Use of Public Transportation on the Rise

The American Public Transportation Association announced on March 10, 2008 that use of public transit hit a 50-year high. Yeah! The release can be found here, though I’ve reproduced the three main points below:

  • Public transportation use is up 32% percent since 1995, a figure that is more than double the growth rate of the population (15 percent) and up substantially over the growth rate for the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on our nation’s highways (24%) for that same period.
  • Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) had the highest percentage of ridership increase among all modes, with a 6.1 percent increase in 2007. Light rail systems showed double digit increases in the following areas: New Orleans (128.6%); Denver (66.2 %); Saint Louis (27.0%); Philadelphia (26.2%); Kenosha (18.5 %); the state of New Jersey (14.7%); and Memphis (11.3%).
  • Bus service saw an increase of 1.0, but in communities with a population of less than 100,000, bus services saw an increase of 6.4% in 2007. Major increases by large bus agencies occurred in the following cities: Seattle (7.5%); Denver (7.0%); and Minneapolis (5.4%).

I would recommend going to the APTA’s site to check out these articles:

Energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction and the like are inherent benefits of public transportation but the articles linked to above speak specifically to these issues. The APTA site also includes comprehensive discussions on transit funding, integration, design, etc . . . and is a great resource for those interested in upping their overall knowledge of public transit.

Personally, I’ve made a more concerted effort to use public transit when practical. It’s been relatively easy for me since I live downtown and have access to numerous bus lines and train stops. The fact remains that St. Louis is a very car-friendly city, though Metro has made a great effort, with limited resources, to provide excellent public transit options for residents. I don’t know how our system relates to other cities of the same size but I would guess it’s above average. The train system doesn’t access as much as I’d like but two lines are currently open and a third is being planned. But unlike cities that planned their growth around public transit, St. Louis experienced horrible sprawl without public transit development and must is now designing a transit system around growth. Compare light-rail system maps of Chicago (spoke & wheel) and New York (grid) to St. Louis and you’ll notice the Lou’s design seems kind of random on paper. In reality, there is some rhyme and reason to the design but its surely a product influenced by NIMBYism, politics, money, race and all the other ingredients that end up in the pie but shouldn’t.

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