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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Transit ridership slipped in first quarter


Ridership on U.S. public transportation systems declined 1.9 percent to 2.6 billion trips in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

"Despite this small decrease, demand and support for public transportation remains strong," APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy said in a press release.

He attributed this year's decrease to a few trends that were present in the first-quarter 2012, including a gas-price spike and an additional day of ridership on Feb. 29 due to the leap year. An extra weekday can contribute to a 1.4 percent ridership increase, according to an APTA analysis.

Nationally, by rail segment, in the first quarter:

• Light-rail ridership (defined as passengers on streetcars, trolleys and heritage trolleys) decreased 1.3 percent. Twelve of 28 light-rail systems reported increases and five posted double-digit gains, including Los Angeles, 17.9 percent; Hampton, Va., 17.6 percent; Pittsburgh, 13.3 percent; Seattle-Sound Transit, 10.5 percent; and Seattle-King County Department of Transportation, 10.4 percent.

• Heavy-rail ridership (passengers on subways and elevated trains) dropped 1.7 percent. Only four of 15 systems posted increases: Miami, 10.4 percent; L.A., 5.6 percent; San Francisco, 4.4 percent; and Cleveland, 3 percent.

• Commuter-rail ridership slipped 0.8 percent. Fourteen of 28 systems reported increases, led by Salt Lake City, where ridership jumped 115.4 percent because of a large extension's opening. Other gainers were systems in Austin, Texas (94 percent); Anchorage, Alaska (60.9 percent); Lewisville, Texas (38.9 percent); Stockton, Calif. (21.3 percent); Minneapolis (14.5 percent); and Seattle-Sound Transit (11.6 percent).

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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