St. Louis Public Transport Trend
In Passenger Miles: 1990-1995

Analysis to Factor Out Double Counting
From Implementation of Light Rail

Between 1990 and 1995, St. Louis opened a light rail line that accounts for an inordinately large percentage of boardings (approximately 25 percent). During the same period other public transport systems opened new rail lines or expanded rail services, but in no metropolitan area was the rail ridership high enough in relation to existing services to significantly skew passenger "boarding" figures upward due to double counting (from new forced transfers between buses and rail).

Ridership in St. Louis had declined by nearly 50 percent from 1980 to 1990. The Bi-State Development Agency undertook an aggressive program to coordinate bus and rail services, truncating many routes at light rail stations. As a result, many trips that formerly required a single boarding now require two boardings, as transfers are forced from buses to light rail. This effect is to exaggerate the apparent increase in total transit boardings and per capita boardings.

A review of passenger mile data indicates the extent of the exaggeration.

  • From 1990 to 1995, passenger miles increased 3.3 percent, considerably less than the 15.8 percent increase in boardings.

  • From 1990 to 1995, passenger miles per capita increased 1.1 percent, instead of 13.3 percent.

Assuming a constant average trip length, the net increase in transit ridership over the period is estimated at 5,000. This represents approximately 1/8 of gross light rail ridership. The actual increase, however, could be less because the more circuitous trips likely to have been caused by light rail could have lengthened the average trip, which would mean that the increase in passenger miles was greater than the increase (if any) in passenger journeys.

Year Population Boardings Passenger Miles
1990 2,492 44,350 192,048
1995 2,548 51,169 198,581
Change 2.2% 15.4% 3.4%
Per Capita Change --- 12.8% 1.1%
Amounts in thousands.

Source: Federal Transit Administration National Transit Database

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