Rising public transit use has side benefit of cleaner air

The journey that is called transportation continues.

Soybeanbus[1]On Mar. 3rd I reported on American public transportation 2013 trip numbers for quarters 1, 2 and 3. Stats for quarter 4 as of that posting were not available. But they are now.

In fact, regarding ridership statistics, not only are these available for 2013’s fourth quarter but for the entire year.

So, I will cut to the chase.

In a Mar. 10, 2014 press release the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported, American public transportation ridership for all of 2013 totaled 10.7 billion, a rise just north of 1 percent over the prior year’s numbers.

That figure – 10.7 billion – isn’t all that’s worth noting. That number “… is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA),” the public transportation association in its release stated.

Estimate data shows 10,652,391,000 people rode American public transit in 2013. (See: “Public Transportation Ridership Report – Fourth Quarter 2013”).

“From operating environmentally-friendly bus and rail vehicles, building LEEDS certified facilities, using solar bus shelters, and recycling bus wash water, the U.S. public transportation industry – both public and private sectors – uses green technologies to further reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and help our country reach energy independence,” the APTA declared in its Apr. 22, 2013 “More than 35% of U.S. Public Transit Buses Use Alternative Fuels or Hybrid Technology: Public Transportation is Leading the Way in Green Vehicles,” press release.

Incidentally, when it comes to which mode – bus or rail – is better at attracting and growing ridership, rail appears the better of the two.

In a bus-to-rail ridership growth comparison evaluation of sorts conducted by Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic and documented in his “Recent Trends in Bus and Rail Ridership” post, the blog-post author includes a graphic in chart form the title of which is: “Ridership change, bus vs. rail, 2001-2012.”

In referencing this, Freemark writes: “The chart’s data – based on a limited sample of information – show that nine of ten urban rail and bus systems saw higher ridership gains along their rail routes than their bus routes (or less loss). The only exception noted here is Buffalo [New York], whose bus routes saw a higher jump than the city’s light rail line. The conclusion we can take from this compelling, if limited, data point is that rail services do seem to be providing a greater benefit to passengers than buses do.”

NewOrleansHUDRedStreetcarRiverfrontCanal[1]And, adds Angie Schmitt at StreetsBlog USA, “Heavy rail ridership recorded the strongest growth of any transit mode in 2013, with an increase of 2.8 percent, while commuter rail rose 2.1 percent. Light rail trips, including streetcars, increased by 1.6 percent. Meanwhile, bus travel was up 3.8 percent in cities with populations less than 100,000, but was down 0.1 percent overall, APTA reports.”

By comparison, U.S. motor vehicle miles traveled saw a relatively small 0.3 percent increase during the same period, Schmitt noted, but an increase nonetheless.

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