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Public transit ridership increased in 2011's first three quarters, APTA says


About 2.6 billion trips were taken on public transportation modes in the third quarter, a 2 percent increase over the same quarter a year ago, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Ridership rose in all modes, led by light rail, which increased by 5.8 percent, APTA officials said in a prepared statement.

Coupled with gains in the first and second quarters, the third-quarter results marked the first time in three years that ridership increased for all three quarters, officials said. They attributed the growth to several factors, including higher gasoline prices, improved “real time” rider information and a recovering economy.

“This increase in ridership shows that Americans want more transportation choices and will use public transportation if it is available in their community,” said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy. “Also, transit agency investments are paying off, resulting in riders experiencing a higher level of quality service.”

Nationally, heavy-rail ridership climbed 2 percent, with 13 out of 15 systems (subways and elevated trains) posting year-over-year ridership increases. Cities posting the highest gains were in Cleveland, 9.7 percent; Philadelphia, 8.7 percent; Boston, 7 percent; and San Francisco, 6 percent.

Among 27 light-rail systems, 22 reported ridership gains during the quarter. Cities posting double-digit increases were: Dallas, 36.4 percent; Seattle (King County Department of Transportation), 35.8 percent; Salt Lake City, 21 percent; Buffalo, N.Y., 19.5 percent; Oceanside, Calif., 16 percent; and Philadelphia, 10 percent.

Twenty-two out of 27 commuter-rail systems also reported ridership increases; overall commuter-rail ridership rose 2.7 percent. The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, Texas, recorded triple-digit increases in the third quarter as a result of adding a midday service, and registering more reverse commuter trips and peak trips. Cities with double-digit gains were: Nashville, 30.2 percent; Oceanside, 22.7 percent; Portland, Ore., 16.2 percent; Seattle, 11.8 percent; San Carlos, Calif., 10.7 percent; and Salt Lake City, 10.1 percent.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/9/2011