Costs Up, Ridership Down: 2018 National Transit Database

Taxpayers spent nearly $3.75 billion more subsidizing transit in 2018 than the year before, yet transit carried 215 million fewer riders, according to the latest data released by the Federal Transit Administration. The increase in spending didn’t even translate to an increase in service, as transit agencies provided 44 million fewer vehicle miles of service in 2018.

In percentage terms, subsidies rose by 7.4 percent while ridership fell by 2.1 percent and vehicles miles of service fell by 0.9 percent. These numbers are from the 2018 National Transit Database, a series of 30 spreadsheets summarizing the annual performance of all of the nation’s transit agencies that have received federal support (which is nearly all of them). Numbers in the database are based on each agency’s fiscal year, so may not exactly agree with calendar year numbers calculated from the monthly updates.

Total transit ridership in 2018 was lower than any year since 2006. Bus ridership has plummeted to be lower than any year since 1940, when streetcars still carried almost half of all of the nation’s transit riders.