Tuesday, July 21, 2009

ridership down

Hamilton feels transit pinch
2 per cent ridership drop costs $600,000

, Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton’s job losses are also hurting the city’s transit system.

Ridership is down 2 per cent — a $600,000 budget hit.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s connected to the economy,” said transit director Don Hull.

Increased unemployment means fewer people travelling in general, he said, noting other cities with high job losses have also seen a ridership dip.

If cities haven’t seen a drop, it’s likely because they’ve had new service come on line, noted Hull.

Toronto’s ridership, for example, is up nearly 3 per cent. Observers point to service enhancements that started in the last year.

Across the country, it appears transit ridership is holding steady, a welcome surprise given the poor economy, said Michael Roschlau, president of the Canadian Urban Transit Association.

He also credits service improvements and suspects the figures would be much worse without recent investments.

The association is still waiting for firm numbers, but has heard anecdotally from many communities, he said.

Roschlau cautions against cities slashing services to make up for the budget shortfalls. Cuts now will only leads to further ridership losses and mean a longer recovery, he said.

“You start to get in a downward spiral.”

Hull said the city has no plans for cuts, but hopes savings from lower gas prices will offset the lost fare revenue.

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