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Old Posted Feb 13, 2022, 10:14 PM
mhays mhays is offline
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US Ridership Stats: FTA Unlinked Trips and Miles by Category

We don't have a perfect source for transit stats. APTA numbers use different methods and standards. Census commute surveys are only commutes. But the FTA produces trip stats for urban areas, and they might be the best of the three. They count unlinked transit trips (each leg of a journey counts as one), and also rider miles by fixed-guideway and non-fixed, though not trips for those.

Fixed-Guideway is trains, BRT, ferries, and fixed catenary systems (like trolley buses). They don't separate trains.

This is flawed too, mostly because it counts rides and miles ridden rather than riders, and it would be nice to separate categories like trains. A system based on a lot of transfers might look better than it should.

But here we go. I used 2019 for obvious reasons.

Unlinked Trips Per Capita, >800,000 Pop:
New York: 229.4
SF/Oak: 124.0
DC: 91.4
Boston: 90.0
Honolulu: 79.0
Seattle: 71.2
Chicago: 64.3
Philly: 63.9
Portland: 59.5
LA: 44.3
Denver: 41.2
Baltimore: 40.0
Pittsburgh: 38.0
Las Vegas: 34.9
MSP: 34.5
San Diego: 32.8
SLC: 31.3
Atlanta: 27.6
San Jose: 25.7
Buffalo: 25.6
San Antonio: 24.2
Austin: 22.9
Milwaukee: 22.8
Miami: 22.4
New Orleans: 21.0
Charlotte: 19.9
Phoenix: 19.9
...(others over 1,300,000):
Cleveland: 18.5
Houston: 18.3
St. Louis: 17.9
DFW: 14.9
Columbus: 14.3
Orlando: 13.9
Sacramento: 13.2
Tampa: 11.3
Cincinnati: 10.9
Kansas City: 10.3
Detroit: 9.4
Virginia Beach: 9.4
Riverside: 8.9
Indianapolis: 6.6

Unlinked Trips Per Capita, <800,000 Pop (top 6):
Ames, IA: 101.3
Champaign, IL: 80.0
State College, PA: 75.5
Ithaca, NY: 62.1
San Marcos, TX: 57.5
Atlantic City, NJ: 57.3

Fixed-Guideway Passenger Miles Per Capita, >800,000 Pop (top 15):
New York: 1,008.7
SF/Oak: 569.6
DC: 353.4
Boston: 340.0
Chicago: 328.6
Philly: 200.1
Seattle: 156.3
Denver: 127.5
SLC: 122.3
Portland: 121.1
Atlanta: 99.7
San Diego: 96.1
Los Angeles: 86.1
Baltimore: 83.0
DFW: 52.7

Fixed-Guideway Passenger Miles Per Capita, <800,000 Pop (top 6):
Danbury, CT: 926.1
Waterbury, CT: 800.4
Concord, CA: 652.0
Trenton, NJ: 411.7
Antioch, CA: 331.6
New Haven, CT: 305.1

Non-Fixed Passenger Miles Per Capita, >800,000 (top 15):
Honolulu: 393.6
Seattle: 320.4
New York: 202.5
SF/Oak: 180.4
DC: 176.5
Los Angeles: 156.5
Portland: 129.4
Las Vegas: 129.4
Baltimore: 128.8
Pittsburgh: 125.8
Philly: 122.0
Denver: 120.5
MSP: 118.8
Austin: 115.5
Hartford: 111.7

Non-Fixed Passenger Miles Per Capita, <800,000 (top 6):
Atlantic City, NJ: 385.2
Poughkeepsie, NY: 380.7
State College, PA: 303.5
Kahului, HI: 276.2
Boulder, CO: 237.5
Hanford, CA: 203.2

I'll point out some takeaways I found.

Fixed-guideway transit got a lot of rider-miles in the distant commuter train areas around big cities. Maybe it's kind of popular, but it might just be that most people are going huge distances.

Honolulu is killing it in non-fixed. I'd guess Atlantic city might include tourists and long-distance commuters who go long distances. But Poughkeepsie? State College and Boulder are easier to guess.

