Trendy Transit: More Americans Hop on Buses and Trains
More people today are embracing the many benefits of commuting by public transit. Beyond the good feelings of reducing their carbon footprint and avoiding the stress of traffic, they are meeting and conversing with fellow passengers, reading, working via mobile devices or simply relaxing.
Total U.S. mass transit trips topped 2.7 billion in the third quarter of 2014, a 1.8 percent rise from the same period in 2013, according to the American Public Transportation Association. This represents “a dramatic change in public opinion as more people are demanding public transportation services,” according to President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.
Many communities are responding by improving the operations and scope of their mass transit systems. Oklahoma City’s bus and metro system was acquired by Embark (EmbarkOK.com) in 2013. In April 2014, it launched the first phase of changes, including increased frequency of bus routes to reduce both passenger waiting and travel times. Since then, ridership has increased 8 percent. Beginning last January, two crosstown bus routes began operating until midnight.
For Andre Small, late-night service means he can ride to and from his home and the restaurant where he works. “I would take the afternoon bus to work, but then have to walk four miles home when my shift ended at 11 p.m.,” says Small. “Carrying my tips in cash late at night didn’t feel safe. Bus service until midnight is a lifesaver.”
Bus ridership in Indianapolis reached a 23-year peak last year, totaling nearly 10.3 million passenger trips, and a new downtown transportation center is expected to open this year. IndyGo, the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo.net), plans to offer the nation’s largest electric bus fleet, rolling out the first vehicles by fall, with a fleet of 21 by year’s end.
Capitol Metro launched two special MetroRapid bus routes in Austin, Texas, in 2014, and new bus and rail transportation centers opened last year in Denver and Anaheim, California. New streetcar projects are underway in Atlanta, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, Tucson and Washington, D.C.