APTA said the results marked the fifth consecutive quarter of U.S. public transit ridership increase, as 125.7 million more trips were taken than the first quarter of 2011.
All public transit modes saw increases, APTA said. Light rail tansit (LRT) use increased by 6.7%, with 25 of 27 LRT systems reporting increases. "Heavy rail" (rapid rail) use increased by 5.5%, with 14 of 15 systems reporting increases. "Commuter" or regional rail use rose 3.9%, with 22 of 27 systems reporting increases.
Large bus systems reported an increase of 4.6% nationally, APTA said.
"High gas prices were part of the reason for this large first quarter ridership increase," said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. "More and more people are choosing to save money by taking public transportation when gas prices are high.
"As Congress is negotiating a federal surface transportation bill that is now more than 2 1/2 years overdue, our federal representatives need to act before the June 30 deadline to ensure that public transportation systems will be able to meet the growing demand," said Melaniphy. "It's obvious from the surge in public transit ridership in the first quarter that Americans need and want public transportation."