10.7 billion transit trips taken in 2013

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Public transportation systems in the U.S. reached their highest ridership levels since 1956 last year with 10.7 billion people taking transit trips, according to statistics released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

The figure is a 1.1 percent increase over transit ridership in 2012, and a 37.2 jump over the number of travelers that were carried in 1995, the association said.

APTA President Michael Melaniphy said the increase in transit use was a seismic shift in the way Americans are getting themselves around.

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“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities,” Melaniphy said in a statement. “People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth.”

The transit association said there were ridership increases across all potential modes of public transportation, including a 2.8 percent jump in the use of “heavy rail” subway systems like Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail nationwide.

APTA also cited a 2.1 increase in ridership in commuter railways like New York’s Metro-North and a 1.6 percent increase in light rail and streetcar ridership.

The number of bus riders in cities with populations smaller than 100,000 people increased 3.8 percent. However, APTA said overall bus ridership was down 0.1 percent.

Melaniphy said the increased transit ridership numbers should convince lawmakers and state and local government officials to increase their funding for public transportation systems.

“Access to public transportation matters,” Melaniphy said. “Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.”

“The federal investment in public transit is paying off and that is why Congress needs to act this year to pass a new transportation bill,” Melaniphy concluded.