SMART ridership numbers, including detailed analysis on emerging trends and comparisons to past years, are reported monthly at the Board of Directors meeting. Past ridership reports can be found in the Board materials archives.
As an open platform system, without fare gates or turnstiles, SMART operates on a Proof of Payment structure. In order to ensure accurate ridership numbers, since the beginning of service SMART has used a combination of methods for tracking and verifying ridership numbers. For background, the January 8, 2020 and February 5, 2020 Board of Directors meetings included a comprehensive report on the ridership methodology used at that time.
From the inception of service in August 2017, until December 2022, SMART conductors have manually ridership counts onboard the trains. This method has been utilized in place of automatic or turnstile fare counting but is subject to human error and conditions such as crowded trains and distraction. However, this method has captured a number of passengers who are not captured by paid fare reporting, such as:
- Clipper Baypass or 31-Day 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
- Mobile app weekend pass users
- Fare-free passengers, including children under 5, field trip participants, and free pass holders.
SMART CURRENTLY USES TWO DIFFERENT METHODS FOR TRACKING RIDERSHIP:
1. Automatic Passenger Counters
In April 2022, SMART awarded a contract to Urban Transportation Associates, Inc. (UTA) to design, furnish, and install an Automatic Passenger Counter System on board SMART’s eighteen trains. The goal of the Automatic Passenger Counter (“APC”) system is to relieve SMART of the need to contract with a third-party to perform the NTD-required sampling counts, remove the manual counting process being performed by our Engineer-Conductors, and add a systematic and highly accurate method for counting passengers, bicycles, and wheelchairs.
The FTA has a certification process for APC systems to ensure that the data is valid and can be utilized for agency sampling efforts. SMART contracted with a third party to complete the manual, onboard ridechecks that are required for this process, following NTD guidelines. These manual ridechecks were completed in August 2022, with excellent results: concurrence between the manual and APC comparisons was 99.5%. Based on the successful implementation and high accuracy of the system, SMART began reporting APC ridership counts to NTD beginning October 2022. The FTA (NTD) certified SMART’s APC system on December 13, 2022, permitting the agency to use the APC ridership data for FY23 and in place of manual sampling. In addition, SMART has contracted with an outside party to conduct onboard sampling for FY23, given the mid-year implementation of the APC system, and as a second data source for NTD sampling requirements.
2. Paid Fare Media Ridership
SMART riders use either a Clipper card or SMART’s mobile app to pay their fares. SMART collects Fare Media Ridership Report 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.
SMART’s most popular fare product is the 31-Day Pass. This fare product only requires the user to tag on and off once at the beginning of each month, so subsequent trips may not be recorded by the Clipper system. In addition, beginning in August 2022, SRJC students have access to the Clipper BayPass, which offers them free transit throughout the Bay Area. SMART has seen thousands of BayPass boardings since the program began, and data indicates that many more students are not tagging on regularly, as it is not required for fare validity.
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
As an agency operating less than 100 vehicles in maximum service, SMART is required by the FTA to conduct a random selection of statistically valid ride checks to validate the accuracy of the information reported to the NTD; this is known as Trip Sampling. For FY19 – FY23, SMART has contracted with independent firms to create this sampling data using the federally approved method of conducting randomized and statistically valid onboard counts. The results of these independent sampling efforts have been submitted annually to the FTA through the NTD Annual Report process. As SMART now has an FTA certified APC system, sampling data will be based on the APC data, with manual validation “benchmarking” required every three years to maintain certification.