Transit Ridership Booms in California
Ridership on transit in the United States is booming, and California systems are leading the way:
Americans are boarding public buses, trains and subways in greater numbers than any time since the suburbs began booming.
Nearly 10.7 billion trips in 2013, to be precise – the highest total since 1956, according to ridership data reported by transit systems nationally and being released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association….
Ridership on Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority light-rail trains increased 6 percent over 2012, as the public took advantage of an expanded network of lines. Overall, LA Metro gained 9 million trips to reach 478 million in 2013, the transportation association said. Among the other transit systems in California with record ridership was the Caltrain commuter rail service that connects San Francisco with Silicon Valley.
You might say this is just a reflection of rising employment and doesn’t suggest anything special in terms of transportation behavior. But at the same time as people are taking transit more, they are driving less during the economic recovery. Vehicle Miles Traveled has declined since the recession ended in 2009, a sharp contrast to both the rising transit numbers as well as the experience of previous economic recoveries, where VMT rose.
What does this mean for high speed rail? Well, it means there is huge demand for more passenger trains. And that means satisfying that demand is indeed a priority for California, despite what Neel Kashkari and Tea Party Republicans from the Central Valley claim.
What isn’t a priority is building more freeway lanes. California’s transportation future is on the rails, not on the roads.