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Public Transportation Use Up Across the United States in 2011

March 17, 2012

Metrolink Train and OCTA BusFrom USA Today – Fueled partly by rising gas prices, public transportation ridership across the USA increased by 2.31% in 2011 over the previous year, the American Public Transportation Association reports.

Americans last year took 235 million more trips on buses, trains and subways than in 2010. That’s the most ridership since 2008, when gas prices soared to a national average of $4.11 a gallon in July.

Also driving ridership: an improving economy. Greater use came despite more than eight out of 10 transit systems either cutting service, increasing fares or both in recent years, says Michael Melaniphy, the association’s president and CEO. “Can you imagine what ridership growth would have been like if they hadn’t had to do those fare increases and service cuts?”

Ridership grew in 2011 as the year progressed, gas prices rose and the economy improved. Passenger trips rose by 1.6% in the first half of the year, by 2% in the third quarter and by 3.7% in the last three months.

In Boston, where unemployment was down 2 percentage points since the beginning of 2010 and the economy added 64,000 jobs, ridership was up 4% last year to an average of 1.3 million passenger trips a day on weekdays, says Joe Pesaturo, of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Other factors driving Boston’s rise: improved vehicle maintenance and better on-time performance on some routes. As in many cities, transit riders in Boston last year also had broader access to arrival and departure times via new smartphone applications.

“That people can look in the palm of their hand to see when the next bus or train is going to be arriving makes it a more attractive option,” Pesaturo says.

An upside to recessionary times is transit agencies were forced to operate more efficiently and better care for existing systems and equipment, says Robert Puentes, senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, a think tank. And that, he says, has resulted in better service.

Having arrival information available on smartphones also helps. “One of the big problems with transit, especially buses, has been…to read the rest of this story, please click here.


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