The Key to Increasing Ridership...
...is to increase the price of gas.
Ok, that was a setup, but as the transit industry maintains its focus on “recovery,” we continue to ask, “what does recovery mean?” Let’s start here. We acknowledge the value of good system design. If the sole definition of success for your transit system is ridership, then run high frequency service, with strong origins and destinations, and serve your transit dependent markets. This will certainly provide ridership gains on transit systems. And if you do that, it still won’t have the impact that high gas prices will have on transit ridership.
Our team ran a 20 year regression analysis comparing national transit ridership and gas prices. Here are our findings.
National gas price predicts 65% of transit ridership when analyzed by quarter over the last 20 years.
There’s a reason why transit systems don’t focus entire service portfolios on route configurations that solely produce ridership because the value of transit is MORE than the volume of the rides it provides. That’s why every...EVERY...transit system in the US runs low productivity coverage and is bending the collective brains of new mobility providers for solutions that meet hard to serve trips.
And this is why the industry must make an urgent shift to its definition of success with objectively measurable outcomes that emphasize its VALUE! The development, focus, and promotion of success outcomes tied to values such as economic impact, greenhouse gas emissions, community value, financial sustainability, many others, AND ridership tell a more holistic story of why the value of transit is greater than its volume.
The keys include defining success, measuring and managing performance, and aggressively communicating your definition of success on your terms. Check out the panel we moderated with the Ontario Public Transit Association to hear some industry leaders taking charge of their movement beyond ridership.