Washington, D.C. — Americans took 10.6 billion trips on public transportation in 2015, the third highest annual ridership in 10 years, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Compared to public transit ridership in 2014, there was a small overall decline among all modes of 1.3 percent.

“In 2015, people took 10.6 billion trips on public transportation — the third highest annual ridership in the past ten years,” said Valarie J. McCall, APTA Chair and board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.  “Considering the significant decline in gas prices, public transit ridership remained strong.”

In 2015 the average price of a gallon of gasoline was $2.52, which was 92 cents (26.7 percent) lower than in 2014.  Gas prices in the fourth quarter of 2015 were $2.26 — even lower than the annual average. Research conducted by APTA shows that on the average, every 10 percent decrease in gas prices leads to a 1.8 percent decrease in public transportation ridership.

The increase of fares in 2015 may have also led to a slight decline in ridership. Fares increased 4.8 percent in 2015, rising from a national average of $1.87 in 2014 to $1.96 in 2015.

Noting that from 1995-2015 public transit ridership increased by 37 percent, almost double the population growth which increased by 21 percent, APTA CEO and President Michael Melaniphy said, “What’s clear is that, despite low gas prices and higher fares in some areas, people want transportation options and public transportation is an essential part of any local transportation network.”

Even with an overall decline nationally in ridership, the following public transit agencies reported record ridership system-wide: 

  • Caltrain (San Carlos, Calif.),
  • Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago),
  • Link Transit (Wenatchee, Wash.),
  • Metro Transit (Minneapolis),
  • Metro North (New York),
  • Mountain Line (Missoula, Mont.),
  • NJ Transit (New Jersey), and
  • Sound Transit (Seattle).

2015 Ridership Breakdown

Light rail (modern light rail, streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased 0.4 percent in 2015 with 12 out of 28 public transit systems reporting increases.  Light rail in Minneapolis showed a significant increase of 43.8 percent due to the opening of the METRO Green Line in June 2014 in Minneapolis.  Light rail ridership in Houston increased by 24.1 percent due to new light rail lines opening in May 2015.  Also, light rail in Buffalo, N.Y., saw a double digit increase in 2015 of 21.4 percent.  Light rail ridership in the following cities also saw increases in 2015:

  • Seattle (6.5%);
  • Philadelphia (5.3%);
  • Tampa, Fla. (4.5%);
  • Phoenix (3.4%);
  • San Diego (2.5%);
  • Newark, N.J. (2.5%);
  • Oceanside, Calif. (1.9%);
  • Portland, Ore. (0.9%); and
  • Dallas (0.8%).

Heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) ridership increased by 0.2 percent across the country as 10 out of 15 public transit systems reported increases.  Heavy rail systems with increases in ridership for 2015 were in the following cities:

  • Cleveland (3.8%);
  • Jersey City, N.J. (3.7%);
  • New York, NY-MTA Staten Island Railway (3.1%);
  • San Francisco (2.2%);
  • Lindenwold, N.J. (1.6%);
  • Chicago (1.5%);
  • Miami (0.9%);
  • Atlanta (0.7%);  
  • New York, NY-MTA New York City Transit (0.5%); and
  • Philadelphia (0.3%).

Nationally, commuter rail ridership was flat in 2015 in comparison to 2014 with 15 out of 29 public transit systems reporting increases.  Two commuter rail systems saw double digit increases in 2015 in the following cities: Orlando, Fla. (56.7%) and Seattle (12.9%).  Ridership in the following cities also saw increases in 2015:

  • Anchorage, Alaska (8.1%);
  • Austin, Texas (7.4%);
  • Nashville, Tenn. (6.6%);
  • Stockton, Calif. (6.5%);
  • Salt Lake City (5.2%);
  • San Carlos, Calif. (5.0%);
  • Oakland, Calif. (4.4%);
  • Newark, N.J. (2.6%);
  • Harris-Philadelphia (2.6%);
  • New York, NY-MTA Metro-North Railroad (1.5%);
  • New York, NY-MTA Long Island Railroad (0.3%);
  • Minneapolis (0.2%); and
  • Chesterton, Ind. (0.4%).

Bus ridership decreased nationally by 2.8 percent. However, the following cities showed the highest ridership increases at the nation’s large bus agencies:  Las Vegas (7.4%); San Jose, Calif. (2.8%); San Diego (2.4%); Pittsburgh (2.3%); Detroit (2.0%); Seattle (1.7%); San Francisco (0.2%); and Atlanta, GA (0.1%).  Additionally, the following cities have smaller bus systems that saw significant increases:  Asheville, N.C. (27.1%), Fort Collins, Colo. (25.1%), Espanola, N.M. (5.2%), Lebanon, Pa. (3.5%), and Vallejo, Calif. (6.1%)

Demand response (paratransit) ridership increased in 2015 by 1.2 percent.  Trolleybus ridership declined by 7.4 percent in 2015.         

See the complete APTA 2015 ridership report at  www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2015-q4-ridership-APTA.pdf