Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Public transportation use on the rise across America

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In 2011, Americans took a whopping 10.4 billion trips on various means of public transportation. According to an update from the American Public Transportation Association this week, that’s an increase of 2.3 percent from the year before. It’s also the largest that number has been since way back in 1957. It should come as no surprise that the top spot is still held by 2008, when the U.S. saw gasoline prices soar north of $4 per gallon. Sound familiar? 

“Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” said Michael Melaniphy, the president and CEO of the APTA in a press release. “Since nearly sixty percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increase in areas where the economy has improved.”

In California, the city of Oceanside saw an impressive 14.8 percent jump in the use of light rail transportation (including streetcars and trolleys) last year, with San Diego up 7.3 percent in the same category. Oceanside was also where commuter rail ridership increased by 21 percent over the course of 2011.

With gas prices steadily rising across the country, this trend towards public transit continues, even here in notoriously car-centric Los Angeles. A more recent APTA study shows that over the month of January, L.A. County MTA ridership was up 3 percent on the rails, 1 percent by bus. According to CBS Los Angeles, ridership on the Orange and Silver lines is up by a double-digit percentage.