Americans taking public transit at highest rate in 57 years

LA Subway Ridership

In 2013, Americans took a record 10.7 billion trips on public transit.

I don’t like public transportation. It’s a completely irrational dislike, I’ll admit, and is largely due to the fact that I’m a control freak. It’s the reason I like living in Detroit, rather than New York, Chicago, London, Paris or any other city with a sprawling transit system – I have to drive everywhere. Senior Editor Steven Ewing, though, loves public transportation. During the Chicago Auto Show, he was genuinely disappointed that we could walk or be shuttled everywhere, rather than take his beloved “L” Train or shove our way onto a CTA bus, like in years past. Based on a new study, though, it seems like more and more people are siding with Mr. Ewing when it comes to buses, trains and subways.

According to a study released by the American Public Transportation Association, in 2013 Americans took a record 10.7 billion trips on public transit, a 57-year high. This isn’t a new phenomenon either, as the US has cracked the 10-billion-trip mark for the eighth year in a row. There was a 2.8-percent jump in the number of people riding subways and elevated trains with over half of the systems studied recording an increase. Light rail, meanwhile, saw a 1.6-percent jump nationwide, with 17 of the 27 systems in the US seeing upticks.

More surprising is that the number of transport networks aren’t limited to big cities like Los Angeles, New York or Chicago. Smaller metropolises are seeing increases in the use of public transport, with places like Austin, TX, Minneapolis, MN and Portland, OR seeing double-digit jumps in subway and other heavy rail. Salt Lake City, UT, meanwhile, recorded a massive 103.3-percent increase in its heavy rail. It’s a similar story in smaller cities that use light rail, like trolleys and streetcars.

Why the increase, though? Not surprisingly, the improving economy is playing a big role. As The Detroit Free Press points out, governments are restoring service in the wake of the Great Recession. Drops in unemployment are also leading to a surge in passengers, with the APTA study claiming that 60 percent of trips on public transit are work related.

“Access to public transportation matters,” said the APTA’s president and CEO, Michael Melaniphy. “Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.”

Scroll down to have a look at the APTA’s press release to see the results of the study. What’s public transit like where you live? Would you like to see an increase in projects around you? And at what would it take to get you out of your car and onto a bus, train or subway? Have your say in Comments.

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Record 10.7 Billion Trips Taken On U.S. Public Transportation In 2013
The Highest Transit Ridership in 57 Years

In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

“Last year people took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation. As the highest annual ridership number since 1956, Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities,” said Peter Varga, APTA Chair and CEO of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI. “Public transportation systems nationwide – in small, medium, and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers.”

Some of the public transit agencies reporting record ridership system-wide or on specific lines were located in the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Espanola, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Fort Myers, FL; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Pompano Beach, FL; Riverside, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Carlos, CA; Tampa, FL; Yuma, AZ; and New York, NY.

Since 1995 public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 22.7 percent.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

“Access to public transportation matters,” continued Melaniphy. “Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.”

Another reason behind the ridership increases is the economic recovery in certain areas.
When more people are employed, public transportation ridership increases since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes.”

“The federal investment in public transit is paying off and that is why Congress needs to act this year to pass a new transportation bill,” said Melaniphy.

To see the complete APTA 2013 ridership report, go to:

2013 Ridership Breakdown

Heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership increased by 2.8 percent across the country as 8 out of 15 transit systems reported increases. Heavy rail in Miami, FL, saw an increase of 10.6 percent that was mostly due to increased frequency during peak service. Other heavy rail systems with increases in ridership for 2013 were in the following cities: Los Angeles, CA (4.8%); New York, NY (4.2%); and Cleveland, OH (2.9%).

Nationally, commuter rail ridership increased by 2.1 percent in 2013 as 20 out of 28 transit systems reported increases. With a new rail line that opened in December 2012, commuter rail in Salt Lake City, UT, saw an increase of 103.3 percent. The following five commuter rail systems saw double digit increases in 2013: Austin, TX (37.3%); Harrisburg-Philadelphia, PA (33.9%); Anchorage, AK (30.0%); Lewisville, TX (23.0%); Stockton, CA (19.9%); Minneapolis, MN (12.5%); and Portland, OR (10.3%).

Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased 1.6 percent in 2013 with 17 out of 27 transit systems reporting increases. Systems that showed double digit increases in 2013 were located in the following cities: New Orleans, LA (28.9%); Denver, CO (14.9%); and San Diego, CA (10.4%). Ridership in the following cities also saw increases in 2013: Seattle, WA – Sound Transit (9.8%); Pittsburgh, PA (7.5%); Salt Lake City, UT (6.8%); Los Angeles, CA (6.0%); San Jose, CA (3.6%); and Philadelphia, PA (3.5%).

Bus ridership increased by 3.8 percent in cities with a population of below 100,000. Nationally, bus ridership in communities of all sizes remained stable, declining by 0.1 percent.
Large bus systems with increases were located in the following areas: Washington, DC (3.5%); Houston, TX (3.4%); Cincinnati, OH (3.4%); and Seattle, WA (3.1%).

Demand response (paratransit) ridership increased in 2013 by 0.5 percent.

News Source: American Public Transportation Association via The Detroit Free Press

Image Credit: Reed Saxon / AP

Category: Government/Legal

Tags: american public transportation association, apta, bus, public transit, public transport, subway, train

Written by Lewis Shaw

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