Pandemic Deals a Blow to Transit Ridership

The ability of residents and workers to move efficiently within San Bernardino County contributes to a higher quality of life and a more prosperous business climate. An effective public transit system is essential for individuals who cannot afford, are unable, or choose not to drive a car. Having both rail and bus service is important for meeting diverse transit needs, with rail serving mostly longer-distance commuters and buses serving mostly local commuters and other trips. This indicator measures ridership on the commuter rail system, as well as ridership and operating costs for San Bernardino County’s five bus systems, which offer bus service coverage to over 90% of the county’s population.

Train Departing Santa Fe Station in San Bernardino County

How is San Bernardino County Doing?


For all Metrolink rail lines that have at least one station serving San Bernardino County, ridership figures from the 2019/20 fiscal year (July to June) showed a one-year decline of 21% decline, due to many commuters transitioning to working at home as a result of the pandemic. The line that experienced the greatest one-year decline as of June 2020 was the Riverside Line, falling 23%. The San Bernardino Line fell the least, but still experienced a 18% decline in one year. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, the Riverside Line and the San Bernardino Line were already seeing slow but steady ridership declines. Conversely, in the 10 years prior to the pandemic, ridership on the Inland Empire/Orange County Line and the Perris Valley/91 Line was generally increasing. This growth was halted by the pandemic.


Commuter Rail Ridership on Rail Lines Serving San Bernardino County (San Bernardino Line, Riverside Line, Inland Empire/Orange County Line, and Perris Valley/91 Line, 2013-2022

Source: San Bernardino County Transportation Authority

The steady decline in bus ridership in San Bernardino County continued in 2019/20 and declined more sharply than in previous years due to the pandemic. In 2019/20, there were 11,364,228 bus passenger boardings, which reflects a one-year decrease of 16% (compared to decreases of 3% or 4% in previous years). Overall, since 2010/11, ridership dropped 35%. On a per capita basis, Omnitrans ridership fell from 10.7 trips per capita in 2012 to 7.0 in 2019 (a 35% decline). Per capita ridership on Victor Valley Transit fell 20% over the same period, from 5.3 trips per capita to 4.2 in 2019.


Bus Ridership in San Bernardino County, 2013-2022

Note: Beginning 2015/16, the City of Barstow and portions of the county joined the Victor Valley Transit Authority, expanding its service area. Consequently, ridership reporting for Barstow Area Transit ended in 2015/16.
Source: San Bernardino County Transportation Authority


Inland Empire transit agencies, including Omnitrans and Victor Valley Transit Authority (VVTA), have substantially fewer boardings per capita than peer markets compared, including transit agencies serving Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. VVTA posted the highest operating costs per trip at $11.39 in 2019, while the transit agency serving Las Vegas had the lowest at $2.74. Omnitrans operating costs per trip were the third highest among the 10 agencies compared.


Regional Comparison of Bus System Boardings per Capita and Operating Costs, 2021

Note: Omnitrans and Victor Valley Transit Authority serve regions that may differ in size, population density, and land use from the standard peer regions used for comparison in the San Bernardino County Community Indicators Report (Phoenix, Miami, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County). These differences should be considered when interpreting the data. Boardings per capita are calculated using the service area population for transit providers and include bus and bus rapid transit service only; commuter bus, demand response service, and heavy or light rail is not included.
Source: National Transit Database, National Total Summary and Complete Profile Set: All Reporters (