Transit Ridership

Desired Trend


Current Trend

Baseline (2010): 43.0 million
Current (2021): 18.4 million

Theme Connected


Annual transit boardings system-wide (MetroLink/Bus System/Call-A-Ride)

Why is it Important?

Public transit provides a variety of benefits, including reduced pollution, reduced energy use, reduced congestion on roads, and accessible transportation options for users of all ages and abilities. Public transit also benefits the local economy and increases access to employment opportunities. The number of boardings on public transit shows how often the system is used, and provides an indication of the efficiency and efficacy of the system. This indicator measures ridership on Metro and Madison County Transit Systems, which are the two major transit providers in the St. Louis region.1

How are we Doing?

In 2021, transit ridership in the St. Louis region was lower than it was in the baseline year (2010). Between 2010 and 2021, total ridership in the region decreased by about 24.6 million trips, or 57.2 percent. There were 43.0 million trips on transit in 2010, compared with 18.4 million trips in 2021. Since 2010, ridership by all four transit modes have declined in the region.

Bus riders are the majority of riders, accounting for 67.8 percent of all transit ridership in 2021. From 2010 to 2021, bus ridership declined 52.5percent. MetroLink accounts for the next largest proportion of ridership (29.7 percent in 2021) and had a 65.4 percent decrease in ridership over this time period. Demand response (paratransit) and van pool (Madison County Transit only) account have much smaller ridership numbers. Both types of service also saw decreases in ridership from 2010 to 2021. Ridership in the region reached a peak of 56.5 million in 2007 following the Mid-County MetroLink extension. This extension added nine new stations from Forest Park to Shrewsbury. However, in 2010, total ridership declined by 22 percent amid the economic recession and following Metro’s service reduction in March of 2009. With a 2010 tax initiative, Metro was able to restore transit services throughout its service area, but ridership has not returned to pre-2009 levels.

More recently, transit ridership declined each of the last seven years with the last two being the most substantial decreases. Between 2014 and 2019, ridership declined a total of 24 percent. This decline may be attributable to several factors, including an improving economy and falling gasoline prices as well as concerns about safety and security. With the start of the pandemic ridership declined by 17.2 percent between 2019 and 2020 and in the last year, ridership declined another 42.7 percent. This decline was the largest year-over-year change the system has experienced.

Another indicator of transit use is passenger miles, which shows the total number of miles traveled by transit users. In 2010, transit riders traveled around 277 million miles on the transit systems in the region. In 2021, passenger miles totaled 112 million miles. This is a reduction of 59.8 percent from 2010. In the last year alone passenger miles traveled declined 43.7 percent. The average trip in the St. Louis region is about 6.1 miles. On average, trips on Metrolink are longer than trips on buses. In 2021, the average trip on the Metrolink was 6.8 miles, compared with 5.4 miles for the average bus trip.

In 2021, the St. Louis region ranked 30th among the 50 most populous metro regions with a total of 8.6 transit boardings (or unlinked passenger trips) per capita. Transit ridership in the St. Louis region is substantially lower than the peer region average (28.3 trips per capita). Most of the 50 peer regions experienced declines in transit ridership over the last year. St. Louis saw a large decline relative to other regions, ranking 32nd with a decline of 42.7 percent from 2020 to 2021. The peer average decline was 23.5 percent. 

Transit Ridership and passenger miles  Metro St. Louis

Geographic Level

Metro Transit and Madison County Transit service areas, including St. Louis County, the City of St. Louis, Madison County, and St. Clair County


1Transit ridership for this indicator is measured using unlinked passenger trips, meaning that each boarding is counted even if it is a transfer. Although this method over counts the total number of trips, it provides a more accurate estimate of ridership than linked passenger trips because there is less room for error. Ridership statistics include trips by bus, light rail, van pool, and paratransit (a transportation service that helps the elderly or disabled reach medical appointments, school, or work.)


Data Sources

National Transit Database