Californians flock to public transit in record numbers

National increase outstrips growth in driving

provided by Surface Transportation Policy Project

alifornians are riding public transit systems in record numbers according to new data released by the American Public Transit Association and the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP). Twenty-five of the state's 29 largest transit systems showed growth in ridership from 1999 to 2000, and nearly all showed double digit growth from 1995 to 2000.

    Leading the pack in annual growth are the newly unveiled ACE train service from Stockton to San Jose (66% increase from 1999-2000), Amtrak's Capitol Corridor trains from San Jose to Sacramento (51% increase), the San Diego trolley (16.5% increase), Caltrain (up 14.8%), and BART (up 12.8%). Smaller bus systems also showed strong growth statewide including Montebello Bus Lines (9.3%), Santa Clarita Transit (8.7%), Long Beach Transit (5.7%), AC Transit (5.3%), and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (4.4%).

    “Californians are using public transit like never before,” said James Corless, STPP's California Director. “Our love affair with the automobile may not be over, but as record congestion and two hour commutes become the norm, we're clearly trying to find convenient alternatives.”

    Initial figures point to an increase of 20 to 30 million transit trips statewide from 1999 to 2000. Annual growth among California's largest 29 systems is estimated to be as high as five percent. Nationally, transit trips grew by 3.5 percent from 1999 to 2000 while the growth in driving remained flat. This is the first time since the introduction of the automobile over a century ago that transit use has grown faster than driving for more than three years in a row.

    Other data confirms that Californians rely on public transit in a state long thought to be the epicenter of car culture. Newly available data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that:

  • The average Californian drives less than the average American and rides transit more than the average American.
  • The rate of licensed drivers statewide is one of the lowest in the country (California ranks 47th nationwide) and has fallen consistently throughout the 1990s even as national rates have increased. More than one-third of all Californians aren't licensed to drive.
  • Seven times as many people take public transit as fly out of every major commercial airport in the state. In Los Angeles alone there are twice as many bus passengers annually as airline passengers statewide.

    “Transit provides a crucial service in California and will become even more critical as our population soars in years ahead,” said Josh Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association.

    More details for California are available at National data is available at The American Public Transit Association provided STPP with early access to its data. You can view the new APTA ridership report at

    STPP is a national not for profit coalition of more than 250 organizations working to ensure that transportation policy and investments strengthen the economy, promote social equity, and make communities more livable.

    American Public Transit Association is a national organization representing the nation's public transit agencies. Based in Washington DC, APTA performs research and analysis on issues relating to public transit.

    Surface Transportation Policy Project, 26 O'Farrell Street, Ste 400, San Francisco, CA 94108; (415) 956-7795