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Rail News: Passenger Rail

APTA, MTA report ridership gains in 2012 despite destructive storms


Public transportation ridership grew to 10.5 billion trips in 2012, the second-highest level since 1957 and 154 million more trips than were posted in the previous year, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced yesterday.

Last year also marked the seventh consecutive year that more than 10 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation systems, APTA officials said in a prepared statement. National ridership grew despite the loss of 74 million trips when major Northeast Coast transit systems were disrupted by Hurricane Sandy in late October and a blizzard that hit the following week, they said.

"This record level of ridership is truly significant," said Michael Melaniphy, the association's president and chief executive officer.

Melaniphy attributed the increase to volatile gas prices in some localities and economic recovery that has more people returning to work.

"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."

Ridership on light-rail trains, modern streetcars or trolleys rose 4.5 percent in 2012, with 21 out of 28 transit systems reporting increases. The new light-rail system that opened in Hampton Roads, Va., in August 2011, posted a 154 percent jump in ridership. Systems that registered double-digit increases included those in Memphis, Tenn., 28.4 percent; Dallas, 20.8 percent; Los Angeles, 18.5 percent; Salt Lake City, 14.7 percent; Pittsburgh, 14.7 percent; Phoenix, 6.7 percent; Houston, 5.8 percent; and Seattle-King County Department of Transportation, 5 percent.

Heavy-rail ridership grew 1.4 percent, with 10 out of 15 transit systems reporting increases. Cities with the largest percentage increases included Cleveland, 9.7 percent; San Francisco, 7.8 percent; Miami, 5.2 percent; Chicago, 4.3 percent; and Los Angeles, 3.7 percent.

Ridership on commuter-rail systems inched up 0.5 percent, with 18 out of 28 transit systems reporting gains. The following systems experienced double-digit increases: Austin, Texas, 26.8 percent; Salt Lake City, 14.7 percent; Stockton, Calif., 14 percent; San Carlos, Calif., 13 percent; and Seattle, 10.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that 2012 ridership on its subways, railroads and buses rose by more than 0.5 percent year over year to 2.6 billion trips despite Sandy's impact, which cost the agency about 49.7 million trips.

The largest gain was recorded by MTA New York City Transit's subway service, which provided 1.65 billion rides, up 0.8 percent and the highest ridership level in 62 years, MTA officials said in a press release. MTA Metro-North Railroad's ridership increased 1.1 percent to 82.9 million trips, MTA Long Island Rail Road's passenger count ratcheted up 0.9 percent to 81.7 million trips and the Staten Island Railway's ridership dipped 3 percent to 4.4 million trips.

"MTA ridership has been growing for 20 years and this positive trend reflects New York state's improving economy and continuing improvements to [our] services," said MTA Interim Chairman Fernando Ferrer.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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