In pieces in USA Today and The New York Times, Larry Copeland and Michael Cooper cite job growth, rising gas prices, cost savings, and new technologies that provide better information on arrival and departure times as factors driving the increase.
As Copeland reports, what's even more astonishing is that, "[g]reater use came despite more than eight out of 10 transit systems either cutting service, increasing fares or both in recent years, says Michael Melaniphy, the association's [APTA] president and CEO. 'Can you imagine what ridership growth would have been like if they hadn't had to do those fare increases and service cuts?'"
The report comes as the House and Senate attempt to finalize a new surface transportation reauthorization bill before current legislation expires on March 31. "Republicans in the House of Representatives [had] proposed ending the three-decade practice of putting aside a portion of the nation's highway trust fund to pay for transit, worrying local transit systems and drawing heated opposition from Democrats and quite a few Republicans," writes Cooper.
Noted by both authors was the fact that transit ridership growth was driven by customers in a wide variety of communities, not just in cities. "'It's not just an urban thing,' Melaniphy says. 'When you look at small, rural parts of the country, cities under 100,000, the ridership increase was 5.4%, basically double the national average,'" notes Copeland.