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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis March 23, 2012
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U.S. Public Transit Ridership Climbs: 10.4 Billion Trips in 2011

U.S. public transportation ridership in 2011 totaled 10.4 billion trips, 2.3 percent more than the 2010 total and the second highest annual ridership since 1957. This represents 235 million more trips than were taken in 2010. Only ridership in 2008, when gas prices rose above $4 a gallon, surpassed last year’s ridership.

This was the sixth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide.

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy announced the ridership figures at the Opening General Session of the APTA Legislative Conference in Washington, DC.

“What is exciting,” he said, “is that the uptick in ridership occurred in large, medium, and small communities, showing the broad support that public transportation has nationwide. In fact, the largest rate of growth was in rural communities with populations under 100,000, where public transit use increased by 5.4 percent.”

He said: “Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and, in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work. Since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increase in areas where the economy has improved.”

He tied this success to the recovering economy and said: “We take people to work and we put people to work.”

Noting the increased use of passenger information technology as another contributing factor to higher ridership, Melaniphy said: “The exponential growth of apps to track bus and rail arrival times is demystifying the ridership experience and attracting new customers to public transportation. More and more people are now able to find out when the next bus and train will arrive through public transit apps. This is making public transportation more attractive.”

APTA Members Release Numbers
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus led the nation’s large bus agencies with a ridership increase of almost 10.2 percent in 2011 compared with the previous year. The agency posted strong ridership growth in each quarter of the year.

“We are encouraged that, as commuters try COTA to minimize the impact of higher fuel prices on their budgets, they respond favorably to our service and many become long-term users of transit,” said COTA President/CEO W. Curtis Stitt.

In Kansas City, MO, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) provided 15.6 million more rides in 2011 than 2010, a 5.7 percent increase. “People in Kansas City are realizing that riding The Metro is a convenient way to get to work and school, along with other destinations,” said Mark Huffer, KCATA general manager.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority in Tampa, FL, noted that it has seen its ridership rise each month for the past two years. During 2011, the increases varied from a low of 3 percent in July to a high of 19 percent in February; in addition, March 2011 reported the highest monthly bus ridership in the agency’s history, 1.2 million trips.

Print, broadcast, and online media nationwide picked up the story of record high public transportation ridership, including The New York Times; The Washington Post; USA Today; Los Angeles Times; Time Magazine; Reuters; CNN- TV (with ticker tape throughout the day); CNN.com –Money; Cox TV; National Public Radio, both morning news and Marketplace; and The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch.

To see the complete ridership report, click here.

APTA Chair Thomas Addresses EESI
On March 13, APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas addressed a session hosted by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute in Washington, DC, saying that “public transportation, where available, is the best way for people to beat the escalating price of gasoline.”

Public transit provides a variety of benefits, Thomas said: an alternative to high fuel prices; a way to help reduce U.S. dependence on oil; and a boost to the nation’s manufacturing economy through construction of buses, railcars, and infrastructure.


Photo by Todd Parola

APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas makes a presentation on the economic benefits of public transportation at a program hosted by EESI.

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