Mass transit ridership in 2013 highest in 57 years

A SEPTA bus travels a route through West Philadelphia along City Avenue near St. Joseph's University.
A SEPTA bus travels a route through West Philadelphia along City Avenue near St. Joseph's University. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 12, 2014

Ridership on buses, trains, and subways in 2013 was the highest in 57 years, the American Public Transportation Association said Monday.

The growth in transit ridership continued a 20-year trend attributed to higher gasoline prices, a shift by young adults away from automobiles, increased use of mobile technology, and the increasing allure of urban areas.

"There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities," said APTA president Michael Melaniphy.

In 2013, riders made 10.7 billion trips on U.S. public transit systems, up 1.1 percent from 2012. That was the most since 1956.

In the Philadelphia region, local transit agencies have seen steady ridership growth in recent years, although SEPTA and PATCO ridership was down slightly in 2013, which the agencies blamed on local factors, such as construction, fare hikes, and bad weather.

NJ Transit ridership was up 1.5 percent in 2013, to 266 million riders, the second-highest ever, spokesman John Durso said. Only 2008, during a spike in gas prices and before service cuts and fare hikes were enacted, had higher ridership.

Many local trains and buses are packed during peak commuting hours, and commuter parking lots are overflowing, said Greg Krykewycz, manager of the office of transit, bicycle, and pedestrian planning for the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

"We think there's a lot of latent demand still out there for transit," he said. "If more vehicle capacity and parking capacity could be created, it would probably be eaten up pretty quickly."

Since 1995, transit ridership in the United States is up 37.2 percent, outpacing growth in population, which is up 20.3 percent, and vehicle-miles traveled, which is up 22.7 percent.

However, cars remain the favorite commuter vehicle by far.

Nationwide, 86 percent of commuters drive to work; in Philadelphia, 59 percent of commuters drive, according to Census Bureau data from 2012. For the nine-county region, 80 percent of commuters drive.

But the number of miles driven by each American dropped in 2013 for the ninth consecutive year.

Vehicle miles traveled per capita was estimated at 9,402 by the Federal Highway Administration, down slightly from 9,412 in 2012.

Amtrak has also seen strong ridership growth over the last decade.

In fiscal 2013, which ended last Sept. 30, Amtrak carried a record 31.6 million passengers. It was the 10th ridership record in 11 years.

Ridership on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor trains, between Washington and Boston, was 11.4 million passengers, the second-highest total in the national passenger railroad's 42-year history.


pnussbaum@phillynews.com

215-854-4587

@nussbaumpaul

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