More people are using Valley Metro’s light rail system to get to work, classes and leisure activities in 2010 than they did last year, even with budget cutbacks that caused service reductions in late July.
“More and more people are trying to incorporate it into their daily lives,” says Hillary Foose, spokeswoman for Metro light rail.
About 1 million more people rode the light rail in January through August of this year than did during the corresponding period last year. The month in 2010 with the largest increase in ridership was March, while the month with the smallest increase was May, according to data released by Valley Metro.
Foose says the smaller increases and overall drop in ridership during the summer can probably be attributed to the roads being clearer as people flee the state for cooler climates and that significantly fewer Arizona State University students, who make up about 20 percent of the light rail’s ridership, are attending classes.
Foose says the reasons for the overall increase in ridership include a growing student population and a steady uptick in the number of people who use the light rail to get to events such as games, concerts, museums and restaurants.
“People are using the light rail for more than just their daily commute,” she says. “There’s an emerging culture here.”
Raymond Friend, who lives in Phoenix and has been a light rail passenger almost daily during the past year-and-a-half to get to Tempe, says he has seen an increase in ridership.
“I’ve seen more people recently, especially on game days,” Friend says. “When the Suns or D-Backs are playing it gets really packed now.”
The majority of the light rail’s operating costs are funded by the state from sales tax revenue, while fares cover 25 percent of the expenses.
Reductions in money for public transportation led Valley Metro to trim two hours from the time it offers peak service during weekdays. Peak service frequency was also reduced overall from one train every 10 minutes to one train every 12 minutes.
“We try to make service reductions that are the least impactful to our riders,” Foose says. “And that shows with the growth in ridership.”
According to numbers released by Valley Metro, there were 8,231,413 light rail rides in 2010 from January through August, up from 7,213,736 during the corresponding period last year.
|Month||2009 Rides||2010 Rides|