METRO: Transit ridership fell 53% in May compared to last year

METRO saw a 53% drop in total monthly ridership in May 2020 compared to last year. Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
METRO saw a 53% drop in total monthly ridership in May 2020 compared to last year. Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County

METRO saw a 53% drop in total monthly ridership in May 2020 compared to last year. Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County

May numbers released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County on June 24 report a more than 50% drop in ridership numbers compared to last year.

Including the commuter and local network, about 3.4 million riders utilized METRO transport in May, down from 7.2 million a year ago, according to the report.

Ridership on local buses, light rail, and passenger numbers for Park & Ride were all down significantly by an average of 49%.

The ridership decline has remained steady for the last few months, since March, when METRO reported nearly 5.6 million riders using its METRORail, bus, and Park & Ride services, a nearly 25% drop from 7.4 million at the same time last year. April fared worse, with a nearly 58% drop year over year in ridership, with 3.1 million riders compared to 7.3 million the year before.

The transit authority’s sales tax revenue has taken a hit as well, according to a June 17 finance and audit committee report.

According to the report, METRO received sales tax revenue in June totaling $53.5 million, $10.6 million less than last year, and $9.8 million under what was estimated. June sales tax revenue is from April sales activity.

In its local network overview, METRO noted the major contributing factor to the significant ridership decrease comes as a result of COVID-19.

Other factors that contributed negatively to ridership referenced in the report include a calendar mix of two fewer weekdays for service and one more Saturday and Sunday relative to the previous year, the effect of Harris County’s “Stay Home, Work Home” order and service level adjustments.

The ridership decline comes as METRO continues to see employees and contractors testing positive for the virus.

For example, a June 25 news release from the transit authority announced three bus operators, a systems specialist, a First Transit contract street supervisor, and a service coordinator and contract administrator tested positive for COVID-19. With those new cases, the total number of positive cases within the transit authority number 50 METRO employees and 11 contractors. Twenty-five of the employees had no contact with the public.

METRO also set in place a new rule June 25 requiring all riders, employees, contractors and visitors to wear a face covering in all vehicles, facilities and transit centers. As a result, the transit authority will return to fare collection beginning July 12.

By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.


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