Google Transit: Some numbers from Missoula, Montana

In June of 2008, Mountain Line transit in Missoula became the first (and still only) agency in Montana to participate in Google Transit.  Recently, I reached out to find what kind of ridership increase, if any, they can attribute to Google Transit.

Jordan Hess is a planning student at the University of Montana in Missoula.  He has also contracted with Mountain Line to put them on Google Transit and maintain the information.  Here’s what he has to say about ridership trends since the Google Transit launch.  What stood out to me was that ridership for July of 2008, one month after the Google Transit launched, increased by 31% from July of 2007.

We went live with Google Transit on about June 1st of last year with a rather soft launch (i.e. no immediate press releases, etc.)  Our first press coverage was on June 25, with a front page article in the local paper, available at http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2008/06/25/news/local/news04.txt

In the four months following our initial press coverage of Google Transit, ridership jumped 20.08% from the previous year.  As much as I would like to attribute this exclusively to Google Transit, there were other complicating factors.  Of course, in 2008, gas prices were climbing so that brought more people onto the bus.

Also, in 2008, a local business sponsored “Fare-Free Fridays;” essentially they paid the cash fare equivalent for every Friday that summer.  In 2007, however, there were a number of fare-free days due to poor air quality.  We had a terrible forest fire season in 2007, and when air quality drops below a certain threshold from smoke or particulate matter, the county health department subsidizes the fare.  I’m trying to look into the total number of fare-free days each summer, as that may have had an effect.

Additionally, in October, the adult cash fare went from $0.85 to $1.00.  This seemed to have an effect on ridership as well.  For the entire period from July 1 to Feb 28, we had a total ridership increase of about 12.78%, with ridership this winter nearly the same as last winter.

Interestingly, in July, the month immediately following our launch of Google Transit, we had an increase of 31.58% from 2007 to 2008.  For the sake of comparison, the month of May saw only a 7.83% increase from 2007 to 2008.

Thanks for the info, Jordan!  Does anyone know of other agencies on Google Transit with interesting ridership numbers?

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