APTA: Rail powers 3Q transit ridership gains

Written by Douglas John Bowen
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More than 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the third quarter of 2014, up 1.8% from the comparable quarter in 2013, according American Public Transportation Association (APTA), releasing a report Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. Rail transit ridership was a driving factor.

APTA noted the ridership was the best third-quarter figure since 1974, the oldest third quarter APTA has available for comparison.

Heavy rail ridership rose 4.6% during the quarter measured against a year ago, with eight out of 15 heavy rail systems (subways and elevated trains) notching gains, APTA said. Light rail transit (LRT) ridership rose 3.2%, led by Houston (pictured), up 22.1%. Regional (dubbed “commuter”) rail systems saw an overrall 3.5% rise, with 23 out of 28 systems monitored by APTA reporting increases.

Bus ridership decreased nationally by 0.4%, but in small and medium-sized population groups, bus ridership saw increases, APTA said.

Noting that ridership on U.S. public transportation has increased in 12 of the last 15 quarters, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said, “There are a number of reasons why public transportation ridership is on the rise,” including “the investment in public transportation by the federal government [that] has paid off with new rail and Bus Rapid Transit lines or extensions that have opened up in recent years.”

Melaniphy also asserted that “the economy is recovering and since nearly 60% of public transit trips are taken to travel for work commutes, public transportation ridership has increased in cities where the economy has improved.”

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