APTA report shows 2018 U.S. public transit ridership down from previous year

Americans took 9.9 billion trips on public transportation last year, according to the report

April 17, 2019
public transit; public transportation ridership

Americans took 9.9 billion trips on public transportation in 2018, according to a report released this week by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

Compared to public transit ridership in 2017, there was a 2% decrease in ridership. Compared to 2017, commuter rail ridership in 2018 increased by 0.4% and demand response (paratransit) ridership increased by 2.1%. From 1995-2018, public transit ridership grew by 27%, surpassing the U.S. population, which grew at 23%. Additionally, passenger miles traveled on public transportation grew by 39%. This is more than the growth of vehicle miles traveled on the roads, which grew by 33%. 

Ridership increases on public transportation happened in small and large communities nationwide. For example, Metro Transit (Minneapolis, Minn.) also saw ridership records in 2018 on its light-rail lines and the Bus Rapid Transit line. Reasons for these record ridership increases include the attractiveness of fast, frequent and reliable service; the result of continued transit-oriented development along these transitways; several large events, including the Super Bowl; and significant road construction on one of the region’s busiest highways which has led some travelers to take light-rail service. 

Another example is the MTA Long Island Rail Road (New York City), which carried more riders in 2018 than in any year in nearly seven decades; its ridership is the highest since 1949. New York’s improving economy and changing demographic trends contributed to this growth. In addition, increases in reverse-peak commutes and non-work trips, such as shopping or going to entertainment venues, helped to bolster this modern record-breaking figure.

Nationally, commuter rail ridership increased in 18 out of 31 transit systems while overall ridership increased by 0.41%. With a new rail line that opened in August 2017, commuter rail in San Rafael, Calif., saw an increase of 146.5%. Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased in nine out of 28 transit systems while overall ridership decreased by 3%. Systems that showed double-digit increases in 2018 were in the following cities: Tampa, Fla. (50%); Charlotte, N.C. (41.1%); and Seattle, Wash.—King County DOT (19.0%). Heavy-rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership decreased nationally by 2.6%. However, heavy rail in the following cities showed ridership increases for 2018: San Juan, P.R. (7.4%) and Philadelphia (1.9%). Bus ridership decreased nationally by 1.8%.


Source: APTA

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