The demand for public transportation rose last year as Americans took 10.5 billion trips, the second highest ridership since 1957, and 154 million more trips than the previous year, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail ridership each increased as U.S. public transportation recorded more than 10 billion trips for the seventh straight year.
Ridership in 2012 was the second highest since 1957.
“Every mode of public transportation showed an increase in ridership,” APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said. “Public transit ridership grew in all areas of the country – north, south, east, and west – in small, medium and large communities, with at least 16 public transit systems reporting record ridership.”
“Considering the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on some of the nation’s largest systems, this record level of ridership is truly significant,” said Melaniphy.
According to APTA, 74 million trips were lost when public transit systems from Washington, D.C. to Boston were shut down due to Hurricane Sandy and the blizzard that followed the next week.
Melaniphy said higher ridership can be attributed to volatile gas prices and lower unemployment, as well as a change in attitude regarding travel.
“There is a sea change going on in the way that people look at transportation,” he said. “Americans want travel choices; they want to be able to choose the best travel option for their lives. This is an exciting time for the public transportation industry as more and more Americans support it and want it.”
Melaniphy also pointed out that more Americans are supporting public transportation investment, as evidenced by the large number of transit-oriented ballot initiatives that passed in 2012.
“Last year 49 out of 62 transit-oriented state and local ballot initiatives passed,” said Melaniphy. “That means there was a nearly 80 percent passage rate. This extremely high rate of success demonstrates how important public transportation is to people and to communities.”
Rail ridership spiked upward in several cities. Memphis, TN, Dallas, Los Angeles, Cleveland, San Francisco, Austin, Salt Lake City and Lewisville, TX, were top performers.
Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased 4.5 percent with 21 out of 28 transit systems reporting increases. A highlight was the new rail in Hampton, VA, which posted a 154 percent incease since opening in August 2011.
Memphis (28.4percent); Dallas (20.8 percent); Los Angeles (18.5 percent); Salt Lake City (14.7 percent); Pittsburgh, PA (14.7 percent); and Seattle, WA – Sound Transit (10.7 percent) each posted double-digit increases. Houston’s METRORail (5.8 percent) was among four cities that posted more than a 5 percent increase.
Heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership increased by 1.4 percent as 10 out of 15 transit systems reported increases. Cleveland led the way with a 9.7 percent increase, followed by San Francisco (7.8 percent); Miami, FL (5.2 percent); Chicago (4.3 percent); and Los Angeles (3.7 percent).
Nationally, commuter rail ridership increased by 0.5 percent in 2012 as 18 out of 28 transit systems reported increases. With a new rail line extension that opened in June 2011, ridership on the Denton A-train in Lewisville, TX, increased 97.3 percent. The A-train also serves Denton and Carrollton. Elsewhere, Austin, TX (26.8 percent); Salt Lake City (14.7 percent); Stockton, CA (14 percent); San Carlos, CA (13 percent); and Seattle (10.5 percent) each experienced double-digit ridership increases.
St. Louis marked a 7.1 percent increase in bus ridership, the largest in the country.