The American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) First Quarter 2016 report shows 2.6 billion trips taken on public transportation in the U.S. – for those 3 months alone. This .4% increase compared to the previous year may be partially due to rises in employment, as 60% of commutes are for work. More employed people = more commutes = more commutes on public transportation. (IMHO, may also be due to warmer temperatures this year, as they make commuting on public transportation even easier).
What cities saw the largest increases in ridership? Albany, Flagstaff AZ, Oklahoma City, and Seattle. Increases were seen across the country, though – ranging from Boston to Lewisville, TX, and San Fransisco to Little Rock.
All of these increases occurred even in spite of lower gas prices this year. This may demonstrate a preference for, rather than a demotion to, public transport. Light rail systems saw the greatest rise in popularity — 3% on average, with impressive spikes in Houston, TX (32.3%), Baltimore, MD (25.1%), Seattle, WA (21.2%), and Newark, NJ (13.5%). Commuter rail ridership increased by a close 2.7% overall, with Anchorage, AK (29.0%), Boston, MA (19.6%), and Seattle, WA (15.7%) taking the top 3 spots. So what’s happening in these cities?
In Houston, destination-focused planning has made its rail system efficient and pragmatic for riders, especially compared to those of other Texas cities like Dallas. Seattle expanded its already successful light rail program, adding bustling stations at the University of Washington and Capitol Hill. These stations alone could add 45,000 riders to their transit system. Perhaps scheduling changes to address an inefficient rail system and an MBTA Commuter Rail Tracker App have increased the popularity of the rail system in Boston. These changes reflect a growing focus on public transportation in city planning, but even in many cities where no big changes have been made, ridership has increased.
According to APTA, economic growth correlates with greater ridership, and public transportation systems increase economic growth — quite the positive cycle. Given this, we should continue to see this growth continue into 2016.