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APTA: Nearly 2.7 billion trips were logged on public transportation systems in 3Q

Led by light rail, transit ridership rose 1.5 percent in third-quarter 2013 to nearly 2.7 billion trips, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced yesterday.

The year-over-year increase represented more than 39 million additional trips. Light-rail ridership rose 3.1 percent and all public transportation modes registered gains, APTA officials said in a press release, adding that total ridership has increased in nine of the past 11 quarters.

"Public transportation continued to grow across the country in large, medium and small communities," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy.

Nationally, heavy rail ridership rose 2.4 percent, with eight out of 15 systems netting increases during the third quarter. The heavy rail systems posting the largest gains were located in Miami, at 11.1 percent; Los Angeles, 7.5 percent; Cleveland, 5.7 percent; and New York City, 3.3 percent.

Fourteen out of 28 light-rail systems registered gains in the quarter.

Some agencies with the largest third-quarter increases had ridership numbers spike as new extensions opened. For example, the Regional Transportation District of Denver posted a 25.3 percent ridership gain after a new line opened in spring; the Utah Transit Authority recorded a 13.4 percent jump in light-rail ridership as extensions opened in April and August; and the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans reported a 71.2 percent ridership increase due to a new line that opened in January 2013.

Overall commuter-rail ridership increased by 1.9 percent, with 22 out of 28 systems posting gains. Among the systems with double-digit increases: Austin, Texas, at 53 percent; Anchorage, Alaska, at 35 percent; Stockton, Calif., at 26.7 percent; Lewisville, Texas, at 22.7 percent; and Portland, Ore., at 15.4 percent.

In addition to new lines and extensions, Melaniphy attributed transit ridership gains to other factors, such as volatile gas prices and recovering local economies. Nearly 60 percent of public transportation trips are work commutes, he said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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