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Light Rail Now!
A familiar canard circulated by many light rail opponents is that light rail "robs" bus service, which then "suffers". As a result, opponents claim, overall system ridership plummets.
This is not just false ... it's the exact opposite of the truth. in reality, for almost every single new light rail installation, total transit system ridership has soared.
• First, light rail tends to be much cheaper to operate; the cost savings are passed on to expansion of bus service.
• Second, appropriate bus routes frequently are restructured into
crosstown and feeder routes to interface more effectively with light rail,
thus opening new, crossways bus corridor service and attracting new bus
ridership. Especially in the fast-growing suburbs, this provides brandnew
transit access to and between new suburban origins and destinations
which have been unaffordable and almost impossible to serve with traditional, radial bus routes.
• Third, the overall transit system gets a better "image" with light rail, and many people who never previously rode transit will hop on a bus, often to access the light rail service.
Here's a few examples of the impact of light rail on overall system ridership.
Sacramento, California installed light rail in 1987.
As a result, Sacramento
Regional Transit's systemwide boardings grew from 14.0 million in 1987 to 26.3 million in 1997 - an 88% increase. Today,
Sacramento's total transit system is considered a whopping success ... and light rail's being expanded.
Portland, Oregon installed its MAX light rail Eastside line in 1986.
MAX annual ridership tripled between 1986-1999. Bus ridership is up over 35% since Eastside MAX opened.
Since Westside MAX opened in September 1998, bus and MAX ridership
increased 137% in that corridor.
St. Louis, Missouri installed its MetroLink light rail system in 1993. it has not only revitalized St. Louis's transit system, driving a major increase in systemwide ridership, but has caused transit ridership throughout the region to surge. Since LRT service was initiated in 1993, total transit ridership has climbed by 16.5 million riders, or about 44%.
However, that doesn't give the complete picture.
Prior to light rail, St. Louis's bus transit system was losing about 2.4
million riders a year. By 1998, that would amount to some 12.1 million
riders lost. Ridership today would be about 25.3 million, not 53.9 million.
Thus, light rail has helped to more than double all transit ridership.
Spark That Makes the System Work
Bottom Line: Far from "robbing" bus service, light rail's proven it's a tremendous benefactor – the spark that can make the whole transit system thrive!
Light Rail Progress Rev. 2001/03/11