• Transit-oriented communities such as the Crossing at Anaheim in California are becoming increasingly popular with commuters.

    Credit: John Bare

    Transit-oriented communities such as the Crossing at Anaheim in California are becoming increasingly popular with commuters.

The demand for public transportation rose last year as Americans took 10.5 billion trips, the second highest ridership since 1957, and 154 million more trips than the previous year, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the seventh year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. 

Every mode of public transportation showed an increase in ridership, says APTA president and CEO Michael Melaniphy. Public transit ridership grew in all areas of the country and in communities of all sizes, with at least 16 public transit systems reporting record ridership. He attributes the upsurge to economic considerations. 

"Two big reasons for the increased national transit ridership are high, volatile gas prices and in certain localities, a recovering economy with more people returning to work," says Melaniphy. "Public transportation saves people money, and people save even more so when gas prices spike. Also, since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it makes sense that ridership increases in areas where the economy has improved and new jobs have been added." 

The high level of ridership last year is especially significant considering the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on some of the nation's largest systems, Melaniphy adds. According to APTA, 74 million trips were lost when public transit systems from Washington, D.C. to Boston were shut down due to Hurricane Sandy and the blizzard that followed the next week. 

The new report shows that Americans' attitude toward travel is changing, Melaniphy says. "There is a sea change going on in the way that people look at transportation. Americans want travel choices; they want to be able to choose the best travel option for their lives. This is an exciting time for the public transportation industry as more and more Americans support it and want it." 

Melaniphy also points out that more Americans are supporting public transportation investment, as evidenced by the large number of transit-oriented ballot initiatives that passed in 2012. "Last year 49 out of 62 transit-oriented state and local ballot initiatives passed," says Melaniphy. "That means there was a nearly 80 percent passage rate. This extremely high rate of success demonstrates how important public transportation is to people and to communities."

Click here to see the complete APTA 2012 ridership report.

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