US Public Transit Ridership Increases In 2012

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A new report looking at public transport use over the first three quarters of 2012 has found that ridership has increased by 2.6%, amounting to 201 million more trips taken in the first nine months of the year than were taken in the same time period in 2011.

Public Transport Ridership Increases in 2012

“With seven consecutive quarters of ridership increases, it’s obvious that public demand for public transit is growing,” said Michael Melaniphy, President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), authors of the report.

“As Congress works to resolve our country’s deficit problem, it also needs to work to resolve the transportation deficit. Otherwise public transit and highway funding will be facing an annual $15 billion shortfall in the next 10 years.”

Providing mobility is the main function of a public transport system, unsurprisingly, but there are critical links to the economy as well. APTA notes that, for every $1 billion invested into public transport in the US, 36,000 jobs are created and subsequently supported. As we’ve noted before, per dollar invested, mass transit is a clear job creation winner:

“We continue to see that in areas where the local economy is improving and new jobs are being added, public transportation ridership is up,” said Melaniphy. “This makes sense since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes. Public transit service is an important resource for employees and employers as it is instrumental in helping people travel to their jobs.”

Specific cities listed as experiencing economic improvement linked with public transit ridership in the third quarter include: Grand Rapids (MI); Seattle (WA); St. Petersburg (FL); Phoenix (AZ); San Francisco (CA); Los Angeles (CA); and Riverside (CA).

The full APTA report can be seen here (pdf) and a Breakdown for January to September 2012 is provided in the APTA press release.

Image Source: Ed Yourdon

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Joshua S Hill

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16 thoughts on “US Public Transit Ridership Increases In 2012

  • An interesting statistic, but my first question would be, how many people lost their driver’s license, or could no longer afford auto insurance? We definitely need better public transportation, and also SAFE routes for alternative transportation, bicycles and e-bikes.

  • Peak Oil will continue to take a lot of cars off the roads… some many young people just assume they’ll never own a car…


    • Peak Oil has been canceled.

      • so when will conventional crude oil surpass the 2006 highs.. even the IEA report says it will continually decline… maybe you think peak oil is about running out, which we never will, or that expensive unconventional sources will grow our economy the same as the declining cheap easy conventional crude used to….


        • With the North Dakota/Bakken Shale ‘discovery’ peak supply/cost oil has been pushed into the future. The unfreezing of the Arctic could push it further if need be.

          (I am not saying that there are good things. Just facts.)

          I think it is highly likely that we’ll see a doubling of EV battery capacity in the next five years. When/if that happens range anxiety will dissipate. (We’ll also have a lot of rapid charge point installed by then.)
          Take away range problems and sales volumes will start climbing. Higher sales volumes will bring about decreases in battery and EV prices. Lower prices will drive sales higher. A feedback loop will be in operation.
          There’s a crossover point at which buyers will quickly switch from ICEVs to EVs. I suspect that’s when we have ~200 mile range EVs that cost little more (a couple thou?) than similar featured ICEVs. Very quickly people will quit buying ICEVs.

          Roughly half of all US driving is done with vehicles five years old or newer. Within short years after we hit the crossover point our oil usage will be cut in half.

          It might happen even faster in places like Europe where fuel prices are significantly higher.

          The Bakken carries us to the end of large volume oil usage. I doubt if we’ll bother drilling much in the Arctic. It would take at least a decade to bring that area on line.

          The only oil peak I see is peak usage.

          • Your scenario would be true if the EROEI of those sources weren’t so awful…we’ll have less net energy available to grow our economy.


          • “those sources”? You mean the oil now coming out of the Bakken?

            EROEI aside, the math seems to be working. An amazing amount of drilling is being done there which suggests to me that those running things calculate that there is enough cheap energy available to allow Bakken crude extraction and marketing.

            It really doesn’t matter if the energy economics don’t make sense. If one can use a less expensive energy source to produce a more expensive energy source all that matters is that the output is more valuable than the inputs.
            We’ve got a lot of cheap natural gas. Until we (foolishly) burn through that supply the price of natural gas will change a lot of calculations.
            And it could play out in a different manner. We might see a lot of our transportation switched to NG. That, of course, would lower oil demand which would also push “peak oil” out into the future.

            The bottom line is that we are close to an electric vehicle future. Oil will become a niche player.

          • It takes oil to make EV’s as you know. We needed to have these low oil (don’t forget food delivery) systems in place before we peaked in cheap oil. If we don’t grow, new debt can’t be paid and system transitions are uglier… oil is global, what we don’t use Asia will. Peak oil is about the peaking of cheap conventional oil, not gas or unconventional sources…


          • It doesn’t necessarily take much oil to manufacture an EV.

            Most industrial machinery runs on electricity. We make steel in electric furnaces. We use electricity to smelt aluminum.

            We are now making some plastics from plant materials.

            We’ve peaked in terms of cheap oil. We’re still moving right along. Obviously peak cheap did not crash us. (Lack of adequate financial regulations did that and we’re recovering.)

