SEPTA says ridership has rebounded from dip during Omicron wave
Ridership on SEPTA's buses, subways and trolleys is just half of what it was in 2019.
- Yes, but: It has rebounded from a dip during the Omicron wave to what the transit agency says are some of the highest numbers recorded since the pandemic began.
State of play: SEPTA officials blame the rise of remote work and lingering COVID-19 fears for low ridership in 2022.
- The agency is also still struggling with a driver shortage and is in search of 200 operators.
- "We don't know if it's possible to get to pre-COVID levels," SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch told Axios.
By the numbers: In 2019, the city's public transportation agency had about 900,000 one-way passenger trips on buses and subways, every weekday.
- That figure is now around 450,000 passengers per day.
Flashback: SEPTA took the biggest hit in the early days of the pandemic, with traffic plummeting by 90% between March and April 2020.
- For months, SEPTA lost $1 million every day thanks to the lack of revenue from ticket sales.
- Come June 2021, ridership grew to 40% of pre-pandemic levels, after the agency rolled back its COVID capacity limits and people started to get vaccinated against the virus.
- Ridership continued to see modest increases, but it dipped to 40% again this January, during the height of the Omicron surge.
Between the lines: Although the pandemic accelerated SEPTA's issues, ridership had already been on the decline.
- Between 2014 and 2019, SEPTA's bus ridership dipped by 13%.
- Fiscal year 2019 had the lowest overall ridership counts of the past decade.
What they're saying: Busch said the agency continues to operate largely because of the $1.5 billion in federal help. It's expected to last until 2024.
- The agency also increased cleaning operations and expanded its police force to quell safety concerns, but it hasn't done much for enticing passengers back.
The bottom line: Ridership levels aren't expected to return to normal anytime soon.
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