Since opening day of passenger service in August of 2017, cumulative ridership numbers, as well as the number of bicycles and wheelchairs on board, has been reported at every public and live-streamed Board of Directors meeting. The January 8, 2020 Board of Directors meeting will include a comprehensive report on ridership.
Open systems, such as SMART’s, operate on a Proof of Payment structure without turnstiles or fare gates, and with multiple points of access to the station platforms.
Therefore, SMART uses 3 different methods for tracking ridership.
1. ON BOARD MANUAL COUNTS
SMART Engineer-Conductors manually count riders onboard the trains with a handheld counter. This method of data collection has been consistent since the start of service. When trains are full, the accuracy of the tracking drops because staff are often occupied verifying fare payment and/or trains are too full to navigate through. However, this method captures a number of passengers who are not captured by paid fare reporting, such as:
- Monthly pass holders who have activated their pass but are not required to tag on or off at fare validators
- Mobile app users who fail to activate their tickets (approximately 13% of mobile app users)
- Passengers who ride on numerous fare-free days and promotional free programs
2. PAID FARE MEDIA RIDERSHIP REPORTS:
SMART riders use either a Clipper card or SMART’s mobile app to pay their fares. SMART collects Fare Media Ridership Reports from Clipper and SMART’s e-Ticket activations. There are some built in limitations with the Fare Media ridership reports that can result in a significant portion of ridership not being counted through this method. The industry-wide reports indicate that about 13% of riders fail to activate their ticket. SMART’s data shows a similar experience with Mobile App activation failures.
Two of SMART’s most popular fare products are 31-Day Passes and Eco-Passes (purchased through an employer). These fare products do not require the pass holder to tag on and off each time they ride the train, therefore, the Clipper system does not recognize their presence, unless they tag on and off.
3. NATIONAL TRANSIT DATABASE (NTD) RIDERSHIP:
As a grantee of the Federal Transit Administration, SMART has a duty to report ridership data to the National Transit Database (NTD) using federally approved methodologies. SMART has submitted ridership data reports to the NTD since July 2017 and the data may be viewed online at: https://www.transit.dot.gov/ntd/data-product/monthly-module-adjusted-dat....
For agencies with an Open system, such as SMART, the Federal Transit Administration requires that they conduct a random selection of statistically valid ride checks to validate the accuracy of the information reported to the NTD. In 2019, SMART contracted with a consultant research firm to create this third set of data using the federally approved method of conducting onboard counts of randomly selected trains over four quarters of the year, making it statistically valid and utilizing the standardized NTD Sampling Template. This independent analysis was submitted to SMART on December 20, 2019.