Public transit use increasing as Americans have been driving less

I’ve written before about the decline in vehicle miles traveled by Americans since the recession of 2007 to 2009. Even amidst the recovery, total miles driven has continued to fall or stagnate, which distinguishes this recovery from every other since data has been tracked.

Now this from the American Public Transportation Association: 10.4 Billion Trips Taken On U.S. Public Transportation In 2011; Second Highest Annual Ridership Since 1957

From that press release:

According to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation in 2011, the second highest annual ridership since 1957. Only ridership in 2008, when gas rose to more than $4 a gallon, surpassed last year’s ridership. With an increase of 2.3 percent over the 2010 ridership, this was the sixth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. During 2011, vehicle miles of travel (VMTs) declined by 1.2 percent.

“U.S. public transportation ridership in 2011 is now the second highest ridership since 1957,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “What is exciting is that the uptick in ridership occurred in large, medium and small communities, showing the broad support that public transportation has nationwide. In fact, the largest rate of growth was in rural communities with populations under 100,000 where public transit use increased by 5.4 percent.”

“Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” said Melaniphy. “Since nearly sixty percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increase in areas where the economy has improved.”

Noting that the increased use of passenger information technology is also contributing to higher ridership, Melaniphy said, “The exponential growth of apps to track bus and rail arrival times is demystifying the ridership experience and attracting new customers to public transportation. More and more people are now able to find out when the next bus and train will arrive through public transit apps. This is making public transportation more attractive.”

Light rail led the way when the rates of increase are broken down among various forms of public transit:

Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased 4.9 percent in 2011. Light rail systems that showed increases in 2011 were located in the following cities: Seattle, WA – King County DOT (37.2%); Dallas, TX (31.2%); Buffalo, NY (15.6%); Oceanside, CA (14.8%); Salt Lake City, UT (14.4%); Seattle, WA – Sound Transit (11.8%); New Orleans, LA (11.3%); Philadelphia, PA (9.6%); San Diego, CA (7.3%); and Memphis, TN (6.3%).

Here’s the latest from

Savannah Historical Gas Price Charts Provided by

And here’s the latest available chart re total vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. according to Calculated Risk: