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US public transit down in 2016, but LRT on the up

Nearly 8bn trips were taken on US public transport in the first nine months of 2016, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) on 21 February.

Nearly 8bn trips were taken on US public transport in the first nine months of 2016, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) on 21 February.

The figures indicate a 1.6% decrease over the same period last year, representing 125m fewer trips, although light rail fared better than the national average with an increase of 4.3% between January and September 2016.

Fourteen of 28 light rail systems reported passenger increases with many showing double-digit improvements: Seattle (55%); Houston (17.1%); Baltimore (15.1%); New Orleans (12.5%); and Phoenix (12.1%). Other systems showing significant increases included Los Angeles (7.4%); Newark (6.5%); Portland (6.4%); Boston (5.7%); Philadelphia (5.5%); San Francisco (4.7%) and Charlotte (2.4%). It should be noted that many of these systems have expanded or introduced additional vehicles during this time, which will affect the figures.

Trolleybus patronage increased by 3.3% over the same period and ridership on commuter rail systems increased by 1.7%; to counter this heavy rail ridership fell by 0.6% and bus ridership decreased nationally by 3.5%.

APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White commented: “With a substantial drop in gas prices, some people may have returned to driving. However, considering the cost of owning and maintaining a car, public transportation still offers an economical way to save money.”

The average fuel price during the first nine months of 2016 was USD2.22/gallon, a drop of 15%, although APTA’s most recent Transit Savings Report shows that an individual in a two-person household can save USD9738 by using transit.