Which Transit Agencies Added, Lost Riders Last Year?

Data released this week finds Americans made a record 10.5 billion trips in 2012. View totals for 113 different transit systems.
by | March 11, 2013 AT 12:30 PM

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.


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.