Saint Louis Metro Ridership Up, but MetroLink Ridership Down
The latest data released by the national transit database shows the continued, albeit slow, recovery of transit ridership in the Saint Louis area. The annual moving average of MetroLink and MetroBus ridership had their most recent peak in October 2008, before sharply declining in the recession.
But since the recession, transit ridership has been on a steady recovery. Continuing that trend, from January 2014 to January 2015, Metro increased passenger trips by 1 percent. This increase has encouraged leading regional transit advocates, who call for more investment in transit and even a new North-South MetroLink line in the city.
However, the growth in Metro’s ridership should be taken in perspective. For one, ridership is still well below Metro’s prerecession peak of 58 million (reached in October 2008). As of last January, total annual ridership stood at just 47 million trips.
In a bit of irony, while transit enthusiasts are generally rail focused in their plans to improve Saint Louis’ public transportation, buses, not rail ridership, have accounted for the increased transit ridership in the past year. MetroLink ridership actually decreased in 2014 by some 200,000 riders. With total annual monthly ridership more than 30 percent below its prerecession peak, it is reasonable to conclude that rail ridership in Saint Louis has not had a recovery.
In short, Metro ridership is increasing, but the growth is slow and prerecession highs are far from being matched. In addition, most of the recovery in ridership has occurred on MetroBuses, not the MetroLink. There may be many reasons for wanting to expand transit (and even rail transit) in Saint Louis, but spiking transit demand is not one of them.