Public Transit Use Rose to 58-Year High in 2014

The 10.8 billion trips taken on public transit in 2014 was the highest ridership level in 58 years, the American Public Transportation Association said on Monday. The figures included ridership on rail systems.

“Some public transit systems experienced all-time record high ridership last year,” said APTA Chair Phillip Washington. “This record ridership didn’t just happen in large cities. It also happened in small and medium size communities.”

APTA said that the gains came despite a decline of the price of gasoline of 42.9 cents in the fourth quarter.

“Despite the steep decline in gas prices at the end of last year, public transit ridership increased. This shows that once people start riding public transit, they discover that there are additional benefits besides saving money,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

“People are changing their travel behavior and want more travel options,” Melaniphy said. “In the past people had a binary choice. You either took public transit, most likely a bus, or you drove a car. Now there are multiple options with subways, light rail, streetcars, commuter trains, buses, ferries, cars, and shared use vehicles.”

APTA said that from 1995 to 2014, public transit ridership increased by 39 percent, almost double the population growth, which was up 21 percent. The estimated growth of vehicle miles traveled was 25 percent.

Light rail (modern light rail, streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased 3.6 percent in 2014, with 16 out of 28 public transit systems reporting increases.

Heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership increased by 3.3 percent with eight out of 15 public transit systems reported increases.

Overall regional rail (termed by APTA as “commuter rail”) ridership rose 2.9 percent in 2014, as 22 out of 28 public transit systems recorded gains.

Bus ridership decreased nationally by 1.1 percent. However, in small and medium size population groups, bus ridership saw percentage increases of 2.0 and 0.5, respectively.

Demand (paratransit) ridership increased in 2014 by 0.2 percent while trolleybus ridership declined by 2.8 percent.

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