Americans logged more than 10.5 billion public transit trips last year -- the highest total since 1957, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Light rail saw the largest year-over-year percentage increase of any mode of transportation, up 4.5 percent from 2011. Passengers made nearly 22 million additional light rail trips last year, led by noticeable gains for the Los Angeles County Metro Transportation Authority, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Utah Transit Authority systems.

Heavy rail, which accounts for a far greater number of trips, climbed 1.4 percent for the year. Of the 15 systems reporting data, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (9.7 percent) and San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (7.8 percent) recorded the largest annual percentage increases.

The association (APTA) compiles data from transit agencies tallying unlinked passenger trips. The gains came despite temporary closures forced by Hurricane Sandy, which APTA estimates resulted in 74 million fewer trips.

“Two big reasons for the increased national transit ridership are high, volatile gas prices and in certain localities, a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said in a news release.

Trips for larger bus systems jumped about 1.2 percent, with 29 of 38 surveyed registering increases. For commuter rail systems, total trips increased slightly, by 0.5 percent, according to APTA.

Of all rail systems reporting data to APTA, the following recorded the largest year-over-year percentage increases:

1) Hampton Roads Transit Light Rail, +986,000 trips (153.6% increase)
2) Denton County Transportation Commuter Rail, +209,100 trips (97.3% increase)
3) Memphis Area Transit Authority Light Rail, +330,000 trips (28.4% increase)
4) Capital Metro - Austin Public Transit Commuter Rail, +125,900 trips (26.83% increase)
5) Dallas Area Rapid Transit Light Rail, +4,909,500 trips (20.75% increase)
6) Los Angeles County MTA Light Rail, +9,377,600 trips (18.46% increase)
7) Utah Transit Authority Commuter Rail, +240,200 trips (14.74% increase)
8) Utah Transit Authority Light Rail, +2,253,900 trips (14.73% increase)
9) Port Authority of Allegheny County Light Rail, +993,500 trips (14.72% increase)
10) San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission Commuter Rail, +104,200 trips (13.96% increase)

The Hampton Roads Transit and Denton County Transportation systems both opened in 2011, explaining their ridership hikes. The nation’s largest rail systems -- MTA New York City Transit and the Chicago Transit Authority – recorded the sharpest increase in terms of raw totals.

Other transit agencies saw ridership declines.

Trips on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s rail line dropped by 9.3 million last year – the largest decrease of any individual system in the country. WMATA’s rail line continues to be plagued by service disruptions and track maintenance as the agency updates its infrastructure.
 

Data

The following table lists the number of unlinked passenger trips reported to APTA for 113 rail, trolley and large bus systems. For all annual and quarterly data, please refer to APTA's ridership report.

