More Utahns use light rail every day, and it is the fastest growing method of transportation in the U.S., according to a first-quarter report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
Public transportation ridership surged as Americans took nearly 2.7 billion trips, an increase of 5 percent compared with the first quarter of last year, according to the APTA report. This was the fifth consecutive quarter of U.S. public transit ridership increase, as 125.7 million more trips were taken than the first quarter of 2011. Light rail use increased by 6.7 percent, the highest growth of any method of transportation.
The Utah Transit Authority saw ridership increase 7.44 percent with light rail leading the way with a 34.09 percent growth.
“High gas prices were part of the reason for this large first quarter ridership increase,” Michael Melaniphy, APTA president and chief executive, said in the report. “As we look for positive signs that the economy is recovering, it’s great to see that we are having record ridership at public transit systems throughout the country.”
UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said new lines to the west side and the fact that trains come more often were the key growth factors.
“It is a record growth for us,” Capenter said Tuesday morning. “The fact that we have more origins of destination make [light rail] more accessible to the riding public. Amazingly, much of the new ridership has been generated on the old system because we are operating at more frequency. The fact that we are offering more service is a considerable part of the growth.”
The lone negative within the UTA was the bus system, which saw a 7.09 percent decrease in ridership, according to the report. However, Carpenter attributed the slide to consolidating lines to the west side and eliminating some routes altogether with the light rail addition.
He added the UTA expects ridership numbers to grow as lines to Provo and the airport are planned to open sometime in 2013.
To view the APTA report in its entirety, visit http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2012/Pages/120604_Ridership.aspx