Bus riders continued bailing on SEPTA in 2018, bringing it to its worst ridership numbers in nearly 20 years.
SEPTA has lost riders for four straight years — almost entirely from buses, the most recent data from the Federal Transit Administration showed. The transit agency lost 14 million bus trips from 2017 to 2018, the data showed, an 8 percent decline.
Of the 308.5 million trips on SEPTA last year, roughly half were provided by a bus. That bus rider count, 155 million trips, is the lowest SEPTA has reported since 2002, the earliest year covered by the federal database, and is the worst overall ridership across all of SEPTA’s modes since 2003. That decline has come even as Philadelphia has grown by about 82,000 people, as of 2017. Regional Rail and subways both reported modest ridership gains in 2018, but not nearly enough to offset bus losses.
The federal data are based on preliminary counts, and 2018′s ridership numbers may improve as SEPTA gathers more accurate information, but the downward trend is likely to hold.
“It’s troubling,” said Christopher Puchalsky, director of policy and strategic initiatives for the city’s transportation office, which has been central to an effort to revitalize bus service. “We’re not looking to lose ridership. We’re not even looking to tread water here.”
Getting riders back onto buses would help the city, he said, by reducing congestion and air pollution, and providing better access to jobs for the city’s poorer neighborhoods.