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APTA: U.S. transit use at highest point in 58 years


The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported today that U.S. ridership on public transportation systems reached 10.8 billion trips in 2014, the highest annual ridership number in 58 years.

Ridership rose even as gas prices declined by 42.9 cents in the fourth quarter, said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy in a press release.

"People are changing their travel behavior and want more travel options," said Melaniphy. "In the past people had a binary choice. You either took public transit, most likely a bus, or you drove a car. Now there are multiple options with subways, light rail, streetcars, commuter trains, buses, ferries, cars and shared use vehicles."

Some U.S. transit agencies experienced all-time record high ridership in 2014, said Phillip Washington, APTA chair and CEO and general manager of the Regional Transportation District in Denver.

"This record ridership didn't just happen in large cities," said Washington. "It also happened in small and medium size communities."

Light-rail ridership climbed 3.6 percent in 2014 compared with 2013, with 16 out of 28 public transit systems reporting increases. Light-rail service in Minneapolis jumped 57.4 percent due to the opening of the Metro Green Line in that city. Light-rail ridership in Oceanside, Calif., soared 36 percent due to the system being shut down for several months in 2013.

Four light- rail systems saw double digit increases in 2014: Houston, 17.9 percent; San Diego, 15.3 percent; Denver, 12 percent; and Seattle, Wash.-Sound Transit, 11.7 percent.

Ridership on heavy-rail systems rose 3.3 percent across the country, with eight out of 15 public transit systems reporting increases. Those posting gains included: San Francisco, 6.1 percent; Boston, 4.9 percent; Chicago, 4.1 percent; New York's MTA New York City Transit 4 percent; New York, MTA Staten Island Railway, 3.5 percent; Atlanta, 2.3 percent; and Miami 2.1 percent.

Nationally, commuter-rail ridership climbed 2.9 percent, as 22 out of 28 transit systems reported increases. Four commuter-rail systems saw double-digit growth: Salt Lake City, 16.2 percent; Stockton, Calif., 15.7 percent; Seattle, Wash.-Sound Transit, 10.4 percent; and San Carlos, Calif., 10.1 percent.

The record ridership should send a clear message to Congress that U.S. residents want expanded transit services, Melaniphy said. With federal funding for transit set to expire May 31, Congress needs to pass a long-term, well-funded service transportation bill that invests in public transportation infrastructure, he said.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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