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In 2006, U.S. public transit ridership exceeded 10 billion trips for the first time in 49 years. And as gas prices continued to climb and transit agencies opened new or expanded services, transit became an even more popular choice for commuters in 2007. Agencies collectively registered more than 10.3 billion trips, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
Light rail, which APTA characterizes as modern streetcars and trolleys, carried 431.7 million passengers and had the highest year-over-year increase of all modes at 6.1 percent. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority led the pack at 128.6 percent, as it reopened a segment of the St. Charles Streetcar Line, which was damaged in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina. Agencies also posted significant ridership increases in Denver (66.2 percent), St. Louis (27 percent), Philadelphia (26.2 percent), Kenosha, Wis. (18.5 percent), New Jersey (14.7 percent) and Memphis (11.3 percent).
Ridership on commuter-rail systems (long-haul service between metropolitan and suburban areas) totaled 460.8 million trips, up 5.5 percent vs. 2006. Nashville’s Music City Star posted triple-digit growth of 257.9 percent after completing its first full year of operation. Agencies posted double-digit increases in Santa Fe, N.M. (96.6 percent) — where the New Mexico Department of Transportation and Mid-Region Council of Governments continued the phased-in launch of the Rail Runner Express — as well as Harrisburg, Pa. (41.3 percent), Seattle (27.4 percent), Oakland, Calif. (14.2 percent), Dallas/Fort Worth (12.1 percent), Stockton, Calif. (11.9 percent), Portland, Maine (11.8 percent) and Pompano Beach, Fla. (10.3 percent).
Heavy-rail (subway) ridership totaled 3 billion trips, up 3.1 percent. Agencies in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Atlanta posted year-over-year increases of 13.2 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.