Transit Ridership

Desired Trend

Up

Current Trend

Down
Baseline (2010): 43.0 million
Current (2019): 38.8 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 2019, transit ridership in the St. Louis region was lower than it was in the baseline year (2010). Between 2010 and 2019, total ridership in the region decreased by about 4.2 million trips, or 9.8 percent. There were 43.0 million trips on public transit in 2010, compared with 38.8 million trips in 2019. Since 2010, ridership by all four modes have declined in the region. Bus riders are the majority of riders, accounting for 64 percent of all transit ridership in 2019. From 2010 to 2019, bus ridership declined 4.9 percent. MetroLink accounts for the next largest portion of ridership (34 percent in 2019) and had a 16.9 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 2019.

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 five years.  Between 2014 and 2019, ridership declined a total of 24 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 assessment was finalized in 2019 as implementation of the recommendations began. In February 2020, city of St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Same Page, and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern signed an agreement to support the Metro System Security Strategy.The assessment, strategy, and updates are  available at https://www.ewgateway.org/transportation-planning/corridor-planning-metrolink/metro-security/.

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 2019, passenger miles totaled 241 million miles. This is a reduction of 13.1 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 6.8 miles, compared with 5.7 miles for the average bus trip.

In 2019, the St. Louis region ranked 30th among the 50 most populous metro regions with a total of 18.0 transit boardings (or unlinked passenger trips) per person. Transit ridership in the St. Louis region is substantially lower than the peer region average (63.1 trips per person). Like St. Louis, about half of the peer regions had lower ridership in 2019 than in 2010.

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.)

 

Data Sources

National Transit Database