18 rides, and it’s only noon! (or If the bus agency counted your car trips!)

When transit agencies say their "ridership" is rising and they need more money , BEWARE! What would happen if we counted your car trip the same deceiving way?

When transit agencies say their “ridership” is rising and they need more money , BEWARE! What would happen if we counted your car trip the same deceiving way?

By Richard Canary

Public transit agencies use a statistical twist for counting the number of “trips’ that their customers take in their systems, but I have yet to see them use the same criteria when comparing their services to the private uses of taxpayers driving their own cars.

These are the same cars that the ‘rail’ lobbyists want to get off our roads and the same cars that they blame for so-called grid lock, which is rare in our region of Florida.

If these lobbyists know how many ‘rides’ their passengers take, then they can at least estimate by taking polls how many ‘car trips’ they are replacing.  The comparison between ‘trips’ by car and ‘trips’ by transit would be quite interesting, but probably not to their advantage as they attempt to pry more and more tax dollars from us.

The concept of how the transit industry counts ridership, with a ‘ride’ being any boarding and de-boarding of a passenger on a public transit vehicle can be applied to buses, light rail systems, Uber or Lyft… or to you or me driving our own cars.

I have never seen the estimated ridership figures for personal vehicles in any area, county or city.  Why not?  The only comparison I have seen in this context is the number of cars that can be removed from the roads by building or expanding public transit.

So I did some math on the ‘ridership’ of my own private vehicle, which for other people, could include cars, motorcycles, pick-up trucks, SUVs and vans.

And each person included in such ‘rides’ would be an additional set of numbers for ‘rides’.

I think the numbers will be staggering if applied to an entire county.  And could put the ‘ridership’ arguments used so much by rail and BRT advocates out of business.

As a personal driver, I think of my ‘rides’ as one ‘ride’ consisting of leaving my home and returning to my home.  But if I used the transit industry’s counting system, I would count each stop, in and out of the car at each stop, as one ride.  Ok let’s do a typical busy morning for me.

Leaving the house… arriving at the gas station…(Trip 1.)

Leaving the gas station and arriving at Barnes & Noble..(Trip 2.)

Leaving B&N, arriving at the bank..(Trip 3.)

Leaving the bank, arriving at a resaurant..(Trip 4.)

Leaving restaurant, arriving at grocery store..(Trip 5.)

Leaving grocery store, arriving at home..(Trip 6.)

But, what if I had a friend along with me?  Six more trips.  Two friends or 2 kids, that’s 12 more ‘rides’ putting us up to 18 rides, and it’s only noon!

What would be your typical number of ‘trips’ per day?


Richard Canary is a leader from “No Tax for Tracks”, the group that helped stop the Greenlight Pinellas $1 billion tax hike for Pinellas rail in 2014. He is closely monitoring similar efforts in Hillsborough County called “Go Hillsborough”.

One Reply:

  1. Tom

    My round trip to work requires one transfer in the morning and two going home. So I make 5 trips a day?

    This definition of a trip is accurate if you want an apples to apples comparison of this year to past years. There are more riders now than a few years ago. Many buses are standing room only.

    Better transit would draw even more riders and ease traffic congestion.

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