Around 5 billion trips were made by transit rail services in the US during 2016 — which relates to travel by light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail — according to data published by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and brought to my attention by the Department of Energy’s Fact of the Week service.
Notably, as this increase in transit rail use has been occurring (over the last 6 years or so), a drop in bus transit usage has also occurred. So, seemingly, the rise of one is the decrease of the other, rather than it just being more and more people using transit.
Altogether, the number of transit rails trips taken in the US in 2016 was nearly twice that of such trips in 1992 (as helpfully shown in the graph above).
As explained by the Department of Energy Fact of the Week article: “In 2016, transit rail ridership was just under 5 billion trips and transit bus ridership was just over 5 billion trips. The number of rail transit systems operating in 2016 was roughly double that of 1990, accounting for some of the increase. However, transit bus ridership and transit rail ridership are both affected by factors such as the economy, gasoline prices, and more recently, ridesharing services.”
Something else worth noting here is that “transit bus trips” refers to trolley bus use as well, rather than trolley bus trips being counted towards transit rail use.
Elsewhere in the world, of course, transit rail usage rates are generally much higher than in the US — mostly owing to the poor state of infrastructure in the US as compared to elsewhere, and better design/technology elsewhere. Once upon a time, the US had a vast network of streetcars/trams, but those tracks got ripped up in an era of automobile fanaticism.
While it’s a bit of a sore point for many Americans at this point — and something that foreigners are mostly unaware of based on impressions gleaned only from Hollywood, television, and tourism that’s mostly confined to large wealthy cities — the US is now home to some of the most decrepit public systems and infrastructure in the “developed” world.
While President Trump did make mention of this reality during his campaign, it appears that the political will simply isn’t there to invest the resources necessary to address the situation.