Despite the impact of economic recession, Americans “took more than 10 billion trips on public transportation in 2009,” the American Public Transportatin Association reported—the fourth straight year ridership topped the 10 billion mark.
APTA noted the 2009 level “is a 3.8% 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,” it said.
“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% 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.
“Public transportation is an important part of our transportation system and tens ofmillions of people rely on public transit every day,” Millar continued. “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.”
Among various modes, U.S. light rail (including streetcars and heritage trolleys) saw ridership slip 0.40% in 2009, but nine existing systems notched increases. Heavy rail (such as subways) saw ridership decline 2.6%, with four cities recording increases defying the downward trend. Overall regional (“commuter”) rail ridership fell 5% during 2009. Large bus systems reported a decrease of 5.2% nationally.