New reports are showing that record numbers of passengers turned to public transit in the first three months of 2012, with at least 12 cities setting new records, according to USA Today. The news comes even as numerous transit agencies are reducing service in the face of shrinking budgets.
The American Public Transit Association reports that of the 15 cities nationwide that have heavy rail—subways and elevated trains—14 have seen ridership increase. Light rail use—streetcars and trolleys—is up in 25 of 27 cities, while the number of bus passengers rose in 34 of 37 large cities.
Rising gas prices nationwide are believed to be the main catalyst for the mass move to public transit; additional factors are cited in individual cities.
Indianapolis saw bus ridership jump 20% in the first quarter, hitting 2.5 million compared to 2.1 million in 2011. City officials point to a mild winter and a large influx of visitors for the Super Bowl in February as the main catalysts for the spike.
San Diego was one of those that set a new record for public transit, providing 21.8 million rides on three light-rail lines and 89 bus routes from January to March. The previous record was 21.4 million, set in 2009.