            There are all sorts of “peak oil”. The original/dominate one, the one that gave survivalists wet dreams, is that we would hit a point at which it would be impossible to produce enough oil to meet demand and everything would crash down upon us.

            New extraction technology and new natural gas supplies push that point far into our future. Far enough that we have an excellent chance of never hitting peak oil and crashing.

          • Generally speaking, around here, Peak Oil is short for World Peak Oil Production. We appear to have reached the peak about seven years ago with no real increase in oil production in since then. Oil, as in what grandad would call oil, has decreased in production, but unconventinal oil such as bitumen and oil sands has made up for the decline in the extraction of conventional oil.

          • Well, the original Peak Oil idea was that the world would soon run out of oil and civilization would crash. The doomers loved it. Packed away their dried beans and bought lots of guns. Talked about living off of squirrels shot in the park.

            The designated time came and went. We found new ways to extract oil from other geological formations. People crunched numbers.

            The most accurate thing that could be said, seems to me, is that we’ve left the eras of really cheap and cheap oil. We’ve used up the easy to get to and easy to extract. We’ve moved into the era of ‘not cheap oil’.

            All the doomers are so disappointed….

            We’re in the process of making our personal vehicles very much more efficient. That takes away a lot of the sting and pushes very expensive oil further into the future.

            We need to get some better batteries soon and put this oil stuff behind us.

          • It’s certainly true that many of the people who were smart enough to work out what a Hubbert’s curve was weren’t smart enough to realize that without cheap oil coming from another planet there was nothing to stop prices rising until reduced demand met increased extraction of increasingly marginal oil. As it takes time to gear up things such as hybrid and electric cars, I’m hoping we’ll soon see both reduced oil demand and reduced oil prices. Or failing that, reduced demand and flat oil prices. So far each oil price increase ushers in more substitution and efficiency. What I fear is increased coal to oil and tar sands to oil, as they are the pits in more ways than one. (I was going to make a crack about the allies being on the right track when they bombed Germany’s coal to oil plants in World War II, but on the internet there is always the risk of some nutter taking that as a pro terrorism message.)

          • I would describe myself as a realistic optimist. That leaves me room to be very pessimistic about the use of oil. I simply do not think we can stop people from burning oil except by giving them an equally usable, equally affordable alternative.

            Between now and the time we bring an alternative to market or let the climate get so bad that things crash I don’t see any ability to stop drilling, transporting, refining and burning oil.

            We have so many new users coming on line around the world. I’ve been traveling to Asia for over 30 years. When I first visited places like Thailand and India ordinary people didn’t own cars, ordinary people walked. I remember in Kashmir how the doctor rode a bicycle. The wealthy and government officials drove. A few beat up older cars served as taxis.
            Now car ownership in Thailand is very common. It is underway in India. And just about everywhere.

            The amount of driving will be determined by how affordable fuel is. We’ll build more efficient cars but as efficiency increases new owners will eliminate in lowering of demand. We’ll drill in remote places, cook sludge, whatever the market will support.

            Double EV battery capacity. That will kill oil.

            If we had EVs that one could use for long trips a lot more people would buy them. About 200 mile range with fast charging points allows for all day driving.

            As soon as people start buying EVs in larger numbers the prices will start coming down. Lower prices = more buyers. More buyers = even lower prices. We need that feedback loop to kick in.

            I have zero doubt that if people could buy a ~200 mile range EV for about the price of an ICEV we would quit burning oil in less than 20 years.

  • Bob’s predictions show that soon we’ll be back in the familiar situation where mass transport systems will have to be justified on efficiency, i.e. time/effort required to reach destinations. At present we are finding everywhere a temporary move back to public because of the rapid fuel cost rise and the priority of cost-saving during the crisis.
    What remains to be seen will be the permanent effect of mass transit investment on the speed issue!

  • Mass transit ridership is UP (2.6%) now because the economy is WAY DOWN, with many now unable to afford the luxury of a car or even gasoline!

    Given the choice, the vast majority of riders of mass transit, except for some state of the art rail and subway systems, use it because they MUST.

    Also never mentioned, is the poor scheduling, “Questionable” riders and the fear of getting on and off at night in less than a trendy neighborhood, especially for riders that are not themselves youthful.

    Another issue that mass transit designers are not addressing the enormous increase in ridership that will be using mobility scooters as ever more riders age; I look for exponential increases those that use assisted mobility devices which will make fixed in place seating a barrier to all those potential riders that prefer to Ride On, and what the effect of many of these mobile riders getting on and off at every stop will do to scheduling, which will become dynamic rather than fixed as it is supposed to be now. Running “on time” will be replaced with “running”.

    Sadly, like our highway system, which used to be the best in the World, our mass transit system will remain “dated” by the time it ever gets installed because those that plan and or design them must bow to Politicians that want new Stadiums and other Big Developer/Donor friendly big budget projects instead, since they for the most part never use mass transit and now our Society will cater to the whims of the Wealthy instead of whats best for the Country!

    • Mass transit funding has been lamer than lame for a long time. That will catch up with us… even more than it already is.

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