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The Stark (and Hopeful) Facts About Bus Ridership

It’s not a death spiral—at least, not yet. Examples abound of how city leaders can turn the numbers around.
A man waits at a bus station in New Orleans.
A man waits at a bus station in New Orleans.Carlos Barria/Reuters

Any frank conversation about building better bus service in American cities must address one fact at the outset: Ridership is in free fall across the country.

Numbers released last month from the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database show a 2.5 percent decline in total transit ridership from 2016 to 2017, with bus ridership leading the way with a 5 percent drop. This nationwide decline in transit ridership has been in progress since 2014, despite growth in U.S. population and employment.