Cincinnati Metro ridership returning to near pre-pandemic levels following service improvements, partnerships, promotions

Sept. 21, 2022
Systemwide ridership is now exceeding 80 percent of Cincinnati Metro's pre-pandemic (2019) monthly average, with some routes having surpassed pre-COVID levels.

Cincinnati Metro's overall ridership overall is more than 80 percent of achieving pre-pandemic figures having provided more than 900,000 trips during August--compared to an average monthly ridership of 1.1 million in 2019.

Additionally, several routes have exceeded pre-pandemic levels – with others not far behind – thanks to a number of recent service improvements and promotions geared toward introducing customers to the new and improved service. In May 2021, Cincinnati Metro introduced 24-hour service on seven routes, two new crosstown routes, increased frequency and service-hour span across most routes, in addition to new weekend service and state-of-the-art buses offering free Wi-Fi and charging ports as part of its Reinventing Metro plan.

Building on the success of these improvements, promotions like Metro’s Dump the Pump Summer Weekends and its university partnerships have resulted in ridership jumps as customers discover the cost savings, environmental benefits and improved amenities associated with using public transit.

“The success we’ve seen with the Reinventing Metro plan and these recent programs can only be described as historic,” said Cincinnati Metro CEO and General Manager Darryl Haley. “What these ridership numbers tell us is that we are on the right track with building and delivering on the service our community wants. What we’ve seen is that once an individual gives Metro a try, they’ll keep coming back and choose transit over driving more and more to get to their destinations.”

‘Dump the Pump’ summer weekends

Each weekend between the Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays, all rides on Metro and Access operated fare free to promote its new weekend service improvements. As a result, Saturdays and Sundays saw big boosts in the number of riders who got on board to get to work, sporting events, shopping or other entertainment activities throughout the county.

Saturdays saw an average jump in ridership of 22.3 percent compared to the month of June, while Sunday ridership grew an average of 31.3 percent. The highest single-day increase was a 44 percent increase on Sunday, July 24. Even after the promotion ended, Saturday ridership maintained a 10 percent boost the following week.

This summer's momentum has carried through weekday ridership across numerous routes in the first half of this month. Twelve routes have also seen higher ridership to date in September 2022 than in the first half of September 2019, with three routes (Rts. 16, 20 and 41) exceeding ridership by 60 percent or more and one route (Rt. 28) doubling ridership. An additional six routes have returned to 90 percent or more ridership compared to September 2019.

University students ride fare free

Building on Cincinnati Metro’s long-standing partnership with the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati State to offer students a discounted bus fare, this school year the agency rolled out a four-week fare-free promotion for students who created an account using the Transit app.

As a result of the promotion, enrollment in UC’s Metro discount program grew by 20 percent in the first few weeks of school and Cincinnati State’s by 65 percent.

Due to the initial success of the promotion, Cincinnati Metro has decided to extend the fare-free offer for UC students and staff and Cincinnati State students for another month, through Oct. 24 and Oct. 31 respectively.