple actually. Invest in transit service and it will give people a reason to use it. Especially if you have a good subway system like Metro tied to frequent buses, commuter rail, and Amtrak.
We can better understand what is happening by looking at these data in more detail. The biggest growth in transit use is not for traditional commuting trips, but for non-work travel. A fundamental shift in lifestyle is occurring as people no longer organize their lives around the automobile. Between 1999 and 2007, Metrorail boardings during the morning rush hour – a good measure of commuting travel – increased 33.5%. But ridership increased 47% on Saturdays and 57% on Sundays.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Not Just the Work Trip
Ben Ross of the Action Committee for Transit testified before a House panel to discuss cuts to the Metro system. His testimony was good, but what most interested me was the move towards non-work trips in the ridership department.