         
Transit Agency Type 2012 Trips 2011 Trips Percent Change
New Orleans Regional Transit Authority Light rail 5,495,800 6,602,400 -16.76
Hillsborough Area Reg TA (Tampa, Fla.) Light rail 300,200 358,700 -16.31
New Mexico Department of Transportation Commuter Rail 1,129,200 1,242,100 -9.09
Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Bus 19,840,600 21,571,900 -8.03
Port Authority of NY & NJ Heavy Rail 70,548,400 76,496,800 -7.78
Trinity Railway Express (Dallas-Ft Worth) Commuter Rail 2,182,200 2,364,900 -7.73
King County Dept. of Transportation (Seattle) Trolley 19,004,000 20,582,100 -7.67
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Light rail 6,460,100 6,973,400 -7.36
Regional Transportation Authority (Nashville) Commuter Rail 261,500 279,300 -6.37
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Heavy Rail 70,506,800 74,236,400 -5.02
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Light rail 31,206,900 32,748,700 -4.71
Detroit Department of Transportation Bus 32,430,600 33,929,200 -4.42
Southeastern Pa. Transportation Authority Light rail 31,688,200 32,998,200 -3.97
MTA Long Island Rail Road Commuter Rail 95,037,000 98,630,000 -3.64
Washington Metro Area Transit Authority Heavy Rail 280,904,200 290,203,500 -3.20
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Bus 60,042,900 61,989,100 -3.14
MTA Staten Island Railway Heavy Rail 4,445,100 4,583,500 -3.02
Southwest Ohio RTA Bus 16,194,200 16,690,000 -2.97
Tri-County Metro Transportation(Portland) Light rail 40,875,000 41,867,200 -2.37
Central Ohio Transit Authority Bus 18,423,400 18,764,100 -1.82
Virginia Railway Express Commuter Rail 4,622,600 4,704,100 -1.73
Milwaukee County Transit System Bus 44,049,500 44,753,500 -1.57
Southeastern Pa. Transportation Authority Heavy Rail 98,171,300 99,706,500 -1.54
Alameda-Contra Costa TD Bus 54,002,200 54,764,900 -1.39
Southeastern Pa. Transportation Authority Trolley 5,645,500 5,724,000 -1.37
Capitol Corridor Joint Power (Oakland, Calif.) Commuter Rail 1,715,900 1,733,400 -1.01
Southeastern Pa. Transportation Authority Commuter Rail 35,405,200 35,709,200 -0.85
Metro Transit Authority of Harris County Bus 66,220,400 66,673,000 -0.68
Minneapolis Metro Transit Commuter Rail 700,100 703,400 -0.47
Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation Commuter Rail 3,668,100 3,681,200 -0.36
Denver Regional Transportation District Light rail 20,639,000 20,694,700 -0.27
Southeastern Pa. Transportation Authority Bus 164,373,900 164,760,500 -0.23
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Commuter Rail 36,355,100 36,429,400 -0.20
Minneapolis Metro Transit Bus 69,855,100 69,782,500 0.10
Maryland Transit Administration Bus 76,881,900 76,789,300 0.12
Los Angeles County MTA Bus 360,066,200 359,521,500 0.15
Montgomery County (Maryland) Ride On Bus 26,955,400 26,914,800 0.15
MTA New York City Transit Bus 797,452,700 795,713,500 0.22
New Jersey Transit Corp. Light rail 21,365,300 21,306,200 0.28
Orange County (Calif.) Transp Auth Bus 52,574,700 52,309,700 0.51
Washington Metro Area Transit Authority Bus 130,236,700 129,416,100 0.63
New Jersey Transit Corp. Commuter Rail 79,229,400 78,611,800 0.79
Minneapolis Metro Transit Light rail 10,498,200 10,400,900 0.94
Port Authority Transit Corp. (New Jersey) Heavy Rail 10,612,900 10,506,400 1.01
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Bus 32,523,000 32,150,300 1.16
MTA Metro-North Railroad Commuter Rail 82,815,100 81,830,100 1.20
Chicago Transit Authority Bus 314,423,800 310,373,100 1.31
Phoenix PTD Bus 38,967,800 38,405,800 1.46
Port Auth of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) Bus 54,712,900 53,926,600 1.46
Metra (Chicago) Commuter Rail 73,251,800 72,166,500 1.50
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Light rail 52,220,100 51,448,700 1.50
North County Transit District (Oceanside) Light rail 2,448,200 2,411,300 1.53
Miami-Dade Transit Agency Bus 78,215,400 76,858,200 1.77
MTA New York City Transit Heavy Rail 2,544,892,400 2,499,514,500 1.82
Connecticut DOT Commuter Rail 626,500 614,100 2.02
