How can cities boost transit ridership? Add more bike share - Curbed

Transit ridership is down in nearly every major U.S. city across the country. The prevailing narrative is that those riders are being tugged away by cars, most notably, cars operated by Uber and Lyft.

Improving transit service might be enough to win riders back, but will cost cities money. What if there was a cheaper, more nimble solution cities could deploy? A new study suggests cities might boost ridership by doubling down on bike share.

Presented by University of Kentucky researchers at January’s Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, the study “Understanding the Recent Transit Ridership Decline in Major U.S. Cities: Service Cuts or Emerging Modes?” started out by looking at the connection between service cuts and the loss of transit ridership. As University of Kentucky engineering professor Gregory Erhardt tells Curbed, the researchers believed there was more to the story than just reduced service.

“It didn’t seem intuitive to me that it could all be due to service cuts because most service cuts were introduced during the recession,” says Erhardt. The most dramatic ridership dips didn’t happen a decade ago, but in more recent years.

Using transit data and census data, Erhardt and his team focused on how ridership in seven major cities—Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.—was impacted by a range of factors, including gas prices and car ownership.

While each city faced different challenges, all cities shared two critical turning points, says Erhardt: the introduction of bike share and the introduction of companies like Uber and Lyft (known as “transportation network companies,” or TNCs). The study looked at the period from 2002 to 2018, during which time all seven cities added bike-share systems and TNCs. And the effects were remarkably consistent.

When cities introduced ride-hailing services, transit saw a 1.3 percent per year decrease in heavy rail ridership and a 1.7 percent per year decrease in bus ridership. What’s more, the decrease “builds with each passing year,” according to the study, meaning cities would have to work harder to recoup ridership losses.

Click here to read the full article: