by Sam Hieb
No, it’s not the News & Observer reporting the ‘Raleigh Transit Miracle.’ It’s The Antiplanner, who shares this shares this TransitCenter article on increased bus ridership in both Raleigh and Indianapolis due to voter-approved increases in transit taxes.
So what’s the miracle? Raleigh’s ridership grew by 20 percent, more than any other of the country’s top 50 urban areas. But Antiplanner takes a closer look:
FTA data show that GoRaleigh, Raleigh’s main transit agency, offered 10.0 percent more bus service in April 2018 than 2017, and carried 26.5 percent more riders. Bus service for the first four months of 2018 was 6.8 percent greater, and riders 11.7 percent more numerous, than in 2017. So it seems plausible that service increases are responsible for the growth in ridership.
Looking further back in time, however, reveals a contrary trend. Between 2013 and 2017, GoRaleigh increased bus service in every year. Yet bus ridership plummeted in those years, falling 25 percent by 2017 despite a 13 percent increase in bus service. April 2018’s 26.5 percent increase in bus ridership over 2017 is still a 23 percent decline from April 2013 despite an 13 percent increase in bus service.
That said, Antiplanner still concludes “Raleigh will be a city to watch in future monthly transit reports.” Remember now the Triangle still has its sights set on a light rail project, although its future is cloudy, especially if Republicans hold the General Assembly (likely) and Congress (likely as well), which in turn will place the Trump administration—which has made it dislike for light rail projects well known— on even firmer footing. With that in mind, TransitCenter concludes “smart politicians and business leaders can easily frame increased ridership as a good thing, and it doesn’t require the rhetorical contortions necessary to justify underperforming streetcars or commuter rail, of which there are countless examples.”
Countless examples indeed, but here’s the one they cite—Orlando, where it costs more to sell a ticket for a light rail ride than it does to buy it.