Ridership Ramp-Up? Initial Ridership Variation on New Rail Transit Projects

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - north america, operations - performance, ridership - forecasting


Rail Transit, Ridership Ramp-Up, Forecasting, Performance evaluation


Conventional wisdom within the transit industry suggests that measuring the performance of a transit project immediately after project opening may not capture all the project’s benefits, since it takes time for a project to realize its short-term ridership potential, a process commonly referred to as ridership ramp-up. Though this idea is both intuitive and appealing, especially for projects that seem to be underperforming in their initial years, there is a need for empirical analysis to determine the typical magnitude and extent of ridership ramp-up to better account for ramp-up in ridership forecasting and transit project evaluation. The purpose of this study was to meet this need by evaluating variations in ridership in the initial years after project opening for 55 rail transit projects in the United States. We applied a fixed-effects regression model to predict 1-year increases in ridership in each of the first 5 years after project opening, controlling for variation in gas prices, population, income, and unemployment. We found highly variable and statistically significant increases in ridership in the first 2 years after project opening that may be attributable to ridership ramp-up. These findings could support decisions about how to account for ridership ramp-up in forecasting and performance evaluation for rail transit projects.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SAGE, copyright remains with them.