McAllen boasts biggest uptick in public transit ridership nationwide, but total of riders here low - The Monitor: News

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McAllen boasts biggest uptick in public transit ridership nationwide, but total of riders here low

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Posted: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 7:11 pm

The McAllen metro area can boast the largest jump in bus passenger miles per resident in the country during the second half of the last decade. But not that many people here ride the bus compared to other Texas metros.

The number of passenger miles traveled on public transit per capita in the McAllen metro area jumped 366 percent between 2005 and 2010 — the largest such increase in the United States.

The revelation was featured in “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” a new report set to be released today by the Texas Public Interest Research Group, or TexPIRG, an Austin-based consumer advocate.

Sara E. Smith, program director at TexPIRG, said McAllen’s first-in-the-nation growth in per capita public transit use comes from a small proportion of riders in 2005 that rose in subsequent years.

But despite the growth, McAllen’s ridership is relatively low when compared to Texas’ larger metropolitan areas with more extensive public transit systems, Smith said. 

McAllen’s passenger-miles traveled on a city bus per resident went up from 0.17 mile to 0.79 mile — a large percentage jump, but low overall. That compares with 109 miles per capita in El Paso, 130 miles per capita in San Antonio and 145 miles in Austin.

The study also found that 3 percent fewer people in McAllen drove themselves to work between 2000 and the period from 2007 to 2011, while the number of workers who worked from home went up 1.8 percent.

“There’s still not as many folks in McAllen using public transit” as in other cities, Smith said. “But the number is important because it’s showing that not just huge metropolitan areas are using public transit. It’s pretty universal.”

Despite the low overall ridership, Metro McAllen has experienced strong growth since the city assumed its operations in 2005.

From October 2012 through June 2013, the bus system logged 531,900 passenger trips — about 80,000 rides more than the previous nine-month period, according to KVEO-TV.

Ridership statistics from Metro McAllen were not immediately available on the city’s website Tuesday. A call to Transit Director Elizabeth Suarez was not returned. 

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