The good news is that ridership on conventional YRT and Viva services rose 1.4% year-over-year in April, which is to say the number of trips taken by bus grew 1.4% compared to April 2011. So there were about as many riders using the system this year as there were at the same time last year.
The bad news is this is a much smaller number than might have been expected had the recent labour strike not occurred. Ridership actually fell 18% between March and April, after the fare-free period ended and the normal fare rules came into effect again. Of course, that in and of itself is not surprising: We all knew there were some fair-weather riders who were bound to vanish once the free ride was over.
But 1.4% growth seems downright anemic for a transit system that was expanding by leaps and bounds only a year earlier. If we calculate the average year-over-year ridership growth for the first four months of 2011, 10.45%, and apply it to the ridership figure for April 2011, we find there were about 156,000 rides
missing in April of this year. That translates to an 8.2% decline in ridership. If we use the growth rate seen in April 2011 specifically, 14.2%, we find 221,000 rides missing and an 11.2% decline. Those missing rides represent transit trips not taken by the people who abandoned YRT during the strike and who we can presume have now purchased cars, moved out of the area or otherwise given up on transit here altogether.
In fact, 1.4% year-over-year growth is hardly any growth at all. So perhaps it's fair to say the three-month labour strike managed to completely stall the rather impressive growth the agency had been sustaining, wasting a lot of hard work and setting back the Region in its goal of attracting residents onto sustainable transportation. Was it worth it?