Americans took 10.3 billion trips on public transportation in 2007, the highest level in 50 years, representing a 2.1% increase over the previous year, according to data released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
Public transportation use is up 32% since 1995, a figure that is more than double the growth rate of the population (15%) and up substantially over the growth rate for the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on US highways (24%) for that same period.
Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) had the highest percentage of ridership increase among all modes, with a 6.1% increase in 2007. Light rail systems showed double digit increases in the following areas: New Orleans (128.6%); Denver (66.2 %); Saint Louis (27.0%); Philadelphia (26.2%); Kenosha (18.5 %); the state of New Jersey (14.7%); and Memphis (11.3%).
Commuter rail posted the second largest ridership increase at 5.5%. The five commuter rail systems with the double digit ridership growth rate in 2007 were located in the following areas: Nashville (257.9%); Santa Fe (96.6%); Harrisburg (41.3%); Seattle (27.4%); Oakland (14.2%); Dallas/Fort Worth (12.1%); Stockton (11.9%); Portland, ME (11.8%); and Pompano Beach, FL (10.3%).
Heavy rail (subways) ridership increased by 3.1%. The heavy rail systems with double digit increases in ridership for 2007 were in the following cities: San Juan (13.2 %) and Atlanta (10.1%).
Bus service saw an increase of 1.0%, but in communities with a population of less than 100,000, bus services saw an increase of 6.4% in 2007. Major increases by large bus agencies occurred in the following cities: Seattle (7.5%); Denver (7.0%); and Minneapolis (5.4%).
In 2004, the latest year for which the data is available, all modes of public transit accounted for 49 billion passenger miles; total vehicle miles travelled in the US is around 3 trillion per year.