Metro recorded more than 15.2 million rides last year, compared to
14.7 million rides in 2013. This is the first time Metro has tallied more
than 15 million rides in a single year (See Metro's ridership since 1970).
This increase compares to a slightly decreasing trend in bus ridership
on a national level.
According to the The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), bus ridership decreased nationally by 1.1 percent. However, in small and medium size population groups, bus ridership saw percentage increases of 2.0 and 0.5 respectively.
Metro Transit’s continued increase in ridership can be attributed to a number of factors, explained Metro Transit General Manager Chuck Kamp. One of the main reasons we’re seeing is the increase use of smartphones which makes using the bus easier than ever.
“These apps have made bus-riding easier and more efficient,” Kamp said. “In addition, using mass transit for your commute provides a 25th hour to your day. You can get on the bus and use your mobile device to catch up on emails, read the news, or get an early start or late finish to your workday.”
Metro also continues to discover that Millennials are more interested in utilizing mass transit than purchasing a car. According to a 2014 report Millennials in Motion released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), the Millennial generation is less car-focused than older Americans and previous generations of young people.
However, with this success, also comes challenges.
Metro’s two largest number of passenger complaints are buses being overcrowded and that buses have trouble maintaining their schedules.
In 2013, a transit study was completed that examined the possibility of implementing a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) in the Madison area. A bus rapid transit (BRT) is a high-frequency limited-stop transit system that offers faster more direct service using larger vehicles to increase capacity. This study was undertaken to identify ways to alleviate overcrowded buses, reduce travel times, and meet a goal set by the City of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin to double ridership in the next 10 to 20 years.
On February 3 of this year, the City of Madison Common Council voted to accept the 2013-2017 Transit Development Plan for the Madison Urban Area which recommended that a BRT could help the City achieve its long-term strategic transportation planning and urban development goals. As part of this vote, the Council authorized Metro to move forward on next phases of development, environmental evaluation, and project implementation of this type of system.
Metro is also in need of additional funding to undertake the construction of a much-needed bus garage. Metro currently houses 214 full-sized buses and 17 paratransit vehicles in a garage designed to only hold 160 vehicles. Even if funding were available to purchase extra buses, Metro currently does not have the space to store them.
“These are exciting times and we look forward to the challenges ahead,” Kamp said. “Though, at this point, we need to celebrate and recognize our safe and dedicated drivers, maintenance staff, customer service representatives and all other Metro employees whose contributions have helped get us to the level we are at today.
“And most importantly, we want to recognize our passengers, oversight committee members, legislators, and everyone else that has supported Metro through the years. It is only with this strong and sustained support that Metro is able to achieve this type of success.”