Of course Seattle is my favorite topic. By passenger mileage it's 2/3 non-fixed, despite the fixed category including ferries and trolley buses. That's buses still forming the spine of most of the transit system.

It's interesting how small NY's rider miles are in non-fixed. About 5/6 of all passenger miles are fixed. I wish they counted riders too. Maybe they get a ton of bus riders but they're mostly short trips.

To dive into that point a little:

Mileage Per Trip, Highest:
Pascagoula, MS: 39.9
McKinney, TX: 32.6
Sherman, TX: 30.8
Poughkeepsie, NY: 29.7
Conroe/Woodlands, TX: 29.5
Lancaster, PA: 29.4

Mileage Per Trip, Highest >800,000 Pop UAs (and selected):
Riverside, CA: 8.2
San Jose, CA: 7.7
Orlando: 7.1
Seattle: 6.7
Chicago: 6.6
Atlanta: 6.6
Houston: 6.5
Dallas: 6.3
SLC: 6.2
Miami: 6.2
St. Louis: 6.2
Detroit: 6.2
San Diego: 6.1
SF/Oak: 6.0
Denver: 6.0
DC: 5.8
Tampa: 5.8
(...others)
Los Angeles: 5.5
New York: 5.3
Philly: 5.0
Phoenix: 4.9
Boston: 4.6

We have combined trip numbers (legs of trips at least) already. But the miles per trip is interesting re: who's riding and how far. Linear and/or spread-out cities tend to have high mileage averages. Maybe that's good, as that's a lot of miles not being driven, or maybe it's a of how dysfunctional these cities are (land use, affordability).
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  #2  
Old Posted Feb 13, 2022, 11:23 PM
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Would not have guessed SF/OAK would be twice as high as Chicago, though I guess if you combined with SJ it would be diluted a bit. Is this counting all the employer buses in the bay area? It's odd because in many ways the bay area transit system is quite dysfunctional with the many competing agencies and such.
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Old Posted Feb 13, 2022, 11:52 PM
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Bay Area numbers always seem non-intuitive to me. Not saying they aren't true, but I have a hard time wrapping myself around the (apparent) fact that the Bay Area (ok, really SF-Oakland) is significantly more transit oriented than DC, Chicago, Boston and Philly. Doesn't compute.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 12:02 AM
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NYC dominates of course, but SF? How does SF have double the ridership of Chicago? I mean sure I can give you that SF would have more ridership but DOUBLE?
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  #5  
Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 1:09 AM
mhays mhays is offline
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Do riders transfer more in SF vs. Chicago? A lot of two-trip commutes maybe? And yeah, having part of your suburbs be a "separate" UA is helpful.

Also, these are stats reported by agencies, much like APTA. Agencies' internal counting can be wildly different depending on methods, like counting tickets, motion through doorways, etc. Further, they can have different standards intentionally.

Sometimes they change of methods and make the news. If I recall Denver's downtown shuttle was one example. Vancouver realized at some point (vaguely recalling from RM Transit on Youtube) that installing station gates resulted in vastly higher ridership than they thought they had with the honor system.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 1:19 AM
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Don't forget OKC. 3.9 unlinked trips per capita.

Ames is interesting. Never heard of the place, but definitely will try keep it in mind.

I am not sure trains inflate the numbers or require more transfers, rail lines being able to be much longer. Even rapid transit measures such exclusive ROWs, signal priority, limited stops, all-door boarding for buses to increase their capacity and reliability and so allow the bus routes to be longer than usual. Big system is not going to serve people effectively with one route, and a bus-only system would require even more transfers. Longer trips is part of the whole reason to build rail after all.

