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By Samuel R. Avro on Mar 9, 2009 with no responses

Public Transport Ridership Hits 52 Year High

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The number of Americans using public transportation rose to the highest level in more than 5 decades, as higher gas prices caused commuters to turn in their cars in favor of buses and subways.

There were 10.7 billion trips taken on public transit in 2008, a 4 percent increase over 2007, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

“Now, more than ever, the value of public transportation is evident, and the public has clearly demonstrated that they want and need more public transit services,” said APTA President William W. Millar.

What is particularly surprising, is the fact that after gas prices dropped back below a national average of $2 a gallon, the the new riders didn’t fall back to their old habits.

“You would normally have expected with lower gas prices, a declining economy and rapidly growing unemployment that transit ridership would have been down,” said William W. Millar, the transportation association’s president. “It appears that many of those people, once they tried public transit, found that it suited their needs.”

Advocates hope to use the recent upsurge in public transport to push for federal funding beyond the $8.4 billion in stimulus money set aside for transit.

“These are investments that pay off for decades and decades to come,” Millar said.

Ridership was up on all modes of public transportation in 2008.

Subways saw an increase of 3.5 percent, while buses gained by 3.9 percent and commuter rail ridership enjoyed a jump of 4.7 percent in 2008.

The survey also found that bus ridership in areas with a population under 100,000 rose 9.3 percent. Those areas routinely have to wait an hour for their scheduled bus to arrive, which shows a dedication of the riders to use public transport.

As public transport increased by 4 percent compared to the year before, Americans also took many fewer trips by car, according to the Department of Transportation.