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As San Diego gas prices soar, residents turn to ridership

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) has seen a significant spike in transit ridership in recent months, and even more so in recent weeks as gas prices continue to ride. 

“MTS was budgeting for an 11 percent increase in ridership over last fiscal year. Our new estimates show ridership will jump 45 percent over the previous year,” said Sharon Cooney, MTS CEO. “We still have room to grow to get back to pre-pandemic levels, but these are great indicators. This sustained growth coupled with recent ridership spikes prove that people are motivated to save money, and still know that transit is a safe and affordable way to get around.” 

MTS has developed a dedicated webpage with a commute calculator for those interested in learning about the cost of driving alone vs. taking transit. The calculator factors in information such as commuting miles, estimated miles per gallon, parking costs, number of days commuting and price per gallon of fuel. The agency has also launched digital advertisements to educate commuters about the costs of driving vs. taking transit.  

Preliminary ridership estimates from last week show: 

  • Ridership was up to nearly 200,000 trips per weekday (197,000) for the week of March 7-11, which is approximately 70 percent of the pre-COVID-19 baseline.  
  • This is the highest ridership has been since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Trolley ridership has grown to more than 80 percent of pre-pandemic level. 
  • On Wednesday, March 9, ridership jumped 102 percent systemwide vs. the same day in 2021 
  • There was a 111 percent ridership increase on trolleys. 
  • There was a 94 percent ridership increase on buses. 

Additionally, year-over-year comparison by month shows that ridership has consistently been significantly higher compared to last year. Even during the height of the Omicron surge in January, MTS transit ridership showed consistent improvement over 2021. In February, MTS hit its highest monthly increase in ridership over the same month last year. 

Another positive development for transit is that the UC San Diego Blue Line is performing well since the 11-mile extension to UTC opened in November 2021. The Blue Line is now averaging nearly 60,000 trips per weekday since the start of February. This is approximately a 33 percent ridership increase since the extension opened on Nov. 21. 



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