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America’s Mass Transit Ridership at Its Highest in Decades

A record number of Americans are moving into cities and, at the same time, are curbing their driving habits. No better example than New York City.

Three-point-four billion riders on New York City subways and buses a year. This amazing number equals one-third of all mass transit trips in the United States. Ridership is at its highest in almost 60 years in almost every American city.

A commuter advocacy group, “Straphangers Campaign,” attributes it to younger Americans, said Gene Russianoff.

“Millenials, those people born around the turn of the past century are much less car-oriented," he said. "They are urban. They like not owning cars, they like less responsibility and there are a lot of them."

In addition to millenials, many people believe public transit is economical and eco-friendly. In 2012 across America, people took 10.7 billion trips.

“When we talk about insurance rates going up, price of automobiles going up, then people are waking up and realizing: wait, here’s this huge asset that has been underutilized," said said Richard Rudolph, chairman of the Rail Users Network. "Why not take advantage of this particular opportunity. It certainly makes more sense to get people out of automobiles into subways and into commuter and passenger railroads.”

New York is not standing still -- as passenger demand requires several major expansion projects. A new $4.5 billion subway line on New York’s Second Avenue -- which was recently excavated underneath businesses and apartment houses -- will take an overload of passengers off of other subway lines. Its first phase completion is scheduled in 2016.

People who work in New York’s financial district will soon be using a new transit subway transfer center. Almost all lines converge in lower Manhattan and the new center will give riders an easier way to get around the city and into New Jersey.

And, probably the most controversial and costly project is a $7 billion tunnel connection from Long Island into Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal. Trains from there will have access to New York’s midtown business district.

Andrew Albert, a board member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, said there were many other reasons the public was riding in increasing numbers.

“The system has gotten a lot more dependable. We have new cars. We have countdown clocks to tell you when the next train is coming. We have expanded facilities in places," he said.

New York’s 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, transit system costs a $1.5 billion a year to maintain. It is one of the world’s oldest, with its first subway line having opened in 1904.