ABQ bus ridership in free fall. Seven years of falling ridership. Off 32 percent.
Albuquerque bus ridership is in a near free-fall as boardings on the system fell by 32.4 percent in the first two months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2012 when ridership peaked.
On a yearly basis, bus ridership was down 26.1 percent last year from the peak in 2012, according to figures from the Federal Transit Administration. And for the first two months of this year, ridership is down 10 percent from the same period in 2018.
Even worse, while the city's bus system is taking in less money from riders than it has in past years, and the percentage of its operating expense that it gets from fares has fallen steadily since 2013, it is putting more of your tax dollars into the system.
Here's an example: In 2013, ABQRide got 10 percent of its operating revenue from fares, which totaled $4.5 million. The system's operating budget, which comes from city taxpayers, was $43.2 million.
In 2017, the system got 7 percent of its operating budget from the $3.6 million in brought in through fares. And that year the system's taxpayer subsidy was $52 million. That 7 percent farebox recovery ratio is quite possibly the lowest in the nation.
City transit officials have long blamed the massive decline in ridership on cheap gas prices, but ridership began falling in 2013, long before the price of oil began to plummet in mid-2014. And the biggest complaint about riding the buses here is that they're, in the word of a retired TV news reporter, “Rolling Flophouses.” Unlike real cities where pretty much everyone rides public transit, ABQ's ridership is prety much parolees, drunks, drug addicts and assholes who glare at you the instant you step on to a bus.
I'll never forget the guy from Mayor Louis Saavedra's administration who told the city councilors, “We'll keep the buses running until someone decides to ride them.”
People—taxpayers—you're paying for this. How many of you ride the bus?
And the massive drop in bus ridership comes at a time when the city is trying to throw more and more money at the system and the controversial and inoperable Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. Mayor Tim Keller's proposed budget is looking to throw $2.4 million at ART in a proposed transit department budget of $56 million for the coming fiscal year.
Here's a quick look at the numbers. In 2018, the bus system had 9,613,883 boardings. In 2012, the peak year, boardings totaled 13,003,221. That's a loss of 3,389,338 boardings, or 26.1 percent, in five years.
And for the first two months of this year compared to 2012 the statistics are simply shocking. Boardings for January and February of this year totaled 1,406,021. For the same period in 2012, the system had 2,138,002 boardings. That's a loss of 732,000 boardings, or 32.4 percent.
Here's the situation in a bunch of graphs: