Cuts in bus service linked to further ridership declines

Weekly Fiscal Facts are provided by the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the state’s leading resource for nonpartisan state and local government research and civic education. The Wisconsin Public Policy Forum logo can be downloaded here.


Cuts in bus service linked to further ridership declines

Empty bus

Creative Commons photo

Although bus ridership declined among most of Wisconsin’s largest transit systems between 2014 and 2017, research and recent experience suggest cutting services likely would create a further downward spiral.

Between 2000 and 2010, the Milwaukee County Transit System cut routes and service frequency. As a result, the transit system’s total service (vehicle miles traveled) dropped 21.2%, from 22.2 million miles to 17.5 million. While other factors may have contributed, ridership decreased 29.4%, from 52.9 million rides to 37.5 million during that decade.

Academic research also has found similar links. A recent study of the 25 largest transit systems in the U.S. and Canada found service levels and car ownership are the strongest determinants of transit ridership.

This information is a service of the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the state’s leading resource for nonpartisan state and local government research and civic education.