"The bankers" are to blame for passenger numbers on the Luton and Dunstable guided busway being 41% of those forecast, the council has said.
Luton Borough Council revealed there were 346,854 passenger journeys between October and December 2013.
The 2008 busway business case projected usage of 9,000 daily trips, indicating 828,000 journeys for its first quarter.
The council said the forecast was made before the recession and usage figures still show "strong performance".
'Economy into reverse'
Colin Chick, director of regeneration, said the passenger numbers for the £91m scheme were "roughly expected".
"We are all aware of what happened almost as soon as we submitted the business case... the world economy had gone into reverse," he said.
Developments expected in 2008 have not happened and were "only just starting to emerge" so the figures would improve "without a doubt".
"If you want to blame anybody, blame the bankers," he said.
"When the country starts to recover and sites are developed and we create new jobs in that area and the airport expansion goes through, within a few months those figures will go back to what was anticipated."
The eight-mile (13.4km) mainly guided route along a stretch of old railway line from Luton to Dunstable opened on 25 September.
Three bus companies - Arriva, Centrebus and Grant Palmer - have been operating four new routes, which provide services up to every eight minutes at peak times.
Councillor Dave Taylor said: "We continue to be exceptionally pleased with this indication of the busway's strong performance during its early operating period.
"The figures are very encouraging."
Passenger numbers for the first month of its operation were 43% of the forecast with just over 120,000 passenger journeys.
Figures for the second quarter up to 31 March are expected shortly.
- 14 November 2013
- 24 September 2013
- 23 August 2013
- 8 May 2013