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APTA touts record transit ridership in 2013

Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation systems in 2013, which was the highest annual ridership figure in 57 years, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced today.

For the eighth consecutive year, more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) increased 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 rose by 1.1 percent, APTA officials said in a press release.

"Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities,” said Peter Varga, APTA Chair and Chief Executive Officer of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, Mich. "Public transportation systems nationwide – in small, medium, and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers."

Since 1995, public transit ridership has climbed 37.2 percent, outpacing population and VMT growth, which increased 20.3 percent and 22.7 percent, respectively, in that timespan.

"Access to public transportation matters," said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. "Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization."

Economic recovery in certain areas also helped drive up ridership.

"When more people are employed, public transportation ridership increases since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes," Melaniphy said.

By sector, heavy rail ridership increased 2.8 percent nationwide in 2013, as eight out of 15 transit systems reported gains. Cities with notable increases included Miami, up 10.6 percent; Los Angeles, 4.8 percent; New York City, 4.2 percent; and Cleveland, up 2.9 percent.

Nationally, commuter-rail ridership rose 2.1 percent as 20 out of 28 transit systems reported increases. With a new rail line that opened in December 2012, Salt Lake City reported a whopping 103.3 percent gain. Other systems posting double-digit increases were Austin, Texas, 37.3 percent; Harrisburg-Philadelphia, 33.9 percent; Anchorage, Alaska, 30 percent; Lewisville, Texas, 23 percent; Stockton, Calif., 19.9 percent; Minneapolis, 12.5 percent; and Portland, Ore., 10.3 percent.

Meanwhile, light-rail ridership rose 1.6 percent last year, with 17 out of 27 transit systems reporting increases. Systems that showed double-digit gains were in New Orleans, 28.9 percent; Denver, 14.9 percent; and San Diego, Calif., 10.4 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/10/2014