Jul 13, 2022 - News

Ticket apps and shorter trains: Metro Transit looks to boost ridership with new features

metrotransit
Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Metro Transit is rolling out new safety and convenience features this summer, as the pandemic-battered agency looks to draw riders back to buses and trains.

The big picture: Ridership is up from last year but remains at less than half of 2019 levels.

What they're doing: The agency recently debuted shorter trains as part of a plan to address safety concerns in sparsely populated cars.

  • It also launched a live chat service for fielding questions from riders and is partnering with a third-party app to offer more ways to buy tickets on the go.

What they're saying: "People are starting to get back out into the world and these improvements are all aimed at making our service more attractive to those people who are coming back or who are thinking about riding again for the first time in a while," Metro Transit spokesperson Drew Kerr told Axios.

  • He cited positive signs this summer — last month's Pride weekend was one of the busiest since the start of the pandemic.

Yes, but: Convenience and safety updates alone can't reverse Metro Transit's underlying numbers problem: The embrace of remote and hybrid work means fewer commuters are heading into downtown offices.

  • "It's not necessarily one to one not to say that, as downtown goes we go, but it certainly has an impact," Kerr acknowledged.

Driver shortages are hampering the agency's ability to provide consistent and frequent services for those who do commute or use transit to get to appointments, stores or social outings, Kerr noted.

What to watch: Kerr said the agency is looking into hiring private security to assist Metro Transit police while it continues efforts to recruit and train more full-time officers.

  • "The number of people going into the law enforcement profession has decreased," he said. "And certainly that affects everybody, including us."
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