2012 a good year for transit use — so far

Light Rail Ridership Report (APTA)

Part of the report on light rail ridership in the third quarter of 2012 by APTA. Click above to see larger and see full report [pdf].

Transit ridership across the United States continued to rise in the third quarter of 2012 with a 2.6 percent increase over this time last year, according to the latest statistics released today by the American Public Transportation Assn.

The numbers echoed gains made in Los Angeles County, where light rail (13.7 percent), heavy rail (.57 percent), commuter rail (5.56 percent) and bus ridership (.12 percent) have all seen increases in the ridership over the first three quarters of 2012 compared to the same time span in 2011. The big gains in light rail here are partly attributable to the first phase of the Expo Line, which debuted in late April and fully opened to Culver City in June.

Here’s the news release from APTA:

More Than 7.9 Billion Trips Taken On Public Transportation As Ridership Increased by 2.6% in First Three Quarters of 2012

Seven Consecutive Quarters of Ridership Increases Show Growing Demand

More than 7.9 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the first three quarters of 2012 as ridership increased by 2.6 percent over the first three quarters of 2011, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This report shows that 201 million more trips were taken in the first nine months of 2012 than in the same time period in 2011.

“With seven consecutive quarters of ridership increases, it’s obvious that public demand for public transit is growing,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “As Congress works to resolve our country’s deficit problem, it also needs to work to resolve the transportation deficit. Otherwise public transit and highway funding will be facing an annual $15 billion shortfall in the next 10 years.”

Mobility is an important reason to have a strong public transportation system. However, public transportation also has a critical connection to the economy. For every $1 billion invested in public transportation 36,000 jobs are created and supported. Additionally, public transportation plays an important role in providing access to jobs.

“We continue to see that in areas where the local economy is improving and new jobs are being added, public transportation ridership is up,” said Melaniphy. “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.”

Some of the cities experiencing economic improvements and public transit ridership increases in the third quarter of 2012 include: Grand Rapids (MI); Seattle (WA); St. Petersburg (FL); Phoenix (AZ); San Francisco (CA); Los Angeles (CA); and Riverside (CA).

All major modes of public transportation increased from January through September this year. Light rail and heavy rail saw the largest increases in the first nine months with increases of 4.2 percent and 3.6 percent respectively.

January – September 2012 Ridership Breakdown

Nationally, heavy rail ridership increased by 3.6 percent and 12 out of 15 heavy rail systems (subways and elevated trains) experienced ridership increases in the first nine months of 2012. The heavy rail systems with the highest increases in ridership for the first nine months of 2012 were in the following cities: Cleveland, OH (10.8%); San Francisco, CA (7.4%); Chicago, IL (4.9%); Baltimore, MD (4.4%); and New York, NY (4.4%).

Light rail ridership increased by 4.2 percent from January through September, as 22 out of 28 light rail systems reported increases in ridership. Hampton, VA experienced a triple digit increase due to new service. Light rail systems saw double digit increases in the first three quarters in five cities: Memphis, TN (33.7%); Salt Lake City, UT (19.7%); Los Angeles, CA (13.7%); Pittsburgh, PA (13.5%); and Seattle, WA (11.2%). Other light rail systems with increases were in the following cities: Sacramento, CA (6.8%); Boston, MA (6.2%); Houston, TX (6.1%); and Seattle, WA (5.5%).

Nineteen out of 28 commuter rail systems reported ridership increases and commuter rail ridership grew by 2.4 percent in the first three quarters of 2012. Commuter rail ridership saw double digit increases in the following cities: Austin, TX (15.6%); San Carlos, CA (12.3%); and Seattle, WA (10.2%). Other commuter rail systems showing high increases were located in the following cities: Stockton, CA (9.7%); Portland, OR (8.0%); Baltimore, MD (6.9%); Harrisburg-Philadelphia, PA (6.1%); Portland, ME (5.9%); Los Angeles, CA (5.6%); and Newark, NJ (5.2%).

Nationally, bus ridership rose by 1.8 percent from January through September of 2012, with 28 out of 37 large bus systems reporting increases. Some of the highest bus ridership increases in large cities were reported in: Saint Louis, MO (8.6%); Arlington Heights, IL (5.3%); Newark, NJ (5.2%); and Oakland, CA (5.0%).

Demand response (paratransit) increased by 3.6 percent.

To see the complete APTA ridership report go to: http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2012-q3-ridership-APTA.pdf

13 replies

  1. Jonah,

    Metro’s own statistics from APCs show that majority of the riders do short trips that are less than 10 miles. Mobility for mass transit riders would actually improve on a distance based plan as they now will be able to pay less for shorter rides. Shorter trips to the grocery store a mile away would now cost $0.50 instead of a $1.50. Shorter trips to the nearest movie theater 5 miles away would cost $1.00 instead of paying $3.00 just because it involves a transfer over two buses.

    Making transit costs cheaper for shorter rides promotes high density city development so that one doesn’t have to travel far to get things done. The more cheaper it costs to do shorter trips, it promotes job creation closer to where people live instead of job centers being so far away, creating the commutes that take as much as 2 hours on the bus to travel all the way from East LA to Santa Monica. Instead, it promotes job growth at East LA instead because that’s where people live.

    Of course one can argue that’s not the case because some lines are jammed packed like Metro Bus 720 because it’s even cheaper cost-per-mile to travel 21 miles from Santa Monica to Commerce for $1.50.

    What is seriously lacking with Metro is true hard data. If you look at past articles, most of Metro’s data are noted as “estimates.” It was estimated that only 1% did fare evasion when numbers where more close to 5-7% when they actually started counting.

    Hence, one data conflicts with other and there’s no real way to show how people are really are using the system. And this data cannot be truly collected unless there’s a tap-on AND tap-off data to show where people get on, where they get off, how far the average rider rides and out of that how many make transfers, where they make transfers, and what the current average wait time is for transfers.


  2. Jonah,

    If anything, they can just model again, after Asia in this regard. They use distance based fares (short trips being cheaper, longer trips being more), but low income qualifiers, elderly, children, and the disabled get 1/2 off the distance fare rate. It’s much like getting lower rates for electricity and gas for those that qualify. That’s how they see transit over there: like an utility. Transit is a need that everyone from the old, to the young, to the middle class, to the poor, and everyone in between has just like electricity and gas, so why can’t transit be like that?

    You all just need to start thinking of how other agencies around the world have solved these issues. We Americans are not the most brilliant when it comes to making mass transit work. All of US transit agencies are massive failures. But right across the Pacific, they made it successful for decades. And for whatever problems we have, they’ve all solved them with answers.

    Isn’t that an indicator to show that perhaps, maybe just perhaps, we can set aside this “white elitism” mindset aside and learn from the Asians? Perhaps we can learn something, if not, A LOT, from how the Asians made mass transit so successful. I’m sure it’s hard to swallow that the “yellow people know it better” but sometimes you all just need to suck up and face the truth: Americans suck at making mass transit work.