Did Covid kill transit

There’s been some conjecture that Covid lockdowns were the death blows that finally killed off American transit, which is, as David Levinson pointed out, always in a state of permanent financial crisis.

I had my students do some digging around to look at the ridership figures from various agencies, and one of my brilliants students, Christopher Winkels, dug up a spreadsheet from APTA.

I struggled a bit with this simply because everything these days is struggles but also because I don’t want to overstate or understate what is going on. By way of explanation, all of these data are December ridership figures. Things started opening up in 2021, and so the best comparison of the come-back I had in the data I felt would be December 2020—middle of the pandemic—to December 2021.

The pre-pandemic by way of comparison is an average of the past three Decembers (2016 to 2019).

What agencies are selected? The ones Lisa was interested, which means all of the big ones, some decent-sized southern systems, and Utah. Why Utah? Dunno. Thought it might be interesting.

Sorry about the over-plotting, but honestly, this was as good as it got.

What is this showing? Well this was my first at the data, what we see here are two points–Dec 2020, and December 2021. They are not compared to each other. Instead ridership in both years is displayed as a percent of the pre-Covid (2019) ridership. I think of this as how well each agency’s ridership has recovered. As we’d expect, 2020 values are smaller, and most agencies seem to be bouncing back decently, so that it’s possible that by next year they could be pretty close to their pre-COVID levels. (They might be there now for all I know; I diddled around so damn long with these data, we might have new data by now.)

What is going on with BART? Did I screw up those data points?

I think the above graphic is really the way to be thinking about where ridership is at and where it is going, but I also data going back 2002 and I felt like I had to use it. Be patient about this one loading: I slowed it down so that I could read it.

These kinds of post usually bring out the mansplainers in droves about how I should have all these differently, what the right way to do them is, and for any dude who feels the need to bug me with those comments…absolutely nothing is keeping you from making your own graphics the right way, the “you” way, Chief. I did these to see if I could learn from them and just decided to share them for sheets and giggles. I think I have a better handle on what’s up, YMMV. Go get ’em.