The tremendous success of MetroRapid


Two-and-a-half months ago, when I was writing an article for the Chronicle about Cap Metro’s improving ridership figures, I asked the transit agency for ridership data for each route. They told me they didn’t want to do that so soon after the overhaul of the routes (Cap ReMap). I suspect they wanted to focus on the positive news about the systemwide ridership gains, and didn’t want people wigging out about declines on certain routes. Like a good reporter, I politely disregarded their preference and requested the data anyway. Like good government gatekeepers, they responded with silence. And as is often the case in such instances, I decided that I didn’t actually care enough about the information to raise a stink about it, plus I had a deadline to meet.

Alas, it was only a couple weeks after stonewalling me that Cap Metro published the route-specific figures on its website. I was just belatedly perusing the September figures and a few things struck me:

MetroRapids are killing it. It’s hard to understate just how dramatically the fortunes for CapMetro’s two “MetroRapid” routes (the 801 & 803) have changed since the agency stopped charging 50¢ more for those routes. Daily ridership on both routes has nearly doubled since the fall of 2016.

801: 5,868 –––> 11,052

803: 3,414 ––––> 6,008.

Now, because service on 801 & 803 has improved (lower fare, greater frequency, a few more stops), ridership on Routes 1 & 3 (nearly the same routes, except a lot more stops) has declined.

1: 6,165 –––> 3,799

3: 4,127 –––> 3,580.

But the overall ridership on those two corridors has increased.

801/1: 12,033 –––> 14,859

803/3:  7,541 –––> 9,588.

More importantly, the plunge in ridership those two corridors experienced after the introduction of MetroRapid in 2014 (and the marginalization of the 1 & 3, whose frequency was decreased) has been reversed. Back in the fall of 2012, the daily ridership on the 1 and 101 was 17,417. Still work to do on that. But ridership on the 3 and 103 was 5,197, just over half of current 803/3 ridership.

The particularly great increase in ridership on the 803/3 corridor may correspond with the rapid development of new apartment buildings on S. Lamar.

New Frequent Routes Are Mostly Working. Here’s how the frequent routes are doing compared to two years ago. The ones in red were already frequent.

2: 823 –––> 1,080

4: 1,219 –––> 1,870

7: 7,868 –––> 7,494

10: 4,378 –––> 7,401

17: 2,341 –––> 1,663

18: 957 ––––> 1,240

20: 4,208 ––––> 6,078

300: 5,967 –––> 7,194

311: 1,356 –––> 2,236

325: 2,363 –––> 3,318

333: 1,389 –––> 1,772

335: (Didn’t exist) ––––> 705

*A couple things to note. First, some of these routes were substantially reconfigured back in June, so it’s hard to determine to what extent the ridership increase is the result of the increased frequency. Second, it’s still unclear whether some of the ridership boosts have come from increased transfers, which Cap Metro anticipated when it implemented a more logical, grid-based system of routes.

As you can see, 7 has declined slightly and 17 has declined significantly, but the others have also seen ridership increases, some very dramatic. The new route, the 335, which runs east-west along 38th Street, is not doing very well. I wonder how its performance compares to Cap Metro’s projections.

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Correction: I previously erroneously reported that daily ridership on the  801/1 was 17,217. In fact, the ridership is 14,859, and I neglected to take into account the old 101 in my assessment of that corridor (see update at beginning). Thanks to Caleb Pritchard for pointing out my error.  

6 thoughts on “The tremendous success of MetroRapid

    1. Probably. But then the next question is should the 325 be added into the “current” total?

      In its post-remap route it’s the closest match to the northern section of the 1M (which is getting included in the 2012 total). The pre-remap compare was easier, as the 275 was basically a drop-in replacement for the north 1L.

      1. “Long story short, the 801/1 is still not where the 1/101 we’re back in 2012.”

        Again, this doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case. Or rather, you’re comparing apples to oranges. You’re comparing the ridership on Metric + Lamar in 2012 to ridership on just Lamar in 2018.

  1. “Back in the fall of 2012,”

    Why look at 2012, and not 2013?

    The fact is that there was a _significant_ decline in ridership in the corridors from 2012 to 2013 (about 2k or 10%). Before any changes from Metrorapid.

    ” The new route, the 335, which runs east-west along 38th Street, is not doing very well.”

    It should also be noted that this route is shorter than many others (and cheaper to run). It would be interesting to also examine performance /stop and /mile. For instance, the 333 appears to be about twice the distance and ~%150 more stops.

  2. Also worth noting that the 335 basically covers the northern segments of the canceled and much mourned 21/22. The new 322 is the eastern piece of that route. I”m not sure what the 322 ridership is, but last fall the combined 21/22 ridership was only 1,100.

  3. Any one else read this article? It turns out that, nationally, transit ridership has been declining over the past few years. Cap Metro actually has done better than cities like Portland.

    Of course, the article is based on 2017 data, before the Remap route changes. We may have to face the unpleasant truth that, when next year’s report is done, Cap Metro will come out as the top transit utility in the country for ridership retention. Oh the humiliation!

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