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Title: Increasing Transit Ridership: Lessons from the Most Successful Transit Systems in the 1990s

Author(s): Taylor, Brian D., Peter Haas, Brent Boyd, Daniel B. Hess, Hiroyuki Iseki, and Allison Yoh

Published: 2002 by U.S. Federal Highway Administration Report FHWA-CA-TO-2002-22. San Jose, CA: Mineta Transportation Institute, San Jose State University. 145 pages

Online Access: http://transweb.sjsu.edu/mtiportal/research/publications/documents/transitridership2/TransitRidership_7_16.htm

Abstract: This study examines trends in U.S. public transit ridership during the 1990s. Specifically, we focus on agencies that increased ridership during the latter half of the decade. While transit ridership increased by 13 percent nationwide between 1995 and 1999, not all systems experienced ridership growth equally. While some agencies increased ridership dramatically, some did so only minimally, and still others lost riders. What sets these agencies apart from one another? What explains the uneven growth in ridership? To answer these questions, this research study incorporates a wide array of methodological approaches, including: An analysis of nationwide transit data and trends A survey of officials from agencies that increased ridership in the late 1990s Case studies based on in-depth, open-ended interviews with transit officials from 12 agencies that were particularly successful at attracting new riders during the study period. Through this multipronged approach, we identify factors both internal and external to transit systems that influence ridership growth. Internal factors are things like service levels, fares, and so on. External factors include job growth, traffic congestion, and the like. Although a wide array of factors clearly influence transit patronage, our analysis finds that the most significant factors influencing transit use are external to transit systems. This finding was consistent throughout our review of the research literature, our analysis of nationwide data, our survey of successful transit systems, and our detailed interviews with transit managers. In our data analysis, we found extraordinarily strong correlations between ridership and three external factors related to economic activity. Table 1 shows, for example, that the correlation between inflation-adjusted wage rates during the late 1990s and transit ridership is 0.96. Such external factors, of course, are largely beyond the control of transit managers.

Category: Public Transit      Transportation History      Transportation System Analysis     

See other articles by the author(s): Brian D. Taylor Hiroyuki Iseki Peter Haas Daniel B. Hess Allison Yoh Brent A. Boyd

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