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APTA: Transit-rail ridership tumbles in year's first nine months

Rising unemployment rates, falling gas prices, and declining state and local funding continued to hinder transit agencies’ ridership in 2009’s first nine months. Ridership declined 3.8 percent compared with 2008’s first nine months and trips on all major modes — light, heavy and commuter rail, and bus – were down, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

“This downturn in public transportation ridership is a reflection of our economic times,” said APTA President William Millar in a prepared statement. “Just like the unemployment rate, public transit use is a lagging economic indicator, [and] we would expect that when employment rebounds, so will transit ridership.”
Through nine months, light-rail ridership, which includes streetcars and trolleys, decreased 0.7 percent year over year. However, light-rail systems in six cities reported increases: Philadelphia (up 17.5 percent); Oceanside, Calif. (17.3 percent); Baltimore (13.9 percent); Memphis, Tenn. (11.6 percent); Tampa, Fla. (7 percent); and San Francisco (1.1 percent).

Heavy-rail ridership, including subways, declined 3 percent. Among the few gainers, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority posted a 6 percent increase and the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority registered a 0.6 percent rise.

Meanwhile, commuter-rail ridership dropped 5.1 percent. Minor increases were reported in Boston (2.4 percent), New Haven, Conn. (1.4 percent) and Alexandria, Va. (1.3 percent).

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/22/2009