Data from SMART’s first full month of operations show daily ridership fell below its initial target levels on weekdays, although weekend ridership consistently surpassed expectations.
During September, weekday ridership often ranged between 2,000 and 2,700 daily passengers, while weekend ridership was often in the 1,500 to 2,200-passenger range. The agency had set targets of up to 3,000 daily riders on weekdays and 300 on weekends, when the system runs fewer trains and trips.
“We’re a brand-new business, brand-new operations,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager. “We are overall — not day by day or minute by minute, but overall — meeting the financial and the ridership (targets). That’s a terrific beginning.”
SMART’s total daily average passengers for September was 2,167, just shy of the agency’s projected daily average of 2,229.
Mansourian said the agency’s budget remained on track after its first month, noting fare revenue depends not only on the number of riders but also on how much they pay for their tickets, given the discounts available to passengers.
“Financially, everything is going very well,” Mansourian said.
The highest ridership last month occurred Friday, Sept. 22, when trains carried 2,675 passengers. The lowest ridership occurred Sunday, Sept. 10, when trains carried 1,505 passengers.
Given the higher-than-expected weekend traffic, SMART may add another train on weekends, Mansourian said.
“Highway 101 on weekends northbound is an absolute parking lot,” he said of the agency’s weekend service.
“I’ll bet you a lot of people want to go visit relatives or want to go to recreation and simply do not want to spend an hour and a half on a weekend on 101. This gives them a fantastic option.”