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APTA first-half report: Light-rail trips up, heavy- and commuter-rail trips down


A rising unemployment rate, higher fares and lower gas prices helped drive down public transportation usage in the year’s first half, but only marginally, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Trips totaled about 5.2 billion, down 2.6 percent compared with first-half 2008 ridership, although light-rail trips increased slightly.

“The severe downturn in the economy has finally caught up with public transportation ridership, yet it still defies expectations,” said APTA President William Millar in a prepared statement. “Given that 59 percent of rides on public transportation are taken to commute to and from work, it is no surprise that job losses have affected ridership.”
First-half light-rail ridership, which includes trips on modern streetcars, trolleys and heritage trolleys, rose 0.6 percent year over year. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority registered a 32.2 percent light-rail ridership gain while the Memphis Area Transit Authority posted a 10.6 percent gain in trolley rides.

However, first-half heavy- and commuter-rail ridership declined 2.3 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, compared with first-half 2008 figures. In the heavy-rail category, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority registered a 12.3 percent drop and Maryland Transit Administration posted an 8.6 percent decrease; in the commuter-rail realm, the North Country Transit District registered a 22.9 percent decline and Alaska Railroad Corp. reported a 20.4 percent dip.

In the second-quarter, public transportation trips totaled about 2.6 billion, down 4.1 percent year over year, APTA said. Light-, heavy- and commuter-rail ridership decreased 2.8 percent, 2.8 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.

For more breakdowns of APTA’s ridership data in the second quarter and first half, follow this link.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/29/2009