The State of Public Transit Ridership Across the US

Ridership recovery is an uphill battle for transit agencies across the nation, but some metro areas have made progress.

1 minute read

December 18, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By Mary Hammon @marykhammon


Blue bus on city street

A Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) bus on Foster Street in Downtown Worcester, Massachusetts. | Wangkun Jia / Adobe Stock

Public transit ridership is still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels in most major U.S. metro areas, according to the American Public Transportation Association’s third-quarter public transportation ridership report. Axios staffers Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj compared the data to 2019 numbers and highlighted key trends.

At a national level, ridership currently stands at 77 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Drilling down to the state level, just nine of around 100 U.S. metro areas with more than 500,000 people had  September 2023 public transit ridership at or above 100 percent of September 2019; of those nine, Poughkeepsie, New York (150.3 percent); Worcester, Massachusetts (141percent) and Youngstown, Ohio (130 percent) had the highest.

Fitzpatrick and Beheraj attribute a recent rise in ridership rates for some of the countries biggest transit systems to employers requiring workers to return to the office. New York subway ridership is up 16 percent, Chicago’s L is up 14 percent, and San Francisco’s Muni Metro light rail network has risen 43 percent. 

In addition to return to the office, the authors say cities have been experimenting with a variety of tactics to boost ridership, including reduced or waived fares, new and adjusted routes based on people’s post-pandemic travel patterns, and investments in infrastructure.

Thursday, December 14, 2023 in Axios

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Pumping Gas

10 States Where the Gas Tax Is Highest

As the gap between gas tax revenue and transportation funding needs widen across the country, the funding mechanism is drawing increased scrutiny from both public officials and consumers.

June 9, 2024 - The Ascent

Concrete walkway with landscaping, decorative tiles, and picnic tables in a Los Angeles County park.

Wish Granted: Former Brownfield Transformed to New Park

Wishing Tree Park in West Carson, California officially opened last month, replacing a brownfield site with a much-needed green space for recreation and respite.

June 14 - Urbanize LA

"No right turn on red" and "Turning vehicles yield to pedestrians" sign.

The Tide is Turning on Right Turns on Red

The policy, which stems from the gas embargo of the 1970s, makes intersections more dangerous for pedestrians.

June 14 - NPR

Thick green forest on edge of lake in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville Begins Process to Clean Superfund Site

A public forest is home to dozens of barrels that have been leaking toxic materials for decades.

June 14 - Inside Climate News

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.