Washington, D.C. — Nearly 2.6 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the first quarter of 2014, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Even though overall ridership declined 0.7 percent from the 2013 first quarter, ridership in all the rail modes and bus ridership in small communities posted increases. Light rail ridership saw the largest increase at 3.2 percent. Ridership on heavy rail (subways and elevated rail) ridership increased by 1.8 percent and commuter rail ridership went up by 1.1 percent. Bus ridership in communities with populations of less than 100,000 increased by 2.1 percent.

“While there was a small decrease in ridership nationally, ridership on rail (light rail, subways, and commuter rail) increased nationally,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Also, bus ridership in small communities increased by 2.1 percent. Public transportation is a vital service for communities of all sizes across the country, contributing to economic growth and development and quality of life.”

In the first quarter some cities saw ridership increases due to economic recovery, as new jobs were added and unemployment decreased. Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and Salt Lake City are examples of cities that saw ridership growth in part due to economic growth.

“Since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increases in cities where the economy is improving and more jobs are available,” said Melaniphy.

Some public transportation systems reported record first quarter ridership in the following cities:  Albany, N.Y.; Seattle; Stockton, Calif.; and Yuma, Ariz.

Melaniphy also noted that in the first quarter there were major winter weather events that negatively impacted public transit ridership in communities across the nation. For example, in Washington, D.C., the federal government, the largest employer in the area, closed for four working days and many other employers also shut down on these days.

In addition to severe winter weather, lower gas prices contributed to less public transit ridership. Gas prices overall were 15 cents lower than in the first quarter of 2013. In past years, high volatile gas prices have led many people to save money by taking public transportation instead of driving.

Download the complete APTA 2014 ridership report at www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2014-q1-ridership-APTA.pdf.