Transit Keeps Gaining Riders
Across the United States, transit ridership jumped 5 percent above year-ago levels in the first quarter of 2012, reports the American Public Transit Association.
"The increase was one of the largest quarterly jumps on record, and comes on the heels of a 2011 ridership rate that was the second-highest since 1957," according to CNNMoney. The surge is attributed both to high prices at gasoline pumps last winter and increased employment that puts more people on buses and trains.
Minnesota transit systems generally followed the national trend, but with more modest increases. Metro Transit ridership was up 2.2 percent, while the Minnesota Valley and Plymouth Metrolink suburban systems posted smaller yet gains. Ridership on Eden Prairie's Southwest Metro Transit fell 3.3 percent, however, but it accounts for only a small percentage of the metro's transit capacity.
The APTA predicts that ridership won't tank even if gas prices keep falling. "Once people try transit, they tend to stay," the trade association's president, Michael Melaniphy, told CNNMoney. Commuters like to be able to read, check email or just nap, he added, things you can't—or shouldn't—do behind the wheel.
There's room for plenty more growth in transit patronage. Census figures show that only 5 percent of Americans ride buses and trains. A great majority of us drive everywhere, thanks at least in part to total subsidies for private motoring that far exceed those for public transit.