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Down, down, down

February 23, 2017

According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, the Austin area is leading the nation when it comes to shedding transit ridership. Pretty cool for a city where, each year, the average driver spends nearly two full days of her life stuck in traffic.

From 2015 to 2016, after politicians had admonished us to Bite Back Against Traffic before then urging us to Get Austin Moving Again, Capital Metro sloughed off 3.9 million transit trips. That 11.9 percent drop places this Progressive Paradise behind Washington, D.C., where the transit system is actively killing people.

In a big city with such a big problem, ascribing blame is no simple venture. Whether Austin’s growing disinterest in transit over the years is a function of falling gas prices, higher fares, the exodus of low-income residents from the urban core, UT’s shrinking contribution for shuttle service, bad weather, Uber and Lyft, a century of government-mandated car dependence, or perhaps the prevailing planners’ religion that focuses on regional commutes above all other trips, I am not qualified to say! But here, for your delight and whimsy, is a snapshot of how Capital Metro’s performance has changed in the past decade:

 2006  2016
Austin population 730,729 931,830
Mass transit trips* 34,394,181 28,968470
Hours of service 1,137,563 1,345,306
Miles of service 15,224,358 17,148,062
Passengers per mile 2.26 1.69


*(for this exercise, ‘mass transit’ includes all daily bus and rail services variously available in each year, i.e. MetroBus, MetroRapid, MetroExpress, UT Shuttles, MetroRail, and the ‘Dillos [RIP]. excluded are the on-demand services such as MetroAccess, CARTS, and special event service)

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