Published On: Fri, Jan 27th, 2012

More People Riding the Rails

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By Diane Feen

If you think you’re the only one tired of paying exorbitant prices for gasoline, think again.

According to the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority ridership on Tri-Rail was up by over 10 percent in 2011 (on weekdays) and up eight percent on weekends and holidays.

That means that 3,424,030 people rode the trains in 2011 (on weekdays) and 300,000 on weekends and holidays. Not a huge number but significant when you think that trains and Florida are rarely used in the same sentence. But it could very well mean that Floridians are a bit burned out from the sticker shock at the gas pump.

Last year’s total marked the second highest ridership in the 22-year history of the commuter rail system serving Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Tri-Rail’s 2011 figures were surpassed in by 2008 when gas prices hovered around $4 a gallon.

So it should not come as a surprise to hear that Palm Tran broke ridership records in 2011 with a total of 11,124,904 passengers. It marked the first time in its 40-year history that the county transit system exceeded 11 million passenger trips.

Overall ridership on Palm Tran’s fixed-route service increased by nearly 8 percent from the previous year and has grown by approximately 50 percent since 2004.

SFRTA officials said two keys to more people using Tri-Rail have been an improving employment outlook and better connectivity to feeder routes and other transit systems, such as Palm Tran.

In 2011 Tri-Rail riders that used partner-shuttle services increased by 64 percent — a total of 783,947 passengers, compared with 479,155 in 2010.

In Palm Beach County Palm Tran integrates bus service to Tri-Rail stations with two or more routes serving each station and connecting to buses and trains.

Palm Tran’s Intermodal Transit Center in downtown West Palm Beach is adjacent to Tri-Rail’s West Palm Beach station providing bus service from multiple routes and connecting to the entire county.

Commuter transit service is getting so popular that 285 companies joined the SFRTA’s Employer Discount Program (EDP) in 2011 and 2,829 individual employees joined as well.

All this is terrific for transplanted New Yorkers who are used to taking public transportation, but a bit disappointing for those who know that Miami has rail service past midnight every day of the week. And, the interesting news is that people of all income level (and lifestyle) use it to attend concerts, events and city parks.

Too bad that Palm Beach County does not have rail service later in the evenings like they do in Miami. And it is too bad that no one asks why.

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