MBTA officials trumpet record ridership in October
The T set a record for ridership in October, with more than 37 million passenger trips, the transit agency said Friday.
Previously, October 2013 held the record, with about 36.7 million trips, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said. The new benchmark, 37.3 million, came three months after the MBTA raised fares by 5 percent.
“It’s part of the general trend that we see in big cities throughout America,” said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “More people are postponing getting driver’s licenses, more people are choosing to live without cars or with one car instead of two, more people are trying to avoid parking costs . . . and generally — in big cities across America — public transit is just becoming more popular.”
Boston is among the top US cities in terms of the percentage of the population using public transit, Draisen said, in part because of its ability to serve “the core city and the surrounding suburbs really well.”
The MBTA’s general manager, Beverly Scott, said in a statement the ridership increase shows that “if you provide commuters with safe and reliable public transportation services, they will not be deterred by a modest increase in fares.”
The ridership totals reflect travel on all modes of MBTA transport: the subway, buses, commuter rail, boats, and The Ride, the T’s door-to-door service for the disabled. On an average weekday last month, people took nearly 1.4 million trips on the MBTA.
Draisen said the increased ridership likely also reflects a rise in population in urban communities, which he attributed to more students staying in Boston after graduating, people being willing to rent longer before they buy a home, and an increased willingness to raise children in the city.
“These trends started about 10 or 15 years ago, but they’ve accelerated in the recent past,” he said. “They’ve really accelerated since the Great Recession.”
So far this fiscal year, which began in July, when the fare increases were implemented, ridership is outpacing the previous fiscal year by 1.2 percent, the MBTA said.
Still, significant improvements are desperately needed, Draisen said, to keep Boston’s transit system on par with others throughout the nation.
“The T is woefully underfunded, and that’s despite the fact that ridership has increased,” he said. “Unlike other parts of America, we’re not really responding to that.”