The Overhead Wire Daily | June 5th, 2024 | Boosting Ridership

June 5, 2024

Interesting news out of Boston as the commuter rail lines of the MBTA are now at close to full pre-pandemic ridership. One of the changes since before the pandemic is running more mid-day train service because all the trains aren’t tied up in peak hour rush. They are also adding later night and weekend service for people going out for entertainment or sporting events as well.

This is a promising sign that there are ways of providing transit service that get results which aren’t dependent on the masses of the rush hour commute. One of the interesting ideas Jarrett Walker shared when we chatted with him a few weeks ago was that there’s more mental space now for systems to be better designed around the 80-90% of society who aren’t the elite rush hour commuters that Jarrett says have in some respects vanished from the system.

This also points to solutions for other parts of our systems as well. There are some great examples of higher ridership on lines that don’t go into the center of cities that have been given frequency boosts like the 22-Filmore here in San Francisco. But also the express bus services that could only make one or two trips with a driver could be running extra frequency on a popular route providing access to more people.

The article notes that MBTA has an advantage over other systems in that they don’t have to wrangle more space for trains from the railroads, but it does show the power of more frequent service and advertising what the system can do for people when given a chance.

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