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APTA: U.S. public transit ridership fell nearly 3 percent in 2017

In Seattle, light-rail ridership soared 20.9 percent.
Photo – Sound Transit


In 2017, public transit ridership in the United States dropped 2.9 percent to 10.1 billion trips compared to 2016, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced this week.

While heavy-rail ridership in the country declined 2 percent to 3.8 billion trips, light- and commuter-rail ridership held mostly steady. Last year, U.S. transit riders took 497 million commuter-rail trips and 548 million light-rail trips, marking 0.19 percent and 0.83 percent decreases, respectively.

Although overall heavy-rail ridership fell, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reported a 5.3 percent year-over-year increase in heavy-rail ridership, while the Port Authority Transit Corp.'s ridership rose nearly 2 percent.

Nationally, commuter-rail ridership grew at 18 of 29 transit systems. For example, the Regional Transportation District of Denver logged a 64.6 percent increase in commuter-rail ridership with the opening of a new line in February 2017. In addition, Minneapolis and Portland, Maine, each logged double-digit growth in commuter-rail trips.

Ridership on U.S. light-rail lines increased at 11 of the 29 transit systems. Washington, D.C., logged a 59 percent rise in light-rail ridership, while Seattle and Atlanta reported 20.9 percent and 15.8 percent increases, respectively. Those figures include streetcar ridership.

Bus ridership nationally declined 4.3 percent to nearly 5 billion trips, according to APTA's most recent ridership report.

APTA has identified four broad categories that have been affecting public transit ridership: declines in time competitiveness, declines in cost competitiveness, a drop in rider loyalty and other external factors beyond transit agencies' control.

"While we are in a time of great change, in part due to technological innovations, public transit remains a critical part of any community’s transportation network," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas. "Public transportation organizations are revamping their services and experimenting with pilot projects to be more time and cost competitive, and more customer focused to meet the needs of today’s riders and the growing population."