Port Authority sees highest ridership increase of the pandemic | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Port Authority sees highest ridership increase of the pandemic

click to enlarge Port Authority sees highest ridership increase of the pandemic
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Passenger boarding a Port Authority bus
The pandemic has been hard on public transportation agencies, with the rise in remote work and need for people to quarantine leading to ridership declines. And that has been true for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, too, as the agency has seen a large drop off in ridership since March 2020.

However, the most recent ridership figures from Port Authority offer some hope as the agency saw its biggest ridership increase since the start of the pandemic.

According to a press release, ridership across Port Authority vehicles increased 23% from August to September. This is the sharpest increase Port Authority has seen since the decline in ridership started at the beginning of the pandemic. In September, the authority averaged 110,000 weekday rides for the first time since March 2020.

"Even when ridership plummeted as a result of the pandemic, Port Authority's work never stopped. Our focus has been on rider and employee safety, and overcoming the challenges the pandemic has presented over the past 18 months," said Port Authority CEO Katharine Kelleman in a release. "Ridership has come a long way since March 2020, but we still have a long way to go. What’s been made clear is the important role public transit plays in our region, and we're thankful to those who have stayed with us, those who've come back to us, and those who will be riding with us again soon."

Both weekday bus ridership and rail ridership increased from August to September, with a larger increase for bus ridership than rail. Weekday bus ridership increased 25% to 103,000 daily rides and weekday rail ridership increased 13% to 7,400 rides. And, according to Port Authority, weekend rail ridership is averaging higher daily ridership than weekday ridership for the first time in the agency’s history.

Overall, however, weekday Port Authority ridership is still 52% percent at pre-pandemic levels. Bus ridership is down 50% compared to before the pandemic and light-rail ridership is down 73%.

With this loss in revenue caused by ridership decreases, transit agencies have been able to stay afloat thanks to federal funding. In September, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that Port Authority would be awarded $216 million in federal grant funds.

Even with the funds to keep operations going, Port Authority is still experiencing driver and staffing shortages that have caused some missed trips and less frequency. This issue has been ongoing, but ridership increased regardless. According to a press release, Port Authority says “as ridership continues to increase, the agency will add capacity as it is able to do so.”

For route-based ridership statistics, visit Port Authority's website at portauthority.org.