Nationally, nearly 5.2 billion trips were taken on public transportation in the first six months of 2009, a slight decrease of 2.6 percent, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Meanwhile, light rail, trolleybus and the demand response public transit modes saw increases in ridership.
By mode, the year-to-date ridership changes were as follows: light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) reported an increase in ridership for the first half of 2009. Overall, light rail increased by +.57 percent. Other modes showing an increase include trolleybus (+1.61 percent) and demand response (+2.25 percent). Modes that saw declines were heavy rail (-2.29 percent); commuter rail (-2.79 percent); bus (-3.34 percent); and other modes (-0.55).
"The severe downturn in the economy has finally caught up with public transportation ridership, yet it still defies expectations," said APTA President William Millar. "Ridership remains strong, and it withstood the downturn longer than many expected. Given that 59 percent of rides on public transportation are taken to commute to and from work, it is no surprise that job losses have affected ridership."
The report figures reflects the increase in unemployment numbers, according to the association, with job losses throughout the first half of 2009 reaching 9.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Other factors contributing to the ridership decline are the service cuts and fare increases many public transit systems have been forced to make because of flat and reduced state and local budgets. Among those systems facing revenue declines, almost half of them (47 percent) reported both raising fares and cutting service to address funding shortfalls, according to a recent APTA report.
To view the full report, click here.