Americans took 2.4 billion trips on public transportation in the first quarter of 2018, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Commuter rail ridership increased, with many commuter rail systems showing increases. Compared to public transit ridership for the first quarter in 2017, there was an overall 3.9 percent decrease in ridership. 

“It’s well understood today that the landscape of surface transportation is in a state of transformational change and flux,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “This new mobility paradigm requires public transit to be inventive, innovative, and bold in forging partnerships with new providers, adopting cutting edge technologies, and meeting customers’ evolving desire for more flexible, customized service.”

As an integral part of the new mobility transportation paradigm, public transit systems are partnering with other transportation companies to offer first mile and last mile transportation to public transit stations. For example, in Charlotte, NC the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) launched a pilot program with the goal of providing better connectivity to two stops along the Lynx Blue Line Extension. CATS is partnering with ride-share company Lyft and Charlotte-based mobile-payment software company Passport to offer a program that will allow some passengers easier access to the light rail. For riders that use Lyft to or from the JW Clay or Parkwood stations, approximately within a two mile radius, CATS will provide a $4 contribution toward the fare.

While ridership has declined from the same period in 2017, public transit agencies are implementing different tactics to increase ridership. Fresno Area Express in Fresno, CA, is working on a system redesign and has already implemented changes including increased frequency on some of their most popular routes, which is yielding increased ridership. In Salt Lake City, Salt Lake and Tooele counties passed a sales tax hike primarily to improve bus service. The new Salt Lake County tax will provide Utah Transit Authority with nearly $23 million annually for improving bus service by introducing more routes, increased frequency and running more buses at nights and on weekends. The Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose, went through a two-year process to redesign its transit network to increase frequency along more popular bus routes. The new network, which will focus on more frequent and faster service, will be implemented in 2019.

To view the complete APTA ridership report, go to:

2018 Ridership Breakdown

Nationally, commuter rail ridership increased by 0.8 percent with 14 out of 30 transit systems showing increases. The following commuter rail systems saw double-digit increases in the first quarter of 2018:

New Haven, CT-Connecticut DOT (19.1%); Denver, CO (15.8%); Stockton, CA (15.8%); Anchorage, AK (14.8%); and Minneapolis, MN (13.6%). Ridership in the following cities also saw increases in the first quarter: New York, NY-MTA Long Island Rail Road (8.6%); Seattle, WA (8.3%); Baltimore, MD (5.0%); Oakland, CA (4.9%); Oceanside, CA (2.9%); Nashville, TN (2.7%); Pompano Beach, FL (2.0%); San Carlos, CA (0.7%); and Philadelphia, PA (0.1%).

Heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership decreased nationally by 3.8 percent. However, heavy rail in the following cities showed ridership increases for the first quarter of 2018: Cleveland, OH (6.5%); New York, NY-MTA Staten Island Railway (1.3%); Jersey City, NJ-Port Authority of NY & NJ (1.2%); and Philadelphia, PA (0.5%).

Bus ridership decreased nationally by 5.0 percent. In the first quarter, the following cities showed the highest ridership increases at the nation’s large bus agencies: Phoenix, AZ (3.9%); San Francisco, CA (2.0%); Seattle, WA-King County DOT (1.0%); Las Vegas, NV (0.5%); Pittsburgh, PA, (0.4%); and Orange, CA (.01%).

Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased in 8 out of 29 transit systems while overall ridership decreased by 5.6 percent. Systems that showed double-digit increases were in the following cities: Seattle, WA-King County DOT (16.8%) and Charlotte, NC (10.5%). Light rail ridership in the following cities also saw increases during the first quarter of 2018: Baltimore, MD (9.7%); Denver, CO (9.1%); Seattle, WA-Sound Transit (5.7%); Washington, DC-District DOT (3.5%); Minneapolis, MN (1.1%); and San Francisco, CA (0.9%).

Demand response (paratransit) ridership decreased by 1.6 percent while trolleybus ridership decreased by 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2018.


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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organization which represent a $68 billion industry that directly employs 420,000 people and supports millions of private sector jobs. APTA members are engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products.

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