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ART Bus Ridership on the Rise

by ARLnow.com January 26, 2012 at 11:00 am 3,567 63 Comments

More people are riding Arlington’s ART buses more often, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said earlier this week.

According to statistics quoted by Hynes, ART is on track to serve 2.5 million riders for the 12 month period ending this June. That’s a marked increase from just seven years ago, when ART bus ridership was just under 800,000 during financial year 2005.

Hynes said 1.2 million passengers rode ART from July to the end of December 2011 — a 14.5 percent increase over the same time period in 2010. ART now serves more than 9,000 passengers every weekday, versus 8,000 a year ago.

The transit service is planning to add additional service to the ART 42, 75 and 77 routes, according to Hynes.

  • UnlimitedCustoms

    9,000, let’s say many are taking to/from work, metro, etc – that works out to 4,500 people.

    What is the cost per person?

    • MC

      What on earth are you basing these numbers on? You seem to be just making stuff up. “Let’s says” shows you don’t know what you are talking about.

      • MC

        Apologies for the edge to my comment above. My point is that a range of people use the ART — some more frequently than other, but on average everyone in Arlington rides ART 4 times a year. It is divisive to take these numbers and insinuate that only a few people are benefiting. You need to show evidence if you want to make that argument, and my anecdotal observation suggests that many people use ART occasionally, even if more might do so.

        • Burger

          Where do you get the idea everyone rides ART 4 times a year. I’ve never ridden it and I’ve lived in the county for almost 15 years. I would bet more times that not most people have never ride ART in their lives much less 4 times a year.

        • YTK

          Huuh? I ride it an average of 4 times a WEEK!! On rare occasions, even 3 or 4 times a DAY!!

          HOORAY FOR ART buses!

          But, dear ARTBUS management — PLEASE when you need to replace your fleet replace them with something LOWER to the ground!!!

  • Arlington MDMA

    i was just thinking about ART ridership the other night when yet another ART bus went by an no one was on it. i like ART and hope it works but I just don’t know where all these riders are riding the bus.

  • perksgal28

    It would be great if they could add additional times (especially weekend hours) to the 62 bus especially now that it goes to Clarendon. Who is going to go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods at 9 am on a Tuesday only to wait around until 3:30 that afternoon to go home? I realize that this was their reasoning for changing the 62 route, but it seems rather flawed. It would also be great if ART could perform some regular maintenance on their buses. The one bus used for the 62 route is essentially a rickshaw with a bus facade. For Arlington buses, these leave a bit to be desired.

  • Brownflipflops

    Additional bus service is sorely needed for ART 42 and 77 routes (I can’t say much about 75 since I don’t ride it). Buses every 30 minutes in a highly populated area like this is completely absurd.


      agreed. also, service friday and saturday night until say 11 or 12 would probably do well, even if it wasnt that often. plus be really convenient.

    • Dewey101

      thirded, the #42 is a key route from Pentagon bus station to Ballston via Clarendon. 30 minutes is too long between buses on this route.

      • Done and Done

        Wait – you mean the Metro doesn’t run from the Pentagon to Ballston (also going through Clarendon)????

        • Dewey101

          So you’ve never had metro crap out at FB or Rosslyn and you’ve had to take the Yellow line to Pentagon City and the bus to Ballston.

          • Done and Done

            That’s a red herring – busses can crap out too or other factors can really screw things up. Why should they increase service when a perfectly good solution already exists?

            And if you can’t wait 30 minutes, you can always take a cab. . .

          • Josh S

            Cool it with the red herring accusations.

            Redundancy is key to an effective transportation system. Just because Metrorail goes from Point A to Point B, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also have a bus that also services those two points.

            And what is it with the “if you can’t wait 30 minutes, you can always take a cab?” Says who? Perhaps I’m not budgeting an extra $15 for my trip? You have no right to say that I should / could.

            (Which also assumes you can even find a cab….)

          • Done and Done

            There already IS redundancy – both the metro and the #42 route go that way (his legs would be a viable 3rd choice, too and the cab would be a 4th choice) – his point was just that it didn’t work well enough because sometimes he had to wait. Maybe instead of expecting the county to bend to his whims he could plan better and/or use other alternatives that already exist.

            It’s still a red herring because sometimes the roads are the problem, and no matter how many busses you might have running they can’t get from point A to point B (that happened not too long ago) His point that the metro isn’t always a reliable option is bogus. NOTHING is 100% reliable.

    • John K.

      The 77? I never see it anywhere near full when it’s around the Pike and Walter Reed. Ever. Is this like 45 where it’s near- empty for half the route and then BAM, three stops in neighborhood X and it’s SRO?

      • Brownflipflops

        It gets pretty full the closer it gets to Clarendon Metro. A lot of lazy people who don’t want to walk the couple miles to and from the metro every day (me included when it’s raining or cold).

  • drax

    Additional training for the scab drivers who panic-stop every 100 yards or so is also needed. Someone’s going to get injured.

