If Newt Gingrich is right and New Yorkers are just elitists riding the subway, more and more Americans in different cities might have to join our not-so-exclusive club.
According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), 10.4 billion trips were taken on US public transportation in 2011. This is the second highest annual ridership since 1957. Only 2008 saw more people taking public transportation, and that was a direct result of gasoline prices skyrocketing.
But overall, for the last six years, public transportation usage has been steadily increasing, including a 2.3% increase from 2010 to 2011 alone.
While major cities like New York, Boston and Chicago saw increases; it was actually smaller cities and communities that saw the most substantial upticks in ridership. In fact, public transportation use in communities with populations less than 100,000 rose by 5.4%. Cities like Buffalo, Salt Lake City, Columbus, Alexandria and St. Louis all saw double-digit growth. Austin, Texas had a jump of over 169% due to expanded hours and weekend service.
APTA CEO Michael Melaniphy hypothesizes that the rise in public transportation use can be attributed to many reasons, but there are two in particular. . .
“Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work. Since nearly 60% 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.”
Another factor Melaniphy noted is the prevalence of passenger information technology. Smartphone apps like HopStop have made riding public transportation so much less intimidating by giving detailed directions to passengers. According to Melaniphy, these apps that give arrival times, departure times and directions “demystify” the whole public transportation experience while attracting new riders.
This report leaves no doubt that more Americans are turning away from cars and actually giving public transportation a go.
Now if that makes us elitists, Newt, then let me grab my monocle, top hat and flute of Champaign and the 1 train down to Canal Street where I can buy my pirated copy of ‘The Lorax’ from another subway-taking elitist.
You can read the full report here: