Beginning in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic decimated public transit ridership and revenue, harmed local and national economies, and exposed inequities in our industry and society. The pandemic has caused the public transportation industry to revisit business models and re-examine how to best deliver service, not just today but for the decades ahead. The pandemic has brought to light more than ever how truly essential public transit is to our communities. The public has a new awareness and appreciation of the transit services that the industry delivers.

Public transportation gets Americans to work, to education, and to healthcare, and it will also get our nation to more job creation, less traffic congestion, and cleaner air. Public transportation empowers individuals to pursue education and job opportunities, to bring dreams and goals to life. The industry needs metrics that effectively communicate our value to economic development, environmental sustainability, and access to jobs and other life-changing opportunities.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown that ridership is an imperfect measure of public transit’s importance to its communities and our nation. By using metrics other than ridership, agencies can be adaptable and flexible, finding ways to be as efficient as possible, whether riders return to pre-pandemic type traveling or if systems are operating in a completely different reality for years to come.

APTA continues to explore ways to measure access to opportunities, including jobs, health care, and education, and we will continue to update this document with new sources of information.

The Metrics:

APTA’s Public Transportation Ridership report provides a quarterly update on ridership trends in the United States and Canada, by agency and mode. The APTA Ridership Trends Dashboard, in partnership with the Transit app, presents ridership trends for each agency in near real-time fashion, with new data posted each week. The Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database (NTD) also posts ridership data monthly.

APTA Ridership Report
APTA Ridership Trends Dashboard
NTD Monthly Data

APTA’s My Economic Impact tool uses your agency’s budget data to calculate the economic impact of your transit service. Results include jobs, wages, sales, and value-added supported by both agency operations and capital expenditure, both direct and subsequent (multiplier) effects as agency activities ripple through the local economy, and information on the diverse occupational mix of jobs supported by agency operations and capital activities.

APTA Economic Impact Tool

The new Transportation Research Board’s Transit Cooperative Research Program Report 226: An Update on Public Transportation’s Impacts on Greenhouse Gas Emissions provides a Greenhouse Gas Emissions calculator with pre-loaded results for all 900+ urban public transit agencies using 2018 NTD data. The tool also allows users to project the impact of future changes in vehicle electrification, ridership, and electrical power decarbonization on greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the TCRP Report
Greenhouse Gas Calculator Tool

In recent years, FTA’s NTD has published a Metrics workbook with statistics commonly used to compare agencies. Data includes fare per unlinked trip, fare recovery ratio, cost per hour, cost per passenger mile, and passengers per hour.

NTD Metrics Workbook
Other NTD Data

The University of Minnesota Accessibility Observatory has produced a report on access to jobs by transit for several years. The 2019 edition was published in October 2020. The report covers the 50 largest metro areas.

Access Across America: Transit 2019

APTA is exploring other ways to measure access to opportunities, including jobs, health care, and education.

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