    • perksgal28

      Agreed. I have fallen several times from the bus driver who sped off from the stop to make a light, before I even made it past the fare box.

      • YTK

        And drivers who fail to CURB the bus and then expect the passengers, including the elderly or mobility-impaired passengers — to jump down from the already-too–high bus into the street.

  • bob

    I’m glad to see ART ridership up. Certainly a few years ago the buses seemed motly empty. Now they are filling up –although I rarely see white people on them.

    I’d say more frequency on Wilson as well; but the last time I took an art bus (to vote at W-L) it took about 30 minutes to go a few blocks.

    What is really confusing to me is the numbering system — I’d suggest a better naming system for the lines. For the life of me, I can’t say where a particular ART line goes.

    Is there one that goes from Clarendon to Pentagon City, for instance?

    • Veeta

      Have you checked the ART website?
      I find I learn the route numbers easily for the ones I use, and that metro is much worse with buses often having similar numbers but different routes.

    • AllenB

      “Now they are filling up –although I rarely see white people on them.”

      WTF does that last part have to do with anything???

      • JJDRP

        Maybe he/she meant to say WITH, but typed white?

        • AllenB

          It would be nice if there was an innocent explanation like that.

    • drax

      How about the White and Black lines, bob? Better naming system for ya?

      • Justin

        That could help.

    • YTK

      No palefaces? Didn’tchya see ME!!!

      Clarendon to Pentagon City = the #42 — check out the web site or the bus schedules– they have..huuh!… MAPS

  • Wayne Kubicki

    “9,000 current passengers every weekday” – which means that 4,500 people are using the service round-trip, no?

    On the growth – isn’t the increase mainly due to added routes (at times replacing Metro bus service)?

    The mega-question (which I’ve never been able to get County staff to answer) – what is the net, Arlington taxpayer subsidy per each trip?

    • Hikin’ the pike

      I was told a few months ago when I asked….ART achieves 50% recovery of cost at the farebox vs 25% with metro bus.

      • Wayne Kubicki

        Hikin’ – might I inquire as to who provided the information? TY.

        • Hikin’ the pike

          I asked that very question at a county budget forum and one of the finance people gave it.

    • jan

      A stand alone answer would be pointless. One would need to compare it to subsidies – direct and indirect – to other modes of transportation.

      Further, how would you cost out the intangible benefits to the community?

      • YTK

        Hey a bus is a bus
        Why such a fuss?
        You pays the Fare
        It gets you there.

    • Josh S

      Of course, you’d also want to pair that question with what the net, Arlington taxpayer subsidy per each trip made by every other mode of transportation, including private automobile.

      • Ren


      • Done and Done

        That’s a red herr(lighten up, Francis)

        You can’t even do effective estimates for private cars, though. 95% of the time, I buy my gas in Arlington (where Arlington gets the local tax) but drive most of the miles in Fairfax where I work – and there are a number of other posters here who probably do the same given where they work.

        At least for ART, their fuel costs are completely contained within the county. So they COULD come up with a per-trip cost given the cost of the busses, recapitalization, Operations & Maintenance, labor/benefits, but according to Wayne, they won’t provide that number.

  • SomeGuy

    Is this evidence that buses can actually draw ridership if managed well, and maybe we don’t need to spend hundreds of millions on an inflexible streetcar system?

    • Lou


    • Josh S

      I’m not sure anyone has ever advanced the argument that we need a streetcar because the buses are failing.

  • JimPB

    More “depth” in the story would be welcome.
    The number of ART busses and the duration of time that they are “on the road” over the same time period is needed to determine what proportion of the increase in ridership is due to an expansion of ART operations and what proportion is due to an increase in rider “density.”

  • South Awwwlington

    I like the ART transit system but can’t help feeling it takes almost twice as long as it should to get anywhere on ART v Metrobus. Maybe it’s all in my head. I recall a trip on the 41 from Columbia Pike and Dinwiddie to Clarendon Metro which seemed to take 45 mins…and the drivers NEVER seem to be in a hurry (good/bad debatable).

    • Veeta

      It totally depends on the route–the 41 has a lot of stops and travels Glebe.

    • Tabs

      I wish the morning northbound 77 was more reliable.

      They’re not dealing with downtown traffic hassles like the 16Y, so why are they either blowing by a stop too early or showing up so late?

      The bus that leaves Shirlington at 9 am, for example, blew past me (not quite at stop) at 9:05. Yesterday it showed up at 9:20, and it was the mean driver.

  • G Clifford Prout

    From today’s Business Journal

    A 37-mile streetcar network weaving through various D.C. neighborhoods represents a potential boon for District government coffers, city businesses, developers and residents who switch from cars to mass transit, according to the D.C. Office of Planning and its consultants.

    Their report “conservatively projects” the streetcar system would add up to $7 billion to the value of existing property and attract $8 billion in new investment. Office property values would increase between 2 and 10 percent along individual corridors. The District, the report estimates, would generate up to $291 million in annual new revenue within 10 years of the system’s completion.

