Monday, May 4, 2009

How much do you support transit?

I know plenty of people who say that they support better public transit for their city- in fact, most people do, which in some ways makes my job easier. However, ridership for public transport in our city shows that their support is, in many ways, theoretical. The impressive growth of RTA ridership to the unprecedented figure of 800,000 per month is cause for hope, but recall that RTA serves western Riverside county, from Riverside all the way south to Temecula, and east as far as San Jacinto and Hemet. Considering Riverside county boasts nearly 2.5 million people, and extrapolating that probably at least 1.5 million are within RTA's service area (I'm being nice to Banning, Beaumont, Coachella and Blythe here), and further noting that planners estimate around 2.5 trips per person per day... we get a rough mode share of transit in RTA's service area: 0.65%.
(These are back-of-the-napkin calculations. If anyone has better data, do let me know.)

0.65%. Note the decimal.

Now, these numbers are generalized over the entire RTA service area, and so I expect that that number is probably higher in Riverside proper, and much, much lower out on the fringes. Still, it shows the level for real, honest bus-riding support here in Riverside county.

So, how much do you really support transit? Phrased another way, when was the last time you were on a bus or train? Do you have a bus pass in your wallet right now, or a AAA card? How do you get to work or school every day?

We are not going to be able to argue effectively that transit in Riverside is a priority until we can back it up with ridership numbers. If transit were, say, 5% of trips in our city, we would both expose the weakness of the current system and justify massively increased investment into our bus system. Not to mention all the other benefits that riding the bus confers upon the rider and those around them. So, loyal readers, I challenge you: Ride the bus more! Ride the train more! Walk and cycle more! Help us build a sustainable transportation system for our future.

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