Some day, the $135 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project might actually become operational. If that ever happens, though, there might not be anyone left to ride it. That's because bus ridership in the city continues to fall.
In the first three months of this year, bus ridership fell by 2.9 percent from the same period in 2017, according to data from the Federal Transit Administration. And since 2012, when bus ridership in the city peaked, ridership has dropped by a whopping 25.3 percent.
And the bus system, ABQ Ride, continues to get less and less of its operating revenue from passenger fares. In 2016, the system had a farebox recovery ratio – the percentage of total operating expense paid by fares – of 7.9 percent, which might be the lowest of any major transit system in the nation.
In the first three months of this year, the bus system had 2,412,447 boardings. That was down by 71,661 from the 2,484,108 boardings from the same period last year.
And it was down by a massive 819,267 boardings from the first three months of 2012 when the system had 3,231,714 boardings, or unlinked passenger trips.
It's hard to say exactly why bus ridership has fallen so massively in the past five years. In the past, a transit department spokesman said the ridership decline wad due to falling gasoline prices and the plunge in oil prices. But the oil crash started in mid-2014, while bus ridership began falling in 2013.
And it's not clear if ART construction along Central Avenue for the past year and a half has led to a decline in ridership. The bus system's busiest routes are on Central.
The plunge in bus ridership in Albuquerque has led to a decline in farebox revenue for the system. Since 2013, fare box revenues have fallen by 10.4 percent, or $467,736. And the system's farebox recovery ration has fallen from 10 percent in 2013 to 7.9 percent in 2016.
Here are the dismal stats regarding how much of the system's operating budget comes from fares:
In 2016, ABQ Ride had an operating budget of $51.4 million. Of that, $4,059,921 came from fares.
And it looks like bus ridership in Albuquerque will continue to fall.
By city law, the basic $1 bus fare will have to increase dramatically between now and 2022.
That's because in 2015, the City Council passed a resolution that says the transit system will have to get at least 25 percent of its operating expenses from fares by 2020. Right now, ABQ Ride is getting 7.9 percent of its $51.4 million operating expenses from fares, according to the Federal Transit Administration. That comes out to $4,059,921 in fares.
And when bus fares rise, ridership usually falls.