Atlanta Releases Nation’s Largest Survey of Transit Riders

AtlantaIncome.pngAtlanta’s transit riders tend to be lower-income residents, a new survey shows. Image: Atlanta Regional Commission

Who takes transit? That’s what the Atlanta Regional Commission is trying to figure out with what it calls the largest-ever survey of riders in the United States. The commission spoke to 50,000 transit riders, a full ten percent of the region’s total ridership, on all of Greater Atlanta’s seven transit systems. 

Planners intend to use the data to beef up their computer models, but these answers also help show, with the cold clarity of statistics, just whom transit serves. Member blog Decatur Metro does the valuable service of compiling the most important data from the full report [PDF] and putting it online for all to see. Here are a few points that really stuck out:

AGE: Over 50% of those transit riders surveyed are between 18 and 34 years old; with those between 18 and 24 years old representing the largest single group at 26.3%.

INCOME: The most frequently reported income category was $20,000 to $29,000 per year. The range of $30,000 – $39,999 was the second largest income range while below $5,000 was the third largest segment. Over a third of the transit riders (35.7%) have a total annual household income less than $20,000 while 12.6% had a total annual household income over $75,000.

RACE: More than 70% of transit riders surveyed identified themselves as African American/Black. Almost 21% of riders surveyed identified themselves as White. Those identifying themselves as Asians, American Indians, and Other represented more than 8% of riders.

In the Atlanta metropolitan region, only 6.2 percent of residents are between ages 20 and 24, the median household income is $51,948, and only 31.7 percent of the population identified themselves as black. So the population who rides transit is relatively young, poor, and black.

Of course, in Atlanta, there’s another way to answer the question "Who takes transit?" Fewer people than before. Come September, MARTA, the region’s largest transit provider, will implement a devastating package of service cuts, including eliminating almost a third of its bus lines, due to the nation’s transit funding crisis. 

More from around the network: The Overhead Wire reminds planners that the sea of parking around a big-box store isn’t bringing in property taxes. The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation lets you know what you can do about the proposed bike ban in St. Charles County. And Livin In The Bike Lane warns Floridians about another legislative attack on bike lanes in their state.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The “Choice” vs. “Captive” Transit Rider Dichotomy Is All Wrong

|
The conventional wisdom about transit often divides riders into two neat categories: “choice” riders — higher-income people with cars — and “captive” riders — lower-income people who must use transit because they don’t own cars. But this framework can undermine good transit, according to a new report from TransitCenter [PDF]. In the attempt to cater only to “choice” riders or “captive” […]

What Are Cities Doing to Hold on to Families With Kids?

|
In Atlanta, the regional planning commission recently created a “millennial advisory committee” in response to lackluster retention of young college grads. Bradley Calvert at Family Friendly Cities notes that the agency should be even more alarmed by the drop in the population of kids in the city: Between 2000 and 2010 nearly 12,000 children plus their parents […]

Atlanta Streetcar’s Early Ridership Numbers Disappoint

|
The first batch of numbers are in for ridership on Atlanta’s brand new $98 million, 2.7-mile downtown streetcar — and the project is off to a rocky start. The streetcar, which opened December 30, is carrying 18 percent fewer riders than anticipated, according to data released by the city this week. That’s actually worse than […]

The Secrets of Successful Transit Projects — Revealed!

|
All across America, cities are investing in new transit lines. Which of these routes will make the biggest impact by attracting large numbers of new riders? A landmark report from a team of researchers with the University of California at Berkeley identifies the factors that set successful transit investments apart from the rest. The secret sauce is fairly […]

Atlanta’s Big Moment

|
There’s a lot at stake for metro Atlanta on July 31. That day, voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of a proposed one percent sales tax that promises some $8 billion in transportation funding, to be split relatively evenly between transit and road projects over 10 counties. If it fails, experts […]