Sure, the Phillies had a bit of a winning streak in the last few weeks and Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter and a recent call-up from the minors is getting people excited. But make no mistake: the Phillies are still awful this season. They’ve got a record of 38-63, the worst in baseball. They could, theoretically, end up being the worst team since the 2003 Detroit Tigers that finished 43-119.
And this terribleness is wearing off on other entities in Philadelphia that depend on fans making their way to and from Phillies games 80 times each year. One of the biggest losers is SEPTA, since the Broad Street Line is such a popular way to avoid traffic at the stadiums, and which has seen a steady decline in home game ridership since 2011. Here’s what the transit authority provided Billy Penn regarding Phillies-related ridership:
Note: Not all 81 Phillies home games are sampled for a ridership count, however between 54 and 76 were sampled during the 2011 through 2014 season. Station entry ridership is recorded for a minimum of a three hour period, starting one hour after game starts to capture fans leaving the game.
The data shows that since 2011, SEPTA is losing about 1,700 riders during each Phillies home game compared to the ridership this year. Assuming each of those riders took SEPTA both to and from the game, and also assuming they all purchased the reduced price tokens or used a Trans Pass for the $1.80 fare, that means SEPTA has theoretically lost $489,600 this year compared to 2011 for the 1,700 riders per game it doesn’t currently have.
These numbers are per-game averages and there’s nothing saying attendance or SEPTA ridership to Phillies games won’t bounce up for the remainder of the season. The Phillies have shown increases in their ability to sell tickets as they’ve begun using Groupon and “variable” pricing to sell more tickets.
But any major increases in attendance and SEPTA ridership are purely optimistic, especially as the downward trajectory has shown that SEPTA ridership for Phillies games hasn’t been the same for the last five years.
Home game attendance is still abysmal compared to what it once was. The Inquirer reported that average attendance through mid-July is 24,831, which is a far cry from the attendance capacity of 43,651. The 17,097 people who showed up April 23 of this year to watch the Phillies play Miami was the lowest announced attendance since the 2004 season.
Back in the glory days (like five years ago) between July 7, 2009 and August 5, 2012, the Phillies sold out 257 straight games and entry counts at AT&T Station were much higher, SEPTA officials told Billy Penn.
Now, the transit authority must plan service for dwindling attendance at Phillies games that can have an impact higher than that of other sports in Philly — it simply comes down to the math of having dozens of home games per year while the Eagles, though more popular, have just eight.
SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch said services to and from games and other events at the various sports complexes have to be planned for well in advance based on the potential number of riders and the capacity for events.
For example, he said, Eagles and Phillies games are always going to potentially have higher attendance than Sixers and Flyers, and related SEPTA ridership, because the stadiums hold significantly more people than the arena. The same planning has to be done when concerts or other large events take place at the venues. Ridership must be accommodated.
“If we saw a long-term ridership change, we’d look at making adjustments,” Busch said, “however, these ridership numbers usually fluctuate based on what’s happening with the teams.”