APTA Report Shows Slippage in Public Transit Ridership

According to a 37-page report compiled by the American Public Transportation Association, U.S. public transit ridership decline by 2 percent to 9.9 billion trips in 2018 compared to 2017. However, certain regions of the country witnessed a year-over-year uptick in ridership, the group noted, along with several specific transportation modes – such as commuter rail, up by 0.4 percent, and “demand response ridership” or paratransit services, up by 2.1 percent.

[Above photo by the Federal Transit Administration.]

One example of rising regional transit ridership comes from the Greater Portland Transit District in Maine, which attained a record ridership of 2 million trips in 2018, representing an increase of 5 percent over 2017 – an increase the transit district attributed in part to expanded service and a transit pass providing free access for the students, staff, and faculty of the University of Southern Maine.

Photo by COTA

The Central Ohio Transit Authority in Columbus reported a 3 percent increase in ridership in 2018, APTA noted. COTA said that increase is connected in part to the launch of COTA’s first bus rapid transit line, called CMAX, which carried a 17.5 percent increase over fixed-route ridership covering the same area compared to 2017.

BRT service also played a role in the 4.7 percent ridership increase in the Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner commuter rail system, as a new high-frequency BRT route launched in August last year called UVX now delivers riders to two of its rail stations. By the end of 2018, UTA said average weekday ridership on UVX was almost five times the ridership on the previous routes that served the bus/commuter rail alignment.

In terms of public transit ridership numbers by mode, APTA’s report indicated:

  • Commuter rail ridership increased in 18 out of 31 U.S. transit systems, with overall ridership increasing by 0.41 percent.
  • Ridership on light rail modes such as streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys increased in nine out of 28 transit systems, though overall ridership decreased by 3 percent.
  • Ridership on “heavy rail” networks such as subways and elevated trains decreased nationally by 2.6 percent.
  • Bus ridership decreased nationally by 1.8 percent.
  • Paratransit ridership increased by 2.1 percent

APTA’s report also noted in a statement that from 1995 to 2018, public transit ridership grew by 27 percent, surpassing U.S. population growth, which increased by 23 percent.

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