Arizona Republic: “In the last fiscal year, 10 million Valley Metro fares were lost as bus riders returned to their cars or found other forms of transportation, according to figures released by the agency that oversees public transit throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area.”
When the economy sours and there is an increase in the number of people who lose their jobs, the laws of economics dictate that the number of bus riders should go up if all other important factors stay the same. One important factor that probably created the loss in riders is that Valley Metro has cut bus service. It’s simple math to figure out that if fewer buses are making fewer runs, the number of riders will decrease.
If you buy that argument, then when light rail cuts its services should the number of riders increase or decrease? According to the same story, the number of light rail riders increased during the same period bus riders decreased. One reason for the difference is that the bus system suffered much greater cut backs in service than the favored light rail.
A problem with determining the numbers of light rail riders is that the Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa light rail does not count riders as they board the train. Valley Metro, the outfit that runs the light rail, estimates the number of riders because unlike the buses where riders have to give a ticket or money to the driver, nobody checks tickets on the light rail. During the first year of its operation, Arizona State University purchased 35,000 passes for its students. Valley Metro had no way of counting the number of riders using ASU passes so it just assumed a number and pretended like that number of people rode the light rail during the weeks school was in session.