Streetcar ridership has followed a relatively consistent cycle of growth. Each summer we see new peaks (the hypothesis is that this is driven by occupancy of new residential units along the alignment), then it drops off a bit in the winter, only to rise again the following summer. New extensions, like the one opened to Gibbs last year, also drive increases in ridership.
Except this winter, for the first time, ridership did not decline significantly from the summer. We’re holding level at about 9000 weekday riders. This is creating crush loads in the afternoon from about 2pm-6pm.
We don’t know exactly why this departure from the annual pattern is occurring. One hypothesis is that transit mall construction has made Streetcar a more attractive option for N-S trips in the core.
But when the summer peak comes, it’s likely to get pretty bad. Streetcar leadership is looking for resources to put an additional car out on the route during the afternoon peak. Today we’re a six-car peak operation, we’d be looking for a seventh car in the afternoon.
When the Lowell St. extensions opens in August we’re budgeted to go to a seven-car operation, but that extension will also likely bring new riders.
It’s a nice problem to have :-)