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ABQ bus ridership plunges again; 25% decline since 2012

The long free-fall of bus ridership in Albuquerque continued in 2017 as boardings fell by 10.6 percent from the previous year.

And since 2012, when bus ridership peaked, yearly boardings have fallen by nearly 3.26 million, or an astonishing 25 percent.

According to the Federal Transit Administration, bus boardings in Albuquerque totaled 9.7 million in 2017, down from 10.9 million in 2016, and from 11.8 million in 2015.

Officials for the city's bus system, ABQ Ride, have previously blamed the dramatic fall in ridership on lower oil and gas prices. But, as you can see from the graph below, ridership began declining in 2013. Oil prices didn't start plunging until mid-2014.

It's hard to say exactly why ridership has fallen off so dramatically. The $135 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project down a nine-mile stretch of Central Avenue could be a factor. Central is the city's busiest route and accounts for 32 percent of the bus system's total ridership. And an ABQ Ride spokesperson didn't respond to an ABQReport email asking about the most recent ridership data for specific routes.

Construction on ART began in October of 2016, and traffic along the route was greatly disrupted. Ridership data for individual bus routes for the city's fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017, aren't yet posted on the city's website.

Nationally, public transportation ridership was down by 3.1 percent for the first nine months of 2017 compared to the previous year, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Through the first nine months of 2017, there were 7.6 billion boardings, or unlinked passenger trips. That compares to 7.8 billion boardings through the first nine months of 2016.

Heavy rail ridership was down by 2.24 percent; light rail was down by 0.17 percent; and commuter rail was down by 0.15 percent for the first nine months of 2017.

And during the first three quarters of 2017, bus ridership declined in 34 of the 37 largest bus systems in the U.S., according to APTA.

Here's a look at bus ridership declines at some of the nation's largest bus systems:

Atlanta: -3.39%

Boston: -8.14%

Chicago: -4.3%

Cleveland: -8.15%

Detroit: -13.4%

Denver: -4.8%

Milwaukee: -5.4%

Pittsburgh: -1.66%

Portland: - 1.83%

Seattle: -0.03%

St. Louis: -6.47%

New York: -5.6%

Washington, D.C.: -4.76%

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