Buses gain popularity among Californians

Riders flock to mass transit in five-year national trend

provided by Surface Transportation Policy Project

ewly released statistics show that mass transit use grew in California by almost 6 percent over the past year, tracking a new national trend. For the fifth year in a row, the growth in transit ridership has exceeded the growth in driving nationally. Statistics released in April from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) show that transit use grew by 20.5% over the past five years, as more Americans boarded buses, trains, and other transit vehicles. Federal Highway Administration statistics show that the miles driven by Americans in the same period increased at about half that rate, by 11.9 percent.

    Leading the pack in annual growth statewide are the ACE train service from Stockton to San Jose (26.4% increase from 2000 to 2001) and Amtrak's Capitol Corridor trains from San Jose to Sacramento (21.1 % increase). Bus systems showed strong ridership growth statewide, including LA's Santa Clarita Transit (17.9% increase), Norwalk Transit (15.6% increase), and LA County MTA (15.2% increase). Ridership grew in San Diego (MTDB system) by 9.3%. MST in Monterey County reported an 8.5% increase, and ridership on the Fresno Area Express increased by 5.6%. Despite the economic slump in the Bay Area, annual transit ridership grew on the Livermore/Amador Valley system (6.8% increase), MUNI (4.1% increase) and AC Transit (3.9% increase).

    “Investment in our mass transit systems are beginning to pay off: thousands of Californians are choosing to taking the bus or train,” explained James Corless, California Director of the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP). “This means less traffic congestion, less frustration, and less air pollution.”

    From 2000 to 2001, transit ridership nationwide increased by 2 percent, with driving growing by only 1 percent during the same period. It marked the sixth year in a row that transit ridership has grown, for a total of 23% since 1996.

    The national increase in transit use in 2001 occurred despite slow growth in New York City, the nation's largest transit market and the system most affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Transit use across the New York region grew by 2.54 percent for the year, but remained almost flat in the third quarter, with growth of .08 percent. Nationally, transit use climbed every month of 2001 except September.

    Many of the systems experiencing dramatic increases in ridership are places better known for their reliance on automobiles. The bus system in Orange County, California was 9.5% busier in 2001 than in 2000, mirroring transit's 7.3% increase in the share of commute trips taken via transit from 1990 to 2000 in the greater Los Angeles metro areas. Across the Los Angeles region, transit use increased by 12.47% percent, partially boosted by a strike that idled buses in Los Angeles for a month in 2000. The Phoenix bus system was almost 11% busier in 2001 than in 2000, but also had experienced a short strike. Many small bus systems experienced explosive growth as new service was added:Ê ridership in Laurel, Maryland grew by 53 percent; Kanakee, Illinois grew 45 percent; and Bloomington, Indiana grew 40 percent.

    The number of people using demand-response transit services increased 7.6% in 2001. These non-fixed route services often meet the needs of people with disabilities and are popular in rural areas.

    “Transit provides a crucial service for everyone in California and will become even more critical as our senior and disabled populations soar in years ahead,” said Josh Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association.

    National data is available at www.transact.org. The American Public Transit Association provided STPP with early access to its data. The full report of 2001 national and local ridership statistics can be found on APTA's website, www.apta.com/stats/ridershp/index.htm.

    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