Crowdedtrain As this U.S. News story says, "The good news, ridership is up; the bad news, ridership is up."

Mass transit systems all over the country are straining under unprecedented growth in ridership over the past decade.

With gas at $4 per gallon and highway congestion soaring, ridership on the nation's subways and buses has jumped dramatically. Between 1995 and 2006, use of public transportation increased by 30 percent, a rate far outstripping both population growth and increased highway usage. Last year, that meant Americans took some 10.3 billion trips on mass transit.

Federal, state and local transit subsidies haven't kept pace with the increased costs from the crush of new passengers. And transit authorities are feeling the pinch.

I personally like Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's approach, recounted in the same U.S. News story:

Strong-arming recalcitrant aldermen, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley recently framed the debate this way: Either support a property tax increase to fund the city's cash-strapped transportation authority or "stand up and say, 'I want the CTA to bypass my ward.'" Minutes later, the 40 percent tax increase on city property buyers passed overwhelmingly, 41 to 6. If only it were that easy in every burg where the aging rail lines keep rotting, the fares keep rising, and the trains have to keep rolling.

Photo via Flickr, from gnarayan