Durham ranks highly on list of public transportation usage per capita

FiveThirtyEight (the blog founded by Nate Silver, et al) has an interesting post about public transportation usage in cities across America.

Durham clocks in at 43.4 trips per capita – far more than Charlotte (20.9), Greensboro (17.8), Winston-Salem (8.7), and Raleigh (7.2). It turns out we’re far and away the most public transportation using city in NC, and 21st in the whole US. This list includes most cities with populations over 65,000.

The post’s author, Reuben Fischer-Baum, doesn’t provide much in the way of analysis, but I’ll take a stab. I suspect college towns skew highly on metrics such as these thanks to University run bus systems and large numbers of students. In addition, Durham has given its bus system a great deal of attention (often in collaboration with Duke), and we have some very useful routes like the Bull City Connector (which actually happens to be free).

Given the current high usage, it’s no wonder that many Durhamites are bullish (oh god, I just made a dad joke, sorry) on light rail. Regional light rail could be a decade away at best, though, and bad news for Raleigh: it looks like the NC legislature is going to effectively kneecap Wake County’s ability to raise tax revenue to work on their own portion of a light rail system.

2 thoughts on “Durham ranks highly on list of public transportation usage per capita”

  1. Cool!
    Just a thought: I know college students are often not counted in the “population” of a city since they aren’t considered full time residents. I wonder if that skews the data for Durham even farther. Indeed, it looks like many of the top 30 are home to large student populations. Still impressive for Durham since Duke isn’t as big as many schools in those top 30 cities.

    1. An interesting point – if students aren’t “population” and yet are still “riders” they could be jacking up the overall rides per capita.

      I just looked it up, and Duke had 6,495 undergrads in 2013, Central 6,369. I imagine a majority of grad students would claim Durham as their primary residence so should presumably be counted in the census.

      Adding in the undergrads to Durham’s population number would drop us to about 41.9 rides per capita, so not much of a difference for Durham really. It would be a much bigger deal in, say, State College, which has a staggering number of undergrads.

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