Systems where riders use rail a lot they also use buses a lot. Maybe something systems like Dallas started to realize recently. Even in Portland, you can see people travel more on the buses than on the rail, but somehow the rail gets all the attention and the credit. And of course, successful bus-based systems like Honolulu, Seattle, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh don't get much attention either.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 5:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhays View Post
Do riders transfer more in SF vs. Chicago? A lot of two-trip commutes maybe? And yeah, having part of your suburbs be a "separate" UA is helpful.
I think it's less about SFians transferring a lot, and more about Chicagoans transferring never. Just seems like the ridership in Chicago is overwhelmingly focused on rush-hour travel into the Loop. People generally don't transfer from Metra, they walk the last 1/2 mi to their office or ride private shuttles for more distant offices. They don't transfer from CTA because the Loop track and the 2 subways get everyone pretty close to their destination with multiple stations to exit. (This is changing as the CBD metastasizes in weird new directions, but the transit system hasn't caught up).

NYC has workplaces spread over a much larger area and 3-4 CBDs so most people have to change trains at least once. I'm not sure if an express-local is considered as 2 trips or not but that's also a factor.

I have no idea why SF is so high, I don't quite grasp where all the transfers are occurring.
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Last edited by ardecila; Feb 14, 2022 at 5:38 AM.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 8:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doady View Post
Don't forget OKC. 3.9 unlinked trips per capita.

Ames is interesting. Never heard of the place, but definitely will try keep it in mind.
Small city dominated by Iowa State University. The top 5 in that population category are all college towns, Champaign (University of Illinois), State College (Penn State), Ithaca (Cornell), San Marcos (Texas State)
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  #9  
Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 4:31 PM
mhays mhays is offline
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The Census ACS commute stat difference is pretty stark too. By metro (again, omitting San Jose):
SF/Oak: 18.9%
Chicago: 12.4%

SF/Oakland also did better by walking commutes (4.7 to 3.0), biking (1.8 to 0.6), taxi/motorcycle/other (2.3 to 1.4), carpool (8.6 to 7.4), and WFH (7.2 to 5.7). The drive-alone difference was 56.5 to 69.4. Chicago has a great core but the metro and UA numbers aren't great per either platform.

PS, good catch on OKC. Though they might deserve to be demoted from the "city" category.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 6:42 PM
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The PATH system in NY/NJ isn't on here because it's considered a railroad and falls under the Federal Railroad Administration.
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  #11  
Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 6:49 PM
mhays mhays is offline
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Yet the Connecticut commuter towns have big numbers?
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 8:27 PM
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The PATH system in NY/NJ isn't on here because it's considered a railroad and falls under the Federal Railroad Administration.
Commuter rail systems report their data to FTA too, and FTA provides funding for their operation and expansion. They are only regulated by FRA.

PATH is a weird duck even taking that into account, but you can bet it is included in these numbers.
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Old Posted Feb 14, 2022, 9:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
Commuter rail systems report their data to FTA too, and FTA provides funding for their operation and expansion. They are only regulated by FRA.

PATH is a weird duck even taking that into account, but you can bet it is included in these numbers.
Interesting. I didn't realize that was true. I always though PATH was ineligible for FTA funding because it's designated as a railroad by the Feds.
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Old Posted Feb 15, 2022, 1:20 AM
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Not to harp on the SF ridership (OK, I'm harping), but looking at these maps of car-free households and rail lines, I'm still dumbfounded that SF has twice the ridership of Chicago.

https://www.liberallandscape.org/202...united-states/

Chicago has a vastly larger geography of car-free living. And it isn't just low-income tracts. Many multiples larger. And the same is true of Boston, DC, Philly and even Baltimore. And SF almost certainly has the worst transit quality of Chicago-SF-Boston-Philly-DC.

But that said, I have no reason to doubt the data. It just must be that car-owning Bay Area households use transit much moreso than in other transit-oriented metros.
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Old Posted Feb 15, 2022, 3:14 AM
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Note that Concord and Antioch urban areas are part of the San Francisco-Oakland MSA but they are considered separate urban areas.

Chicago built a big system, but hasn't expanded upon it in the post-war era. Pace bus system serves a population of over 5 million, but ridership is less than 40 million. Seriously. Think about that. Compare that to other suburban networks and you can see why Chicago's ridership per capita has declined so much. Imagine if Pace carried 160 million riders annually, similar per capita ridership as Bee-Line Bus, and what all those buses feeding into all those stations would do for CTA and Metra and all those trains.

