(USA TODAY) Use of public transit is soaring. Transit agencies had record or near-record ridership in the first three months of the year, thanks to high gas prices, a mild winter and, in one city, the Super Bowl.
At least a dozen communities set records for the number of people riding buses, trains and light rail, even though some cut service because of tight budgets, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
More people returning to work helped, says Michael Melaniphy, the association’s president and CEO.
He says ridership on what’s called heavy rail – subways and elevated trains – increased in 14 of the 15 systems that have such transit. Use of light rail – streetcars and trolleys – rose in 25 of the 27 cities that have it. And 34 of 37 large cities saw increases in bus ridership.
“It’s nationwide,” Melaniphy says. The result: fuller trains and buses straining the capacity of systems.
Public transit systems nationwide are breaking records for ridership in the first three months of 2012 compared with first quarter 2011:
* Indianapolis, 2.5 million, 20% * Fort Myers, Fla., 1 million, 17% * Charlotte, 6.8 million, 10% * Ann Arbor, Mich., 1.7 million, 9% * Boston, 99.2 million, 8% * Dayton, Ohio, 2.4 million, 8% * Ithaca, N.Y., 1.09 million, 6% * Tampa, 3.7 million, 6% * Olympia, Wash., 1.3 million, 4% * San Diego, 21.8 million, 2%