    • CW

      Wait, you mean that jurisdictions actually do projections and analyses and planning and stuff before starting these analyses and don’t just intend them to be boondoggles with the dual sole purposes of wasting taxpayer dollars and infuriating people on online message boards?

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Yea the non-biased DC planning office and consultants involved or getting future work on the project. and this says nothing about the cost.

      Second wonder what the increase in ridership per resident. Arlington’s pop. has gone up a lot in those 7 years.

  • PikeSpotter

    I agree that this article is too light on details. Why isn’t the County publishing per-route ridership data? WMATA does. Ms Hynes should not be citing stats that Staff has not released (or plan to release) to the public. There are some terrible routes (e.g. 84) and some popular ones (41,42) in South Arlington and citizen feedback to the County would be better with more data to digest.

  • Skeptical

    I have never seen a full ART bus. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one with more than one or two people on them. Metro buses, on the other hand, always seem to be at least have full, and are packed at rush hour. Metro buses seem to have rational routes and schedules. I can’t figure out the basis for any ART bus routes or schedules. What is going on? ART bus has always seemed to be one of the bigger wastes of County taxpayer funds, but I guess the trolley will far outdo the ART bus.

    • Skeptical

      “half full” stupid autocorrect.

      • mjm33

        I don’t know where you live or which buses you’re looking at – but I’ve had to stand on the 41 a number of times over the last year because there were no seats available.

    • E2DAV

      Wow ‘Skeptical’ – you are right on! I will take your anecdotal evidence over data any day of the week. And, Metro buses only cover the main corridors; ART goes deep into neighborhoods. Two different, slightly complementary services.

      FWIW, I have been on standing room only ART buses.

    • John K.

      Some do seem like a waste, at least for part of the route. For a couple of years, I couldn’t understand why the 45 kept running. It’s nearly empty most of the time running through the Pike Corridor, even during most of the rush hour. I finally took it to Rosslyn during morning rush hour once to avoid some issue with the TR bridge. Once it passed the general area of the Sequoia Park Building… wow. It still runs mostly empty out my way, though. It’s weird.

    • stevis23

      Let me know if you’d like to join me on my commute to see the utility first-hand. The 42 has gotten way more crowded–used to be every seat had at least one person in the pair, now it is often standing on my way home. I’ve never been on one, save on the federal holidays I don’t get off, that had only one or two people on it at commute time.

      They have been fairly empty on days I’ve had to take off early for some reason…but if they didn’t run those routes then, bus commuting would be a less viable option, for when I had to get my kid out of day care early and such unplanned events.

      Now, don’t forget to add in the cost if me and 30 other people had to drive cars along that route twice a day–road wear, emissions, lost working hours, fewer parking spaces on both ends, and delays for everyone. It’s not taxpayer money being spent on a black hole here.

  • Veeta

    I will not get on a packed Metro bus again–I’d rather use the half-empty buses I pay for. The 38B through Arlington is often dangerously packed.
    If you use the ART bus regularly at commute times, you would see plenty of people on them.

    • Dewey101

      The 38B is only ever dangerously packed during rush hour when Metrorail fails yet again and people need to get to work. At least they have the courtesy to run a parallel bus route even if it is impossible to get on from Clarendon on.

      • Hahaha

        But can it get you to the Starboard?

        • FrenchyB

          Meh – The Starboard went downhill after Chip sold it to Monty.

  • info781

    I use the Art 75 bus and it is almost always full in one direction, the direction depending on if it is morning or evening. It only runs every 30 minutes so you have to know the schedule. The route used to use the smaller buses, which I liked, as you got to know people on the bus, however the route became too popular.

    On these limited run schedules, I don’t want the drivers to be in a hurry, I want them to to be on time, like a Swiss watch.

    • TickTock

      The 62 sometimes pulls over and waits when it is running ahead of schedule so that it arrives on time. Frustrating when you are sittin’ there – but great so that you can just show up at the stop when it’s scheduled rather than having to always show up early cuz you never know if it’ll come early or not.

      Which raises the question … isn’t there a system that can track them real time so I can see where the bus is (on my phone or ‘puter)? I think I’ve seen electronic signs on some stops along Wilson…

      • MissDaisy

        I look at this webpage: http://realtime.commuterpage.com/RTT/Public/PlatformETMap.aspx. Zoom, hover, and click on your stop. ETAs and everything for the routes served. I think some of the stops have a real time number you can call from that stop, but I just run out when I see the bus is getting close on the webpage, so I don’t know how that works.

  • Dan

    I looked at the County budget and it does a good job of obscuring how much the County pays. I would guess it is a lot and that is why the county does not want to release the true number.

  • Driver

    All good points above (for the most part). As a commuter via personal vehicle, I wish the bus drivers would learn how to drive safer. Almost every day to/from work I watch as the ART bus dangerously cuts off cars, putting the safety of the bus riders, car drivers, and pedestrians at risk. Most of the time, they cut off one vehicle, and there aren’t even any more cars behind it. It’s ridiculous, and I bet nothing will be done about it until someone gets seriously hurt, and it’ll be too late.


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