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Transit ridership down in most American cities—but not Detroit

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There were over 240,000 more rides taken in Detroit in 2018

A black bus with “FAST” written on the side and “Welcome Aboard” on a screen above the white window. Courtesy of SMART

After new ridership numbers were released for 2018, some experts declared that public transit was in a state of “emergency.” That’s because, according to an analysis by TransitCenter, ridership fell in most major metropolitan areas in the United States last year.

But several cities bucked the national trend, including Detroit. In the metro area, there were over 240,000 more bus rides taken, and slightly more by paratransit, from 2017 to 2018.

Other cities where ridership grew were Seattle, Pittsburgh, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Las Vegas.

TransitCenter said the key to growing ridership is “overhauling bus service.”

“In almost every American city, bus service carries the majority of trips, so it should be no surprise that cities have to improve bus service to grow ridership. … Detroit expanded frequent service on 10 of their busiest routes by adding 500 trips a week and running them 24/7.”

Starting May 1, there will be even more changes adding convenience to DDOT’s service, including Wi-Fi on buses and the elimination of transfer fees. In 2018, SMART began its FAST express routes, which included one to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. On some, ridership is up 40 percent.