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Led by light rail, public transit ridership continued its growth trend during third-quarter 2011, according to an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) report issued Dec. 8.
Total ridership climbed 2 percent to 2.6 billion trips during the quarter compared with the same period a year ago, APTA officials said.
The increase marked the third consecutive quarter of growth.
Although ridership grew in all transportation modes, the biggest gain — 5.8 percent — was in light-rail services. Twenty-two out of 27 seven light-rail systems posted ridership gains.
Cities with double-digit increases in light-rail ridership were Dallas, 36.4 percent; Seattle, 35.8 percent; Salt Lake City, 21 percent; Buffalo, N.Y., 19.5 percent; Oceanside, Calif., 16 percent; and Philadelphia, 10 percent.
Also, 22 out of 27 commuter-rail systems posted ridership growth; combined, commuter-rail ridership rose 2.7 percent. 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.
Meanwhile, 13 out of 15 heavy-rail systems tallied ridership increases during the quarter, helping to boost ridership by a total gain of 2 percent. Cities that recorded the highest increases were Cleveland, 9.7 percent; Philadelphia, 8.7 percent; Boston, 7 percent; and San Francisco, 6.1 percent.
"To have three consecutive quarters of ridership growth is fantastic," APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy said during a Dec. 16 podcast with Progressive Railroading.
Melaniphy attributed the trend to the impact rising fuel costs have had on consumers' transportation choices, as well as to transit agencies' service improvements.
"We've seen a great evolution of service that [agencies] are putting out there," Melaniphy said. "They're using new technology to demystify the riding experience so riders know when the next stop, bus or train is coming, and this has made riding transit a more enjoyable experience."
— Julie Sneider
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