Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In seven cities, light rail bucks the trend

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Public transit ridership in the United States was down 3.8% for the first nine months of 2009, according to the American Public Transportation Association, but light rail systems in seven cities posted an increase.

On the plus side were LRT systems in Philadelphia (17.5%), Oceanside, Calif. (17.3%), Baltimore (13.9%), Memphis (11.6%), Tampa (7.0% ), and San Francisco (1.1%). A new line on the light rail system in Seattle led to more than 100% growth in the first nine months of 2009.

Total light rail ridership was down only a fraction of l%.

Metro rail ridership declined by 3.0%. Exceptions were Los Angeles Metro, which continued its trend of rising ridership with an increase of 6.0% for the first nine months; and Washington Metro, where ridership was up 0.6%.

Commuter rail ridership was down 5.1% nationwide, but increases were recorded in Boston (2.4%), New Haven (1.4%), and Alexandria, Va. (1.3%). A major extension of commuter rail in New Mexico from Albuquerque to Santa Fe led to a more than 100% increase from January through September 2009.

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APTA said bus ridership declined 5.0 % in the first nine months of 2009. 

"This downturn in public transportation ridership is a reflection of our economic times,” said American Public Transportation Association President William Millar. “Nearly 60% of riders take public transportation to commute to and from work, so it is to be expected that public transit ridership would be lower when unemployment is high.”

Drops in local and state funding have led to reduced service and/or higher fares. Among transit systems facing decreased funding, nine out of 10 (89%) raised fares or cut service.