U.S. Transit Trips Hit 10.2B in 2009, With Light Rail Up in Nine Cities

transit08_300.jpg(Photo: Model D Media)

The nation’s transit systems hosted 10.2 billion trips last year, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported yesterday. While that figure represents a 3.8 percent decline from 2008, APTA’s data showed light rail ridership rising in nine cities and the long-term increase in transit use continuing to outpace growth in population and vehicle miles traveled.

APTA President William Millar portrayed the new ridership figures as a win for transit, given the economic recession and the fact that fuel prices declined last year relative to their 2008 highs.

"Considering that nearly 60 percent of riders take public transportation
to commute to and from work, it is not surprising that ridership
declined in light of the many Americans who lost their jobs last year," Millar said in a statement.

Since 1995, APTA has reported a 31-percent increase in transit ridership nationwide, compared with a 15-percent increase in population over the same period and a 21-percent increase in highway miles traveled.

Nine cities reported light-rail ridership increases to APTA: Baltimore; Oceanside, CA; Memphis; Seattle; Philadelphia; Tampa; San Francisco; Portland; and New Orleans. Heavy rail networks in Los Angeles, D.C., Chicago, and Philadelphia also saw more riders last year.

  • Steve Faust

    The public school students the MTA carries are about 2% of ALL transit trips in the country. A trivial number of riders?

    The details:
    585,000 students taking 2.2 trips a day for 170 school days totals about 221 million trips per year. Divide 221 M by 10,200 million national transit trips results in approximately 2.1 percent of trips.
    The percent of NYC students of daily transit trips would be higher if only school days were being compared.

    Student ridership data: http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/03/01/the-truth-about-student-fares-mta-a-huge-bargain-for-state-and-city/

    If NYC total daily transit ridership is around 8 million (quick guess??) and school trips are about 1.3 million a day, then MTA public school student ridership is about 16% of all trips.
    But who’s counting.
    According to our elected officials “It don’t mean nothing, anyway.”
    And we don’t have to pay for nothing, do we?

    note: I will take as least as much responsibility for any math errors in the above calculations as our elected officials take for the accuracy of their state, school and MTA budgets. Anything above zero is more responsible.

  • You’re overcounting the percentage – 1.3 million is the average per school day, not per day or weekday. New York City Transit carries about 2.6 billion riders a year, so the actual percentage of school trips is about 8.5.

  • garyg

    Since 1995, APTA has reported a 31-percent increase in transit ridership nationwide, compared with a 15-percent increase in population over the same period and a 21-percent increase in highway miles traveled.

    You gotta love the way APTA cherry picks their dates to exaggerate the growth in ridership. Transit ridership in 1995 was the lowest since 1978. Comparing growth from the lowest point over the past 30 years to the second highest point isn’t going to give you a reliable indicator of the long-term trend. Over the past decade (that is, since 1999), ridership has grown only about 11%. Over the past two decades (since 1989), ridership has grown only about 14%. Population has grown faster.

    And most of the ridership growth over the past decade or so is accounted for by heavy rail in just a few big cities, mainly New York. These cities have large populations of transit-dependent, low-income immigrants. The recent growth is largely an artifact of immigration, not a shift in preferences or behavior among the population in general.

    As for light rail, ridership may have grown over the past year in nine cities, but it fell in seventeen cities. Overall, light rail ridership fell by half a per cent, despite significant growth in capacity.

  • Please don’t feed the troll.

  • Trolls

    Without disagreeing that garyg is generally a troll, are his figures incorrect or is he making a legitimate case?

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