Public transit advocates tout ridership growth to warn against budget cuts

“With seven consecutive quarters of ridership increases, it’s obvious that public demand for public transit is growing,” Melaniphy said in a statement announcing the release of the survey.

“As Congress works to resolve our country’s deficit problem, it also needs to work to resolve the transportation deficit," he continued. "Otherwise public transit and highway funding will be facing an annual $15 billion shortfall in the next 10 years.”

Congress is seeking to prevent a roster of automatic spending cuts totaling more than $1 billion that will take effect at the end of the year.

APTA said ridership increased in 2012 on all modes of transportation, with light rail and heavy, or fixed track, railways jumping 4.2 and 3.6 percent respectively.

The highest heavy-rail increases were Cleveland's Rapid subway system and San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), which saw 10.8 and 7.4 percent hikes respectively.

The largest light-rail jumps were in Memphis, Tenn., and Salt Lake City, Utah, where ridership increased 33.7 and 19.7 percent respectively.

Melaniphy said the increases were frequently tied to increases in local employment in cities.

"We continue to see that in areas where the local economy is improving and new jobs are being added, public transportation ridership is up,” he said. “This makes sense since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes. Public transit service is an important resource for employees and employers as it is instrumental in helping people travel to their jobs.”

The transit ridership numbers comes as Congress is preparing to debate a reauthorization of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIAA) next year. Intracity transit money is traditionally contained in the separate surface transportation bill, which was passed by lawmakers last year, but the PRIIA bill contains funding for Amtrak and other intercity railways.

The full APTA report can be read here.