The D.C. Streetcar is drawing a decent number of riders, so far. Compared to other U.S. light-rail and streetcar systems, it ranks near the middle in terms of riders per mile of track. It’s slightly above average, neither horrible nor spectacular.
According to the District Department of Transportation’s latest streetcar ridership report, the H Street line carried an average of 2,285 passengers each weekday in April. It carries more on Saturdays, but weekday ridership is the standard measuring stick nationwide.
In raw terms, 2,285 riders per day is pretty low. But for a line that only carries passengers for 1.9 miles, it’s actually not bad.
Obviously, the 1.9-mile D.C. Streetcar isn’t going to carry nearly as many passengers as, say, the 90-mile-long Dallas light rail system. And if you rank all U.S. light rail and streetcar systems by total ridership, the District’s 2,285 passengers per day is indeed near the bottom, at 31 out of 37. Dallas is seventh with about 105,000.
But to get a sense of how successful these lines are at attracting riders, we need to compare them on an apples-to-apples basis. To do that, divide the total daily ridership by the number of miles, to get ridership per mile.
And in those terms, D.C. Streetcar’s 1,203 riders per mile is a respectable 18 out of 37. It’s just barely in the upper half nationally. And it doesn’t even go downtown yet.
Dallas is actually lower at 1,164 riders per mile. Other regional light-rail systems that are lower than D.C. Streetcar include Baltimore (691 riders/mile), Norfolk (784), Sacramento (1,056), St. Louis (1,035), Pittsburgh (850) and Cleveland (467).
On the other hand, the District is far below the number one system on the list: Boston’s Green line light rail, which carries a whopping 7,126 riders per mile. Other systems near the top include San Francisco’s Muni Metro (4,370 riders/mile), Minneapolis (3,275), New Jersey’s Hudson-Bergen light rail (2,852) and the Portland streetcar (2,723, which is interestingly higher than Portland’s MAX light rail at 2,048).
Dan Malouff is an Arlington County transportation planner who blogs independently at BeyondDC.com. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.