Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation in 2008, the highest level of ridership in 52 years and a modern ridership record, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
This represents a 4.0% increase over the number of trips taken in 2007 on public transportation, while at the same time, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) declined by 3.6% in 2008, according to the US Department of Transportation.
Public transportation use is up 38% percent since 1995, a figure that is almost triple the growth rate of the population (14%) and up substantially over the growth rate for the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) (21%) for that same period.
For the second year in a row, ridership on all modes of public transportation increased in every quarter. Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) had the highest percentage of annual ridership increase among all modes, with an 8.3% increase in 2008.
The light rail system that started in November 2007 in Charlotte, NC showed the highest percentage of increase with an annual 862% increase. The New Orleans, LA light rail system, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, had an annual increase of 218%. Light rail systems with double digit ridership in 2008 were located in the following areas: Buffalo (23.9%); Philadelphia (23.3 %); Sacramento (14.4%); Baltimore (13.7%); Minneapolis (12.3%); Salt Lake City (12.3%); the state of New Jersey (10.9%); Denver (10.5%); and Dallas (10.2%).
Commuter rail increased in 2008 by 4.7%. The commuter rail systems with the double digit ridership growth rate in 2008 were located in the following areas: Albuquerque (35.1%); Portland, ME (26.5%); Seattle (23.8%); Pompano Beach, FL (22.9%); Harrisburg-Philadelphia (17.7%); New Haven (17.5%); Oakland (16.1%); Stockton, CA (14.7%); Dallas-Fort Worth (14.1%); San Carlos, CA (12.5%).
Heavy rail (subways) ridership increased by 3.5% in 2008. The heavy rail systems with the highest increases in ridership for 2008 were in the following cities: San Juan (13.3%); Lindenwold, NJ (9.9%); Atlanta (8.6%); Miami (8.2%), Boston (7.9%), and Los Angeles (7.7%).
Bus service saw an increase of 3.9%, but in communities with a population of less than 100,000, bus services saw an increase of 9.3% in 2008. Major increases by large bus agencies occurred in the following cities: Phoenix (11.5%); San Antonio (10.2%); San Diego (10.0%); St. Louis (8.9%); Baltimore (8.7%); and Denver (8.6%).
Demand response (paratransit) increased in 2008 by 5.9%.
APTA Public Transportation Ridership Statistics