PHOENIX — Many industries have returned to — or exceeded — levels seen before the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it had on the economy, but one thing still far behind is the public transit ridership.
Phoenix’s public transit operator Valley Metro is still seeing a lot fewer people on its trains and buses than it did before the pandemic.
For fiscal year 2021, which ended last June, Valley Metro reported that total ridership — both buses and light rail — was down more than 57% compared to fiscal year 2019, the last year before a disruption due to Covid-19. The light rail system and new street cars, which are in an expensive — more than $1 billion — process of expanding, have especially seen significant drops in ridership.
“The pandemic has had its impact. There have been fewer events — concerts, games, etc. — and fewer workers traveling to jobs,” said Susan Tierney, the communications manager for Valley Metro. “We had also limited riders to essential workers before vaccinations were available.”
But as life starts to resemble what it was like before the pandemic, there are signs that ridership could be returning.
Monthly weekday ridership numbers for the light rail system, which runs from Mesa to northwest Phoenix, are improving.
In February, which was the most recent ridership report from Valley Metro, there were a total of 564,945 weekday riders on the light rail. That was the highest number of weekday riders in the past 12 months. February’s weekday ridership was up more than 22% from the month before. Fiscal year 2022 is trending ahead of 2021 on ridership as well.
Read more of this story from the Phoenix Business Journal.