I also think Chicago has the opposite problem of transit here in Toronto. Chicago network is too much hub-and-spoke, Toronto network is too much grid: people on the east-west line transfer to the north-south line to get downtown, so the north-south line is way overcrowded, so now Toronto needs a "downtown relief line". Yet the rail lines in Chicago are all "downtown relief lines", and how many DRLs do you really need, especially from CTA on top of Metra? Chicago has a big system, but it doesn't necessarily provide more options.

Big place like Chicago needs a plethora of many different types of routes to really complete the system. The Chicago system just hasn't been updated in a long time, and so now it is way incomplete, way too many gaps in the network. Systems like San Francisco-Oakland and Seattle are much newer, kept much more up-to-date, not so stuck in the past, not afraid to continually fill in the gaps with buses to complete the system, and so it shouldn't be surprising they have overtaken Chicago over the years.
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Old Posted Feb 15, 2022, 5:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
Not to harp on the SF ridership (OK, I'm harping), but looking at these maps of car-free households and rail lines, I'm still dumbfounded that SF has twice the ridership of Chicago.

https://www.liberallandscape.org/202...united-states/

Chicago has a vastly larger geography of car-free living. And it isn't just low-income tracts. Many multiples larger. And the same is true of Boston, DC, Philly and even Baltimore. And SF almost certainly has the worst transit quality of Chicago-SF-Boston-Philly-DC.

But that said, I have no reason to doubt the data. It just must be that car-owning Bay Area households use transit much moreso than in other transit-oriented metros.
I think Chicago, Boston, Philly, and NYC to some extent wrestle with these vast legacy systems that have not been adequately maintained. They haven't kept up with demand because they've got their hands full trying to address a backlog of maintenance and other issues. The quote below pretty well sums up the state of Alewife Station, one of the largest in the MBTA system in Boston --

Lawmakers Vent Over State Of Crumbling Alewife Garage
https://www.wbur.org/news/2018/08/14...alewife-garage

"Have you looked at the Alewife station? It's being held up by hydraulic jacks. It has been for years," Friedman said at a meeting of the T's Fiscal and Management Control Board. "It floods. It's disgustingly dirty, you can't find somebody there to help you, a T employee — we assume they've all been reassigned — and it is in such a state of disrepair that people are frankly scared to go there, and yet it is the only place to park if you take the Red Line from those west and northwestern suburbs, so we are really in a crunch here."
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Old Posted Feb 15, 2022, 10:55 PM
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It's funny, CTA has the exact same problem with a crumbling garage at our Cumberland station. Imagine a smaller Alewife, with the station in an expressway median.

CTA and MBTA come from a very similar history, except MBTA devoted huge resources in the 1960s-1980s to modernizing the rail system and Chicago didn't. We had a plan similar to Boston's where all the downtown el tracks would be moved underground, with big new transfer stations, but it never got built. When Daley Jr became mayor in the 90s he did start rehabbing/modernizing the elevated lines one-by-one, but we're still not done. We also never got the downtown transfer stations that we needed except one at Clark/Lake (it is spatially difficult to build transfers between elevated and subway platforms downtown). Boston's five downtown transfer stations are key to making the whole thing work - Downtown Crossing, Haymarket, Park St, State, and Government Center, with Charles-MGH being the only missing link.

The result is what I mentioned above - people don't change trains very much because it's not very convenient to do that. As for bus-rail transfers, those have declined year over year as the bus system bleeds ridership. High-income Chicagoans never got comfortable with buses outside of a thin strip along the lakefront, and low-income Chicagoans have been fleeing the city in droves.
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Old Posted Feb 16, 2022, 1:10 PM
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One of the curiosities of North American transit infrastructure is the lack of orbital routes and interchanges beyond the city core. There also isn’t a prevalence of multiple routes where two destinations can be reached via separate rail routes.
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