Monday, March 12, 2012

APTA: 2011 public transit ridership strong

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The American Public Transportation Association said Monday Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation (bus and rail) in 2011, the second-highest annual figure since 1957. “Only ridership in 2008, when gas rose to more than $4 a gallon, surpassed last year’s ridership,” APTA said.

Ridership in 1011 was up 2.3% from 2010’s level, and marked the sixth year in a row that more than 10 billion passenger trips were made on public transport. By comparison, vehicle miles of traveled (VMTs) during 2011 fell 1.2%, APTA said.

[U.S. VMTs have declined 6.27% from their peak in June 2005, adjusted for cumulative population growth, according to data presented Feb. 21 by dshort.com, a site offering “actionable advice for financial advisors,” whose results were also published on website The Oil Drum. The adjusted level of VMTs last November is comparable to VMT levels of April 1999, dshort.com says.]

Said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy in a statement, “What is exciting is that the uptick in ridership occurred in large, medium and small communities, showing the broad support that public transportation has nationwide. In fact, the largest rate of growth was in rural communities with populations under 100,000 where public transit use increased by 5.4%.

“Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” said Melaniphy. “Since nearly 60% of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increase in areas where the economy has improved.”

Increased use of passenger information technology is also contributing to higher ridership, Melaniphy said. “More and more people are now able to find out when the next bus and train will arrive through public transit apps. This is making public transportation more attractive,” he said.

Melaniphy suggested that the numbers should be heeded by Congress. “There should be no doubt Americans need and want public transportation,” he said. “Congress needs to pass a well funded, multimodal, multi-year transportation bill that will help meet current and growing demand.”