Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation in 2013, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years, according to a report released from the American Public Transportation Association.
And for the eighth year in a row more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. Vehicle miles traveled on roads went up 0.3 percent last year, but public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.
“Last year people took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation," said APTA board chair Peter Varga, who also is the CEO of The Rapid transit system in Grand Rapids, Mich. "As the highest annual ridership number since 1956, Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities. Public transportation systems nationwide — in small, medium and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers."
Public transit agencies reporting record ridership in 2013 included Ann Arbor, Mich.; Cleveland, Denver, Espanola, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Fort Myers, Fla.; Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, Calif.; Pompano Beach, Fla.; Riverside, Calif.; Salt Lake City, San Carlos, Calif.; Tampa, Yuma, Ariz.; and New York City.
Ridership, according to the survey, is up 37.2 percent since 1995, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3 percent, and outpacing vehicle miles, which is up 22.7 percent since 1995.
"There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said APTA president and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Access to public transportation matters. Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.”
Another reason behind the ridership increases is the economic recovery in certain areas. When more people are employed, public transportation ridership increases — nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, according to the APTA. “The federal investment in public transit is paying off and that is why Congress needs to act this year to pass a new transportation bill,” said Melaniphy.
The report showed:
• Subway and elevated train ridership increased by 2.8 percent across the country as 8 out of 15 transit systems reported increases.
• Commuter rail ridership increased by 2.1 percent in 2013 across the country, with 20 out of 28 transit systems reporting increases. With a new rail line that opened in December 2012, commuter rail in Salt Lake City, saw an increase of 103.3 percent. The following five commuter rail systems saw double digit increases in 2013: Austin, Texas; Harrisburg-Philadelphia; Anchorage, Alaska; Lewisville, Texas; Stockton, Calif.; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Portland, Ore.
• Light rail — modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys — ridership increased 1.6 percent in 2013 with 17 out of 27 transit systems reporting increases.
• Bus ridership increased by 3.8 percent in cities with a population of below 100,000. Nationally, bus ridership in communities of all sizes remained stable, declining by 0.1 percent.
• Large bus systems with increases were reported from Washington, D.C., Houston, Cincinnati, and Seattle.
For Wisconsin, the results were mixed: Madison's system reported a slight bump in use, an increase of 1.01 percent overall. Port Washington reported an increase of 1.47 percent. Milwaukee, however, reported a decrease of use — 2.39 percent overall. Racine's system reported ridership dropped 4.28 percent.