Atlanta’s transit use lags even among Sprawlvilles (EDITED)
The Detroit Free Press has published an interesting comparison of the way some major US cities fund their transit systems. Atlanta’s MARTA is included.
One thing that popped out at me as I looked through the info: even compared to cities of relative size and relative car-dependency — such as Houston and Phoenix — Atlanta’s transit use is unimpressive.
- PHOENIX Ridership: 250,000 weekday daily boardings
- DENVER Ridership: 322,000 average boardings each weekday
- HOUSTON Ridership: 280,000 weekday average
- ATLANTA Ridership: 135,000 daily
(PLEASE SEE EDIT BELOW FOR CORRECT NUMBERS THAT REVEAL A STRANGE MISCALCULATION IN NUMBERS ON THIS LINKED ARTICLE)
I wonder what makes Atlanta ridership pale in comparison to that of these other fairly similar cities. Could it be perception of public transit ridership? Certainly, as we’ve learned recently, Atlanta has the most stark contrasts between the haves and have-nots when it comes to income. That contrast could produce a serious bias against public transportation that goes beyond what exists in the other cities.
Could it be the built environment? Is Atlanta even more sprawling and car-dependent in form than these other places? If so, that could account for such a sizable preference for personal-car transportation. According to a study by Smart Growth America, Atlanta is the 4th most sprawling metro in the US (to be fair — that ranks ATL’s sprawl significantly above the other cities in this transit comparison, giving it a bigger handicap).
I’m sure it’s a combination of these factors and others. And maybe the reason behind the lag is not important. Maybe the important thing is to accept the situation and focus on ways to improve the use and perception of public transportation in Atlanta in order to reduce our car-dependency and work toward a more walkable future for the metro.
Photo by Flickr user marta 190 south fulton
Ack!! It looks like I’ve been duped. In a comment, Waronxmas has kindly directed me to some very impressive numbers on MARTA ridership that strongly conflict with those used in the linked article. The American Public Transportation Association provides these numbers:
Average Weekday MARTA Ridership
Atlanta Metro Atlanta Rapid Tr Auth, HR: 246,500
Atlanta Metro Atlanta Rapid Tr Auth, MB: 222,000
Atlanta Metro Atlanta Rapid Tr Auth, DR: 2,000
Atlanta Metro Atlanta Rapid Tr Auth. TOTAL: 470,400
Thanks, Waronxmas. I’m very happy to be wrong about this. I’ll leave the post above as is though, as evidence that research counts and you can’t base an opinion on a single article.