This morning, the American Public Transportation Association reported another quarter of remarkable growth in transit ridership. During the first three months of 2012, Americans took nearly 2.7 billion trips on public transit. That's an increase of five percent over last year's first quarter, and it's the fifth consecutive quarterly increase in ridership across the nation.
Several cities--among them Tampa, Charlotte, Ann Arbor, and Columbus--saw record numbers of riders during the first three months of 2012. And it is no coincidence that, in recent years, these cities successfully competed for grants from the Federal Transit Administration, received transit funding from the Recovery Act, or both.
More than 60 percent of transit trips are work trips. As APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said, “As we look for positive signs that the economy is recovering, it’s great to see record ridership at public transit systems throughout the country. People are commuting to their new jobs using public transportation.”
I have said repeatedly that--when the demand is there and the planning is effective--if you build it, they will come. And these cities are proof positive, offering their commuters the transit options that fit them best.
However, the growth in ridership also means America's transit systems face a significant challenge. Even if transit ridership increased at only 3.5 percent, that would require a doubling of capacity in a mere 20 years.
Fortunately, the Obama Administration is helping the nation's transit agencies meet that challenge.
Ridership on Seattle-area light rail grew at 10.3 percent last quarter and the region's commuter rail system saw an increase of 10.8 percent. The RapidRide bus rapid transit network will connect more communities with those rail networks and offer riders more choices.
The new RapidRide bus rapid transit network is an excellent investment in Seattle’s future economic growth and sustainability. Bus Rapid Transit provides the benefits of rail transit--faster trips, fewer stops--at lower project costs, and it's a great solution for many communities.
As FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said, “The RapidRide system is essentially rail on wheels and will help people keep more money in their wallets instead of paying it at the pump.”
Americans are making it clear with their transit fares that they need and want public transportation. And DOT's investment in King County's RapidRide is just one example of this Administration's commitment to giving Americans the options they want for getting where they need to go.