Cautioning that one week of ridership does not forecast any specific outcome, Hampton Roads Transit officials nonetheless expressed satisfaction over ridership numbers notched by The Tide as light rail transit notched its first week of revenue service in Norfolk, Va.
HRT forecasts 2,900 trips per weekday on the 7.4-mile system in its first year. But ridership exceeded that level each day between Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, including on weekend days, averaging 6,500 trips. Ridership on Saturday, Sept. 3, was the highest, at 9,158 trips.
“It's pretty gratifying,” HRT spokesman Tom Holden said. “We've gotten very strong response from the public. We've had thousands more customers than projected. We've had lines at stations of people buying tickets. And we’re getting consistently positive responses, and enthusiastic responses, about expanding the system.”
Holden and HRT President and CEO Philip Shucet tempered their optimism by noting they still needed to see a longer-term trend before evaluating ridership numbers.
“After the Labor Day weekend and people are back to work and back at school - we'll see if there's a thrill-is-gone type deal,” Shucet said. “Or we'll see if it's like more traditional transportation projects where the numbers ramp up as everyone gets familiar with the service. It’s hard to say.”
Shucet’s observation gels with many other U.S. LRT projects which built ridership up over time. As one example, New Jersey’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit (HBLRT) line drew just 4,100 riders on its first day of revenue service in April 2000. HBLRT today serves more than 40,000 riders per weekday.