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Valley Metro light rail ridership dropped by 4.4 percent in 2018

(Twitter Photo/@valleymetro)

PHOENIX – Ridership on Phoenix’s light rail system was down 4.4 percent over the past year, a decline Valley Metro attributes in part to a strong economy.

“It is a national trend that public transportation ridership does typically go down when the economy is stronger,” Susan Tierney, communications manager for Valley Metro, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday. “Most especially when gas prices are low.”

Tierney said 15.8 million riders used the light rail in 2018 after 16.5 million climbed aboard in 2017.

According to ridership reports, despite the dip from 2017, the 2018 light rail total was higher than what was seen in 2014, ’15 or ’16.

“Over the past 10 years we’ve had ongoing growth of our light rail system, and we’re seeing a little bit of a leveling off,” Teirney said.

In addition to the impact of the economy, Teirney said big events in 2017 — including the NCAA Final Four, a Donald Trump rally and the Lost Lake music festival — pushed numbers exceptionally high that year.

Valley Metro estimated that 200,000 people rode the light rail during Final Four weekend in April 2017, making it one of the busiest weekends in the system’s history.

Tierney also acknowledged that safety concerns may have affected ridership, something Valley Metro has been addressing with its “Respect the Ride” campaign.

The program includes additional security officers, a strengthened code of conduct, more signage and an app that can be used to report incidents.

“We feel like it’s really made a difference because riders are telling us they are seeing a change in behavior, and that’s the most important thing,” Teirney said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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