It was a sluggish summer for Metro light rail, but ridership is ramping up again thanks to a new semester at Arizona State University. Officials estimate the trains were boarded 882,328 times in August, which was far more than in either June or July.
Traffic on the rail dropped from a high of more than one million estimated boardings in April to the system's low-water mark of 750,551 in July. Officials had expected the heat and lack of tourists and students would mean fewer riders, naturally. A price hike went into effect in July, too, boosting the cost of an all-day pass on the light rail (and buses) from $2.50 to $3.50.
We'd say the uptick in August numbers seem to come in spite of the fare increase, but we don't yet know how many riders actually paid the fare in August. Many of the extra riders could have been freeloaders. We put in a request for the latest fare collection estimates and expect Metro to get back to us soon.
Scroll down for the Metro news releases from August and July:
PHOENIX -- METRO light rail ridership totaled 882,328 boardings in August 2009 creating an average weekday ridership of 33,111, average Saturday ridership of 22,575 and average Sunday and holiday ridership of 14,823.
Ridership is again trending positive with the start of schools, particularly ASU, and return of the fall season. ASU began its fall semester on Monday, Aug. 24 and the impact to METRO ridership was immediate. Comparing to the Monday before ASU's start (Aug. 17), METRO served an additional 7,000 passengers on Aug. 24.
After eight months of operation and completion of the system's first summer cycle, METRO ridership remains above all projections.
PHOENIX -- METRO light rail ridership totaled 750,551 boardings in July 2009. The average weekday ridership was 26,554, average Saturday ridership was 22,650 and average Sunday and holiday ridership was 15,151.
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METRO provided service for the first time to patrons of July 4th events along the line. METRO served a total of 32,450 riders on Saturday, July 4 - 67 percent more than a typical Saturday in July.
July's ridership is the lowest since METRO's opening, but it comes at no surprise. "Our experience is in line with what occurs on the Valley's bus system, arterial roadways and highways - there are just fewer people traveling the metro area in the summer months," commented METRO CEO Rick Simonetta. "This is the valley before fall ridership peaks."
It is also worth noting that on July 1 a regional fare increase initiated affecting bus and light rail fares. Although the summer heat and increased fare costs have an impact on ridership, METRO remains above its original projection of 26,000 average weekday riders.
METRO will continue to monitor ridership and report new totals on a regular basis.