Public Transportation Use Dropping in Hawai‘i and Elsewhere

Aug 18, 2017

Credit Simon_sees / Flickr

Compared to several years ago, the number of people using public transportation is dropping. That’s according to a study that finds the pattern to be true on the mainland—and also here in Hawai‘i. We get more from Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier.

American City Business Journals has analyzed government data on public transit use in cities across the nation and found that people have been foregoing public transportation. In Honolulu, for example, passenger trips taken on public transit declined nearly seven percent over the five-year period from 2012 to 2016. About 72 million rides per year dropped to nearly 68 million rides.

This is despite increased service. Busses in Honolulu ran for a combined 1.75 million hours in 2012, but nearly 2 million hours last year.

The declines are nationwide, and vary by region. The biggest drop was in Idaho, with a one-year drop in public transportation usage of more than 24 percent. Even famously  transit-friendly cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. saw people decline to to hop on a bus or train. Passenger boardings in the Windy City in 2016 declined 3 percent over one year, in D.C., nearly 8 percent. The city with the greatest decline was Austin, Texas, with 11 percent fewer boards in 2016 over 2015.

The national data in this week’s cover story goes back 15 years and show a spike in transit use during the Great Recession. Transportation experts say the declines in ridership since then can be attributed to such factors as lower gas prices, a recovering economy and the rise of more convenient options, such as Uber and Lyft.