Ridership continues to grow on Metro’s express commuter routes

Newly released data shows an uptick in commuter bus ridership in Cincinnati. The figures from Metro show a 10.9 percent ridership increase for May when compared to last year, and is the fifth straight month of such ridership increases. Officials believe that the increase is a result of increasing gas prices.

“It’s exciting to see the growth in our commuter market,” Metro CEO Terry Garcia Crews said in a prepared statement. “This increase demonstrates that viable option for our residents.”

Such gains may prove difficult to maintain though as economic conditions continue to stagnate and gas prices begin to level off. According to recent reports, unemployment climbed in May and is the highest it has been in 2011. Additionally, employers were reported as adding the fewest workers in eight months.

Metro bus at Government Square in downtown Cincinnati.

Gas prices have also declined from the highest levels since July 2008. These two factors may be tricky for transit officials as they attempt to project ridership patterns for the rest of year. Previously, Metro has been very susceptible to such economic activity, with ridership often declining with the economy.

Even with that said, Metro officials believe that long-term rises in gas prices signal positive ridership trends for the transit agency as commuters look to their wallets.

“If you drive 20 or 25 miles one-way to work, you’re probably using two gallons of gas a day,” Crews explained. “Metro offers a convenient alternative to paying higher gas prices.”

According to Metro officials, these savings can add up. The regional transit agency estimates that local commuters can save $4,500 or more each year by riding transit.

Further complicating the matter is a reduction of state funding support for express commuter bus service. In February, newly elected Governor Kasich (R) cut $70 million which was to support such bus service throughout Ohio. The cuts hit Cincinnati by eliminating funding for express routes from Cincinnati’s western and northern suburbs into Uptown.

Whether commuters will continue to turn to express commuter bus service or not is yet to be seen, but it appears that Metro is banking on such future activity with the recent announcement to expand express bus service to Cincinnati’s northern and western suburbs by cutting service elsewhere.

  • WamBam

    If SORTA was serious about catering to commuters, ‎they would start working with local suburbs to build ‎nicer park & rides. Most of these bus commuters have ‎cars, they just do not like to pay or hassle with ‎parking or like to spend their time more productively than driving. Go to a local Krogers store and watch how many ‎people show up at 6 am with a car and then get on ‎the bus. Our local communities and entrepreneurs should ‎try to capitalize on this by building newsstands/coffee ‎shops/after-work watering holes into the park and rides.‎

    • It would probably also help if the surrounding counties provided more funding towards Metro. Right now, they are paying a minimal amount and getting minimal service. Not to mention that Hamilton County does not help fund Metro at all, leaving most of the burden on the City of Cincinnati.

  • Ryan L


    Interesting idea, however I would assume those who don’t use it would claim that it would be a waste of money.

    Also, I kind of doubt that people will get off of work from the bus, and then sit around and socialize. At this point I think most people just want to get home. Perhaps building park and rides in areas that already have the morning coffee joints and after work bars could work though. As of now it seems like the park and rides are in barren parking lots like King’s Island and Meijer in Mason.

    I understand that quick access to interstates/thoroughfares are important, so it might not be feasible as most of these locations seem to be developed by large box stores. I do think waiting for a bus inside of a Starbucks would be more appealing than in your car in the parking lot of Meijer though.

  • WamBam


    I agree that the neighborhood waterhole is a few years from the past removed and a few decades of smart development in the future. I am definitely not proposing that people get off in the middle of a Kings Island parking lot, get smashed, then drive home. The waterhole needs some surrounding mid to high density residential to make it financially feasible and exciting. Ideally, it would be adjacent to the community center or main street.

    Maybe the reason Krogers lets people use their parking lots as park and rides is because their is a good probability that they will pick something up, like fresh fruit or milk. In essence, they would be stealing customers from convience type stores.

  • Wam, I think your last comment is probably right on. Still, AM refreshments could be handled by the growing fleet of food trucks.

  • Jake Mecklenborg

    You guys are unknowingly illustrating why carpooling doesn’t work. Many people have some sort of morning routine which they have convinced themselves is necessary to “get going”. These routines inevitably conflict with one other, since everyone thinks that what they do is normal but it’s extremely irritating to everyone else. Someone like me who hates stopping for any reason is strange to someone who doesn’t mind being late if they don’t get “their coffee” (there are always folksy phrases that accompany morning routines that I find as irritating as the routines themselves).

  • WamBam

    There is a lot more to the success or failure of carpooling than “irritating” routines. For one, everyone has to be heading in the same direction. Two, everyone has to be accountable, you can’t have someone who is unreliable in your group. Three, somehow the carpool has to be initiated. This is probably the most difficult reason why no one car pools, because no one take the effort or knows enough people interested.

    Busses eliminate these roadblocks quite effectively because they are institutionalized and not informal networks. The most successful carpools I have heard of are slightly institutionalized by establishing a meeting location where a driver can pick up multiple random passengers and charge them a small gas fee. Usually this happens between two major cities with cross commuters.

  • Libertarian

    So that’s settled. The buses are doing a great job. We don’t need to spend millions on the trolley folly boondoggle to nowhere crime train that no one will ride. Enjoy it now before your boondoggle is officially killed in nov 😉 at the hands of coast, the naacp, 700wlw, enquirer, police, fire and actual tax payers of cincinnati

  • Neil Clingerman

    So I guess GOCOAST from the Cincy Enquirer is now on Urbancincy. BOONDOGLE!

  • M. Gauck

    I was wondering if there are any commuter routes that go to the hospitals around the U.C. area. I live in the West Chester/Mason area and work at one of the hospitals near U.C. A commuter route just to and from these hospitals would be wonderful for those of us who don’t need to go all the way into downtown.

    • Until Metro is in a financial position to add more Metro*Plus routes, you are probably out of luck as far as a West Chester-to-UC route goes. You could however take the 42X to Government Square and then transfer to one of the many routes that goes up to UC from there.