Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Downeaster Ridership: a quick question (or more)

There appears to be a much confusion in reporting on ridership statistics for the Downeaster operated by NNEPRA.  Even reports in the ‘mainstream media’ contain conflicting figures, and cast doubts upon the methods used to accumulate and officially report on public support of the service.


The concern of course is that ridership is the single metric used to trumpet success of the service.  NNEPRA and their lobbying group love to hype the numbers in every public setting they can.

So we have a question or two to pose.

First, if we purchase a round trip ticket between Brunswick and Portland, but don’t use it, do we he have an effect on ridership totals?

Second, if we do use it, how do we affect ridership totals?  Do we represent an increase of two in total ridership: one for the trip from Brunswick to Portland, and one for the trip back to Brunswick?  Or do we represent an increase of four: one departing Brunswick, one arriving Portland, one departing Portland, and one arriving Brunswick?

We hope, of course, that we don’t represent an increase of six total, the four just mentioned, plus a rider at the Freeport station in each direction.

We have no doubt that the system and NNEPRA are highly motivated to maximize the ridership totals, and their ‘growth.’  But until the same rigor and discipline is applied to ridership figures certified accounting methods required of financial reporting, we simply can’t be sure.


Especially since there is virtually no public disclosure of PRECISELY how ridership information is collected and reported.

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