Use of public transit in the United States hit a new high in 2013, marking the greatest use since 1956, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and reported in The New York Times by Jon Hurdle (March 10). The report covers trips by buses, trains, and subways; 10.65 billion individual trips were taken on public transit during 2013, the report said. This was a slight increase over the previous recent record of 10.59 billion trips, set in 2008.
The increase was largely attributed to a recovering economy, and was despite generally lower gasoline prices, which contradicts the commonly-heard notion that only higher gas prices will drive transit ridership up. The overall usage trend for transit remains strong; transit ridership in the period 1995–2013 rose 37%, compared to a 20% growth in population and a 23% increase in vehicle miles traveled. APTA president Michael Melaniphy noted that unemployment rates have dropped in cities that have invested in transit.
Overall ridership increased by 1.1% from 2012 to 2013, with the largest gains recorded by rail service, and in bus systems in smaller cities. Denver Regional Transit District, which recorded 101 million trips in 2013, opened its new W Line connecting Denver and Golden, Colorado; the new line is carrying about 15,000 passengers daily, close to expectations. Spokesperson Scott Reed said that the main challenge is getting people to try transit—once they take the first plunge, “they find it is so much easier than they had feared.”
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