Transit Ridership

Desired Trend

Up

Current Trend

Up
Baseline (2010): 43.0 million
Current (2017): 43.3 million

Theme Connected

Definition

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 2017, transit ridership in the St. Louis region was slightly higher than it was in the baseline year (2010), but ridership has declined over a longer time period. Between 2010 and 2017, total ridership in the region increased by around 350,000 trips, or 0.8 percent. There were 43.0 million trips on public transit in 2010, compared with 43.3 million trips in 2017. Much of this increase is from bus trips, which increased by 5 percent from 2010 to 2017. The number of trips on MetroLink has decreased during this period, from 15.8 million trips in 2010 to 14.8 million trips in 2017 (a decline of 5.8 percent).

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 still not fully returned to pre-2009 levels.

More recently, transit ridership has declined over the last two years. Between 2014 and 2017, ridership declined by 14.9 percent. This decline may be attributable to several factors, including an improving economy, falling gasoline prices as well as concerns about safety and security. In 2018, East-West Gateway Council of Governments and WSP USA conducted a security assessment of the MetroLink and MetroBus systems. The results of their assessment were finalized in 2019 and can be viewed here. https://www.ewgateway.org/transportation-planning/corridor-planning-metrolink/

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 region’s transit systems. In 2017, passenger miles totaled 270 million miles. This is a reduction of 2.8 percent from 2010. The average trip in the St. Louis region is about 6.2 miles. On average, trips on Metrolink are longer than trips on buses. The average trip on the Metrolink is 7.2 miles, compared with 5.4 miles for the average bus trip.

In 2017, the St. Louis region ranked 28th among the 50 largest metro regions with a total of 20.2 transit boardings (or unlinked passenger trips) per person. Transit ridership in the St. Louis region is substantially lower than the peer region average (64.6 trips per person).

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

Notes

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.)

2U.S. Energy Information Administration. Weekly Retail Gasoline and Diesel Prices. https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_gnd_dcus_nus_m.htm 

Data Sources

National Transit Database