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Vast Majority of Transit Trips Directly Contribute to Nation's Economic Strength

Public transit trips are integral to the engine that powers America’s economy—according to APTA’s new demographic study, Who Rides Public Transportation—by connecting riders to employers and to retail and entertainment venues.

The study reports that 87 percent of all transit trips have a direct impact on local economies, with the following breakdown:

* 49 percent of all transit trips are for traveling to and from work,
* 21 percent are for shopping, and
* 17 percent are for recreational spending.

“Public transit riders’ impact on the economy has grown tremendously over the last 10 years,” said Acting President & CEO Richard A. White. “In addition to the work commute, Americans are taking transit to shop, dine and attend entertainment venues more than ever before. As the new Congress and administration look to boost the economy, investing in America’s public transportation infrastructure should be a key element of that plan.”

The study is the most extensive demographic report of public transit riders ever conducted and is based on nearly 700,000 passenger surveys.

To cite one specific detail that indicates an upward trend, the number of trips taken for shopping has more than doubled from 2007 (when it was 8.5 percent) to the current share of 21 percent.

The study also reports that 63 percent of riders use public transit at least five days a week and 13 percent use it for either six or seven days a week. These data reinforce the finding that commuting is the primary trip purpose for most passengers but many also ride transit for shopping, dining and other activities that boost local economies.

“These public transit trips impact communities of all sizes,” White said. “The facts speak for themselves. Investing in public transit is the obvious choice to help grow the economy.”

Who Rides?
APTA officials say that among other findings, the study’s rider demographics indicate that the public transportation industry is serving “riders of choice”—those riders who have multiple transportation options but choose public transit for select trips.

Some specific rider demographics include the following data points:

* 89 percent of public transit r­iders are between the ages of 20-64—­typically the most economically active years of their lives;
* 71 percent of riders are employed and 7 percent are students;
* 77 percent of transit-user households include one or more working persons;
* 51 percent of riders hold a bachelor’s or higher level academic degree;
* Transit serves riders across the economic spectrum: 21 percent of U.S. households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more have at least one member who regularly rides transit as do 21 percent of households with annual incomes of less than $15,000;
* 55 percent of riders are women, a figure that is the same for bus and rail; and
* 65 percent of riders have a driver’s license.

About the Study
Who Rides Public Transportation
is based on an extensive analysis of 695,748 questionnaires from surveys conducted from 2008-2015 by public transit systems of all sizes and located in a variety of locations—from rural communities to urban areas. These systems provided 80 percent of all U.S. transit trips taken during the study period. It was authored by CJI Research Corp. for APTA. APTA last conducted this survey in 2007.See the complete study here.

Local Riders Have Local Clout

As APTA’s new study reports on the key demographics of who riders are, the association also helps define how riders can help advocate for and strengthen public transit.

Voices for Public Transit (VPT), is a national grassroots network of public transportation advocates—­riders, business owners, environmentalists, members of community organizations and other stakeholders—who are committed to strengthening public transit at the local and regional levels.

VPT’s robust website features information and tools for calculating fuel-, carbon- and cost-saving benefits of using public transportation and supports advocates as they organize community events, create partnerships, work with local media and engage leaders in the specific benefits of transit in their communities.

The network, developed in 2013, was active in November ballot initiatives and in the run-up to the passage of the FAST Act, sending 83,763 emails and 4,590 personalized letters or faxes and making 4,025 personal phone calls to legislative offices. The network currently stands at 203,230 members.

In addition, APTA created the National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates (NAPTA), a national organization that represents grassroots transit coalitions, rider organizations and advocates.

The organization’s objectives follow:

* Create a diverse, committed and visible national alliance of local public transit coalitions;
* Generate a heightened level of advocacy through constituent visits, calls, emails and letters at necessary and appropriate times in the congressional decision-making process; and
* Link local transit coalitions with new advocacy tools and resources.

NAPTA will convene during the Legislative Conference on Tuesday, March 14, at 11:30 a.m. For more information, click here.
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