For the fourth year in a row, Americans took more than 10 billion trips on public transportation in 2009, despite high unemployment, a severe economic recession and lower gas prices, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The 10.2 billion trips taken on U.S. public transportation systems in 2009 is a 3.8 percent decrease from the 52-year modern ridership record that was set in 2008. Bus and rail service cutbacks resulting from lower state and local funding also contributed to the ridership decline.
“Given last year’s economic hardship, this small decrease in ridership from a record number of ridership trips in 2008, indicates that support for public transit remains strong,” said APTA President William Millar.“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.”
Despite this recent decrease in transit ridership, public transportation use is up 31 percent since 1995, a figure that is more than double the growth rate of the population (15%) and up substantially over the growth rate for the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on our nation’s highways (21%) for that same period.
“Public transportation is an important part of our transportation system and tens of millions of people rely on public transit every day,” said Millar. “It is imperative that federal, state, and local governments continue to invest in public transit. Otherwise, many Americans will be facing increased fares and service cuts as public transportation systems struggle to balance their budgets with less revenue because of the economic recession.”
In addition to the mobility benefits that public transportation offers, Millar noted that public transit means good, “green” jobs. For every $1 billion invested in public transportation capital and operations, 36,000 jobs are supported and created. Additionally, public transportation in the United States saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline every year and reduces our nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually.
2009 Ridership Breakdown
Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership decreased 0.40 percent in 2009. Two new light rail systems started service in 2009 in Phoenix, AZ and Seattle, WA, and saw increases in service. Nine additional light rail systems that showed increases in 2009 were located in the following cities: Baltimore, MD (11.5%); Oceanside, CA (10.7%); Memphis, TN (9.3%); Seattle, WA (9.2%); Philadelphia, PA (9.1%); Tampa, FL (2.2%); San Francisco, CA (1.2%); Portland, OR (0.6%); and New Orleans, LA (0.1%).
Heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership decreased by 2.6 percent across the country. Heavy rail systems with increases in ridership for 2009 were in the following cities: Los Angeles, CA (3.9%); Chicago, IL (2.2%); Philadelphia, PA (1.5%); and Washington, DC (0.1%).
Nationally, commuter rail ridership declined by 5.0 percent in 2009. With a new rail line extension in December 2008, the commuter rail in Albuquerque, NM, saw an increase of 99.5%. The two remaining commuter rail systems with annual increases in 2009 were located in Washington, DC (1.9%) and Baltimore, MD (0.1%).
Large bus systems reported a decrease of 5.2 percent nationally. The bus system in San Francisco, CA, showed an increase of 1.2 percent.
Demand response (paratransit) ridership increased in 2009 by 2.7 percent and trolleybus ridership increased by 0.02 percent.
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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of more than 1,400 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne passenger services, and high-speed rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.