PATCO Ridership Continues to Grow While Bridge Crossings Drop

A PATCO train enters Collingswood Station. Image Source: Bill Vogel

A PATCO train enters Collingswood Station. Image Source: Bill Vogel

2012 PATCO ridership and bridge crossing data from the Delaware River Port Authority might mark the beginning of a new trend in South Jersey.  For the second year in a row, train ridership grew while driving decreased.

After the 2011 hike in bridge tolls on all four Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA)-owned bridges led to a 3 percent decrease in bridge crossings and contributed to an increase in PATCO ridership, it was to be seen if this was a one-year blip or a sign of changing transportation patterns in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Despite shutdowns due to Superstorm Sandy, according to DRPA’s most recent unaudited financial survey, the PATCO system recorded more riders in 2012 than it has in any of the 10 most recent years, and saw a 1.6 percent growth in ridership over its large 2011 gains (which occurred despite a 10 percent fare increase in 2011 as well).

DRPA, which owns and operates the PATCO system, also recorded a 1.76 percent decrease in automobile traffic on its four area bridges in 2012.

There are also positive signs that ridership may continue to grow with new transit-oriented developments (TOD) along the PATCO line. The Camden Haddon Avenue Transit Village project is slated to break ground this year around PATCO’s Ferry Avenue Station, and it was recently announced that the LumberYard mixed-used development project at PATCO’s Collingswood Station has officially restarted.

These TOD projects, combined with increased PATCO ridership and decreased car trips across DRPA bridges, should serve to further reduce area roadway congestion, improve air quality and enhance future economic development activities in the region.

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4 comments to PATCO Ridership Continues to Grow While Bridge Crossings Drop

  • [...] According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, South Jersey drivers are moving away from their cars, at least when crossing the Delaware. Car traffic on the Delaware River Port Authority’s four bridges was down 1.76% in 2012, and PATCO ridership was up 1.6%, in the first full year after a 10% PATCO fare hike and a 25% bridge toll hike (from $4 to $5 round-trip for ordinary cars). So far, so standard Economics 101. But DRPA is missing a bigger opportunity to mode-shift people out of their cars: it can increase the cross-subsidy of PATCO to 100%, and reap the environmental, congestion, and pro-urban benefits of zero-fare transit. And it can do it for only one more dollar in tolls. [...]

  • Bill Vigrass, Cherry Hill, NJ

    Tri-State: I am pleased that you are now covering PATCO even though it is south of Trenton (i.e., half way to Siberia in the opinion of many in northern NJ). DRPA Board’s expressed position is that there will be no expansion of the PATCO system. The present plan published in NJT’s capital program for several years is to extend the RiverLINE south to Glassboro. This will require a transfer at Camden for persons destined to Philadelphia.
    PATCO’s past experience was that about 90% of its passengers were destined to Philadelphia; only 10% rode locally within NJ.
    I worked on three studies to expand the PATCO system. All extensions of PATCO would have generated more ridership than the extension of Diesel-electric light rail service. This is a political decision that we will have to live with.
    Bill Vigrass, retired Asst. Gen. Mgr. and consultant since retirement.

  • Joseph

    I want to say thanks as well for posting this about PATCO. The line is a workhorse, and does an amazing job is getting people into Philly from South Jersey. Quite honestly, it’s our only alternative to driving, since NJTransit’s Atlantic City line has only two stops within a reasonable commuting distance to Philadelphia, and even then it only has one inconveniently-located stop in the city (i.e. outside Center City, which is where most of the jobs are).

    Young people like me are moving to cities and close in suburbs like crazy, so I’m not surprised PATCO’s ridership numbers are increasing. After driving in to work for four years, I hope I never, ever have to do it again.

  • […] past decade has seen substantial ridership growth on the PATCO system. Coupled with a steady decline in automobile traffic across the Ben Franklin […]

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