• Will They Ever Return?

  • General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by eolesen
It may seem tangential, but I'd argue that it's sequential or consequential.

The drop in transit usage started with work from home and quarantining. That's undeniable.

Most companies were forced into figuring out the technology for remote working to balance out personal safety and business continuity.

The only real difference here as I see it is that the safety risk has changed from being viral to being criminal.

Sent from my SM-S911U using Tapatalk

  by lensovet
This topic, I believe, originated in the NYC metro forum. It's been moved since, but the point remains — crime or not, I'd rather not extrapolate Chicago's woes to the rest of the country.

As evidenced by the data I've provided in earlier posts, it's visible that the Bay Area, which has more of its workforce in tech, has seen even weaker recovery compared to Chicago, seemingly. OTOH, the NYC metro has rebounded decently well and might actually return to pre-pandemic levels by 2025.
  by Arlington
Will they ever return? is a forecasting problem. Forecasts of human behavior, like whether and how to commute involve understanding human choices. Ridership isn't like radioactive decay--purely a question of time and randomness, it is a question of:

- Need to go to a place ON transit, classically, the Central Business District
- When/How often the need arises
- comparison with the other mode (usually fuel, parking & time of cars...but since 2020, abundant teleworking)

and corresponding nicely...
- Where trains run (related to "need to go to a place")
- When trains run (pattern of service, unidirectional peak? clockface each way?)
- Perceptions of costs, cleanliness, safety, comfort, etc, that influence choice vs other modes

COVID made a permanent change in the value/need to be in the office, generally, and the Central Business District in particular (as the place-of-all-places, the hub of the urban wheel)

I don't know how you'd have a thread worthy of the topic without covering the ongoing way in which these changes are playing out:
- Occupancy (need to get to) in the core...was 95%...is now 50%
- Tue-Thu on-site
- Less rigid 9 to 5 (has favored switch to clockface by transit rather than AM/PM rushing)
- People relocating to "leisure" homes (mountain, lake, sunny)

If we cant talk about WHY the will or wont return--and crime in the core is a worthy topic--, this thread will just be a cemetery of facts--a random dumping ground for individual ridership clippings, or maybe a fight over the definition of "return" or "level comparison" is

https://jabberwocking.com/why-is-office ... n-so-much/
  by Gilbert B Norman
Very ominous report appearing in The Journal today.

Fair Use:
... Another loser has been mass-transit rail systems. Ridership has dropped by 30% nationally as commuters shift from a five-day commuting schedule to two or three days a week. These commuter rail systems have high fixed costs due to inflexible track and train costs, alongside rigid union-controlled labor expenses.

Large drops in ridership revenue translate into larger budget deficits. To date these deficits have been bailed out by pandemic-era federal and state subsidies. But the fear is unless public transit costs can be right-sized, once these subsidies run out they will see devastating service cuts or outright closure. ...
  by west point
The Journal article lumps the whole country into one basket. Not necessary for some systems.
  by daybeers
It's the WSJ...what do you expect...
  by ElectricTraction
There will have to be growth in cities and their metro areas in a transit-friendly way in order to get anywhere close to pre-pandemic levels.

Why? COVID was an accelerant of many things. WAH had already been possible for more than a decade, a lot of companies just hadn't been forced to actually make it work, and now that they have, a significant number of roles in a significant number of companies can be done partially or fully remotely. The change was inevitable, COVID just accelerated in by 10+ years.

We've already gone through several back-and-forth waves of return-to-office and then people slowly going back to more WAH and back and forth, and now that we're 2.5 years out from the vaccine coming out, we're probably halfway to the point where those waves reach some sort of equilibrium with a continuation of the long-term trend towards more flexible working arrangements including part-time and full-time WAH.
  by eolesen
We are now 1.5 years away from the end of the lockdowns (June 2021) in New York and Chicago. I don't know what more people need to see to realize that yes, we are at stasis with regard to WFH and transit recovery.

The MTA is in a position to be more financially secure than other agencies simply because of the unique nature of NYC's non-car culture, but the point made by the WSJ would appear a lot more accurate when you look at what's happening with other systems and their farebox recovery.
  by lensovet
What was farebox recovery on those systems pre-pandemic though? Wasn't it equally bad? I don't know that a system that had a 25% recovery ratio going to 10% is really the end of the world, given it was pretty abysmal to begin with.

Another thing that's been on my mind recently (especially after listening to an episode of Freakonomics here https://freakonomics.com/podcast/should ... ee-update/) is that systems in America really, really, really need to make it drop dead simple to pay for transit. It's mind-boggling how complicated this stuff can be. I was in Seattle a few days ago and despite being technically-savvy it took me a good amount of time to figure out what kind of ticket I needed to ride on transit there. Every single system in America should support tap to pay using credit/debit cards at this point with automatic transfers, fare capping, etc, so that users don't need to have a PhD in fare payment options to be able to ride transit easily (and so that bus drivers can focus on driving buses instead of wasting time waiting for people to fish coins out of their pockets).
  by Gilbert B Norman
Mr. Lensovet, while your notation of the wildly diverse fare collection systems is certainly a deterrent for out-of-town visitors to use mass transit, most of the riders are "regulars who know the drill".

But I certainly agree why any mass transit system cannot accept any credit card (or debit card for the financial discipline challenged, or a prepaid card for the "unbanked") escapes me. Already, for my upcoming trip to Miami next month (Cleveland Orchestra), I'm having some concerns about obtaining my sincle ride tickets for Metrorail, which I use Airport to Metromover (free; or at least the last time I was "down") and my "block away" hotel. I'm also considering an April trip to Atlanta, which would involve MARTA (Airport to Brookhaven hotel, and to Arts Center (Atlanta Symphony); otherwise, I can do without a rental auto. I have their Breeze card, but I don't know if it has expired. At least at the Airport, they have a staffed ticket cage,

Now back to this past August overseas, in Salzburg, the municipal busses accept cash on board and make change up to a €10 bill - and all this while a small girl is safely driving an articulated "trolley bus". In Nurenberg, I found you can buy a day pass good on either mass transit mode (bus or S-Bahn) for €9,00 but my change came back as 20 €0,05 coins - and nobody such as the Trials Museum would accept them. A very nice waitress aboard the DB ICE back to Munich was willing to take them as part of her tip.

This is off topic; so read it before it's killed.
  by lensovet
My screed about fares applies to both though. For some people, the inconvenience of having to pay the fare might be enough to make them "irregulars", and the desire to continue accepting cash at all costs means that operations suffer. Bus drivers have to deal with giving change, potentially dealing with riled up riders who think they should be paying less or don't want to pay, and the machines themselves obviously cost money to maintain, repair, inspect, etc. A contactless reader has no moving parts to break and if it does stop working for some bizarre reason (probability seems pretty low imho), it's a wholesale replacement with another unit and you're on your way.

I do recommend listening to the episode if you have a chance.
  by Gilbert B Norman
lensovet wrote: Tue Dec 19, 2023 7:37 pm . Bus drivers have to deal with giving change, potentially dealing with riled up riders who think they should be paying less or don't want to pay, and the machines themselves obviously cost money to maintain, repair, inspect, etc.
Once again, this small young girl in Salzburg (she looked twentysomething to me and spoke perfect English) could handle it all while safely driving an articulated "trolley bus".
  by hrsn
The TransitWiki page on farebox recovery ratios is fascinating. The larger the ratio, the more vulnerable to operation is to post-pandemic declines. CTA in particular looks to be in trouble, as one of the higher-ratio US systems. And then there are >100% Asian operations....are they actually making money off passengers??
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