Jan 2, 2024 - News

Houston transit ridership struggles post-pandemic

Data: American Public Transportation Association; Note: Includes bus, rail, ferry and other modes; Chart: Axios Visuals

Public transit ridership in the Houston metro area is still struggling to recover from the pandemic.

By the numbers: Public transit ridership in the Houston metro area is at 86% of pre-pandemic levels, per American Public Transportation Association (APTA) data.

  • In September, there were about 6.4 million trips in Houston — down from about 7.5 million in September 2019.

Why it matters: Public transit — whether in the form of buses or light rail — is key to cities' broader health and vibrancy.

  • It makes for cleaner, greener cities, opens up possibilities for those who can't afford a car, and frees up parking lots to be turned into housing, green space and more.

Plus: There's also been a staggering decline in the number of walking trips Houston residents take.

The big picture: Most major U.S. metros have yet to see transit ridership recover fully, especially as remote work is still prevalent.

  • Although some of the country's biggest public transit systems have been showing signs of life recently, nationally, ridership stood at 77% of pre-pandemic levels in November, per APTA's latest data.

The bottom line: While it may take years for public transit ridership to reach pre-pandemic levels, some people continue to rely on public transit as their main mode of transportation.

Go deeper: Houston light rail turns 20.

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