The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) recognizes safety winners at its Eastern and Southern Region Meeting. Also, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announces that public transportation ridership has risen to more than 70% of pre-pandemic levels.
ASLRRA on Sept. 28 presented plaques to the winners of the Association’s President’s Awards during the general session on the first full day of events at the Eastern and Southern Region Meeting in Atlanta, Ga.
Representatives from eight of the 10 winners were on hand to accept their awards from ASLRRA Eastern Region Vice President Justin Broyles or ASLRRA Southern Region Vice President Ben Tarbutton III (left of award winner) and ASLRRA President Chuck Baker and Board Chair Stefan Loeb (right of award winner).
Below are photos of the winners. Not pictured are Conrad Yelvington Distributors, winner in the Southern Region’s more than 500,000 person-hours worked category, and Railserve Switching, Southern Region winner in the 50,000 to 150,000 person-hours worked category.
ASLRRA’s Central and Pacific Region Meeting will take place Oct. 25-27 in Milwaukee, Wisc., “offering one more opportunity for short line industry stakeholders to benefit from the robust educational offerings and productive networking opportunities available at an ASLRRA event,” the Association says.
According to APTA’s Ridership Trends Dashboard, the public transportation industry saw ridership rebound to more than 70% of pre-pandemic levels in September, a “continuation of an upward trend reflective of a nation emerging from the pandemic,” the Association announced in a release on Sept. 28.
The COVID-19 pandemic, APTA says, had an “immediate and significant impact” on public transportation ridership with ridership declines beginning in mid-March 2020, coinciding with stay-at-home emergency orders in many cities and states across the country. According to the data, ridership declined to a low point of 10-40% of pre-pandemic levels in many cities. After falling to 20% of pre-pandemic levels in April 2020, ridership has recovered to more than 70% of pre-pandemic levels. This rise in ridership, APTA says, “is reflective of transit agencies adapting to the swiftly changing needs of their communities while delivering safe, reliable service.”
“Public transit agencies suffered catastrophic blows to ridership when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March 2020,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “Systems saw significant declines in ridership as offices closed and Americans were urged to work from home for extended periods. But now, as we see more workers return to the office, more students return to school, and more community destinations, such as restaurants, theaters and retail stores reopen their doors, agencies from coast-to-coast are seeing a rise in ridership,” Skoutelas added. “Throughout the course of this pandemic, transit systems have provided mobility to essential workers and earned riders’ trust every day by remaining vigilant about their health, safety, and cleaning protocols as new variants of the coronavirus continued to emerge. Even though workers in many cities continue to work from home, at least on a part-time basis, we are seeing steady growth in ridership and are optimistic those trends will continue. As the latest data shows, public transportation continues to move people and shape the future of our communities.”
Although all public transit modes saw significant decreases in ridership, according to the data, rail modes had larger decreases compared to bus modes. During the early part of the pandemic, rail ridership decreased to 10% of pre-pandemic levels in April 2020, while bus ridership decreased to 28% of pre-pandemic levels.
In general, “bus modes have been able to retain more riders than rail modes because they generally serve more essential workers, while rail modes serve more office commuters,” APTA says. “During the pandemic, rail riders have been more likely to have options to work from home.”
According to the data, bus ridership has seen a “relatively steady increase” since February 2021, and rail ridership shows a “sustained increase” from April to June 2021, and another increase in September and October 2021, coinciding with the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines, and the post-summer return to school and offices, respectively. All modes, APTA says, show the impact of the Omicron wave in January 2022, although rail ridership recovered more quickly from the Omicron wave than bus ridership.
Looking at the individual modes, demand response has recovered the most ridership, reaching 74% of pre-pandemic levels in June 2022; bus ridership is next highest at 66% of pre-pandemic levels; heavy and light rail are both at 61% of 2019 ridership; and commuter rail is currently at 54% of pre-pandemic levels.
“Commuter rail historically has seen increased ridership with high gas prices, but current data shows that the spring and summer gas price increases did not drive an increase in ridership,” APTA says. Of note, the Association adds, regions with the highest gas prices are also the ones with the most extensive commuter rail systems impacting regional ridership return.
APTA says its Ridership Trends Dashboard “helps the public transit industry track ridership trends in real time.” This tool, built in partnership with the Transit app, “allows APTA members and the public to compare ridership between agencies, regions and national trends.” The Ridership Trends Dashboard combines APTA’s ridership report data with app usage information from Transit to predict ridership levels each week, with new data posted each Monday. The Ridership Trends dashboard has weekly predictions going back to January 2020 and includes ridership trends for 130 agencies, APTA says.
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