Hampton Roads Transit Bus 16,293,400 15,933,900 2.26
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Bus 115,156,100 112,562,300 2.30
Puerto Rico DOT Heavy Rail 11,023,500 10,770,100 2.35
San Diego Metropolitan Transit System Bus 52,616,000 51,291,100 2.58
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Light rail 10,486,400 10,219,400 2.61
San Francisco Muni Rwy Bus 93,001,400 90,613,200 2.64
San Francisco Muni Rwy Trolley 67,743,800 65,985,200 2.67
Tri-County Metro Transportation (Portland) Bus 60,383,100 58,756,800 2.77
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Heavy Rail 165,028,800 160,512,000 2.81
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Trolley 3,328,600 3,236,200 2.86
VIA Metropolitan Transit (San Antonio) Bus 46,106,600 44,781,400 2.96
New Jersey Transit Corp. Bus 161,678,700 156,906,500 3.04
Maryland Transit Administration Heavy Rail 15,399,400 14,939,700 3.08
South Florida RTA (Tri-Rail) Commuter Rail 4,070,700 3,947,900 3.11
Maryland Transit Administration Light rail 8,729,400 8,462,300 3.16
Denver Regional Transportation District Bus 63,175,300 61,175,400 3.27
Charlotte Area Transit Light rail 4,950,300 4,792,100 3.30
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Bus 38,486,600 37,198,100 3.46
Central Florida RTA Bus 28,450,600 27,438,400 3.69
Los Angeles County MTA Heavy Rail 48,703,700 46,964,500 3.70
Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Light rail 75,996,200 73,233,100 3.77
Bi-State Dev Agency (Saint Louis, Mo.) Light rail 17,128,400 16,505,200 3.78
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Light rail 2,855,800 2,744,600 4.05
Long Beach Transit Bus 28,886,000 27,732,400 4.16
Broward County (Fla.) Transit Bus 40,714,800 39,041,900 4.28
Dallas Area Rapid Transit Bus 39,069,300 37,466,400 4.28
Chicago Transit Authority Heavy Rail 231,154,300 221,587,400 4.32
Alaska Railroad Corporation Commuter Rail 120,200 115,100 4.43
King County Dept. of Transportation (Seattle) Bus 95,580,000 91,413,800 4.56
North County Transit District (Oceanside) Commuter Rail 1,618,000 1,547,200 4.58
PACE Suburban Bus (Arlington Heights, Ill.) Bus 32,142,200 30,633,100 4.93
King County Dept. of Transportation (Seattle) Light rail 750,300 714,600 5.00
Miami-Dade Transit Agency Heavy Rail 19,242,800 18,295,500 5.18
Southern California Regional Rail Authority Commuter Rail 11,689,700 11,107,600 5.24
Penn DOT (Keystone) Commuter Rail 599,100 566,700 5.72
Metro Transit Authority of Harris County Light rail 11,397,000 10,776,000 5.76
Rhode Island Public Transit Authority Bus 19,471,500 18,337,300 6.19
Maryland Transit Administration Commuter Rail 8,833,200 8,286,000 6.60
Valley Metro Rail, Inc. (Phoenix) Light rail 14,042,200 13,161,800 6.69
Northern New England Rail Passenger Auth. Commuter Rail 555,200 518,500 7.08
Saint Louis Bi-State Dev Agency Bus 29,497,400 27,541,100 7.10
Sacramento Regional Transit District Light rail 13,872,700 12,948,400 7.14
San Francisco Bay Area RTD Heavy Rail 123,219,300 114,325,400 7.78
Tri-County Metro Transportation (Portland) Commuter Rail 433,800 400,800 8.23
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Heavy Rail 6,239,900 5,687,300 9.72
Sound Transit (Seattle) Commuter Rail 2,811,800 2,544,000 10.53
Sound Transit (Seattle) Light rail 9,723,600 8,784,900 10.69
Caltrain (San Carlos, Calif.) Commuter Rail 14,962,800 13,243,200 12.98
San Joaquin Reg Rail Com Commuter Rail 850,800 746,600 13.96
Port Auth of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) Light rail 7,745,000 6,751,500 14.72
Utah Transit Authority Light rail 17,551,800 15,297,900 14.73
Utah Transit Authority Commuter Rail 1,869,700 1,629,500 14.74
Los Angeles County MTA Light rail 60,175,500 50,797,900 18.46
Dallas Area Rapid Transit Light rail 28,568,200 23,658,700 20.75
Capital Metro - Austin Public Transit Commuter Rail 595,200 469,300 26.83
Memphis Area Transit Authority Light rail 1,491,900 1,161,900 28.40
Denton County Transportation (Lewisville) Commuter Rail 424,000 214,900 97.30
Hampton Roads Transit Light rail 1,627,900 641,900 153.60