News flash: While chatting with BART’s Linton Johnson this evening, I learned that ridership was up for the first quarter of fiscal year 2007 over last year’s July-through-September quarter. People entered and exited the faregates an average 338,897 on weekdays, a 3-percent boost over last year’s 329,369.
But wait, there’s more: I asked Linton to check this against past quarters, and after a few minutes of hmmming on the phone, we had a winner!
Fresh on the heels of setting its all-time Saturday and Turkey Day record ridership, BART has busted its all-time quarterly ridership record, and the trend indicates that it’s likely to break the 12-month record of 331,586 set in FY 2001.
One of the things you gotta love about BART is that every time somebody enters a faregate, ridership numbers get recorded by the computer and Mr. Johnson can punch up nearly instantaneous stats for the area’s insatiable transportation journalists.
Regrettably, it was too late to get a meaningful story into any of our papers, but I’ll do my best to make tomorrow’s story as packed with indispensable analysis as I can fit into 20 inches of copy.
And it is meaningful, really.
I had heard, peripherally, last week that for the first time ever, Americans were driving fewer miles, if only by a little. What’s amazing about that is that miles traveled in our cars and SUVs has only gone in one direction for a quarter century or so.
At the same time, people are taking transit more. Mind you, publi9c transit commuters outside of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut still amount to a small fraction of overall commuters, but this could be a turning point of historic proportions.
Mr. BART and I concurred that this trend started with this summer’s high gas prices and kept on going through the pre-election gas price dive. Now that I think about it, the quarter in question was mostly pricey, so maybe the jury is still out until we get the next quarter’s figures.
Still, I think that ol’ elasticity conversion point may have arrived: Americans are mad as hell and they’re not going to not take transit anymore.
For those of you who have taken transit all along, try to be nicer than usual. There are a lot of new folks on the train and the bus, and we shouldn’t scare them away while gas is still below $2.50 a gallon.