Transit ridership increased 2.6 percent during the first three quarters of 2012 compared with the same 2011 period, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced yesterday. More than 7.9 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation systems during the year's first nine months.
In addition, a third-quarter gain marked the seventh consecutive quarter of ridership increases, APTA officials said in a prepared statement.
Nationally, heavy rail ridership grew by 3.6 percent, and 12 out of 15 subway and elevated train systems posted gains during the first nine months. Heavy rail systems with the highest ridership increases during the period were located in Cleveland (10.8 percent), San Francisco (7.4 percent), Chicago (4.9 percent), Baltimore (4.4 percent) and New York City (4.4 percent).
Light-rail ridership climbed 4.2 percent in the nine-month period, with 22 out of 28 light-rail systems reporting growth. Light-rail systems reporting double-digit gains were located in Memphis (33.7 percent), Salt Lake City (19.7 percent), Los Angeles (13.7 percent), Pittsburgh (13.5 percent) and Seattle (11.2 percent).
Meanwhile, commuter-rail ridership rose 2.4 percent, with 19 out of 28 systems reporting increases. Double-digit gains were reported in Austin, Texas (15.6 percent), San Carlos, Calif. (12.3 percent), and Seattle (10.2 percent).
Citing the overall ridership gains, APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy called on Congress to address long-term funding of public transportation systems.
"With seven consecutive quarters of ridership increases, it's obvious that public demand for public transit is growing," Melaniphy said. "As Congress works to resolve our country's deficit problem, it also needs to work to resolve the transportation deficit. Otherwise, public transit and highway funding will be facing an annual $15 billion shortfall in the next 10 years."
Melaniphy also noted that in areas where the local economy is improving and new jobs are being added, public transportation ridership is up.
"This makes sense since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are work commutes," he said.
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