U.S. transit ridership is 2nd highest since 1957
Published: March 11, 2013 11:56AM
Updated: March 18, 2013 02:24PM
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Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo Ridership on the Utah Transit Authority increased 3 percent in 2012 over the previous year.

The nation’s mass transits systems last year enjoyed their second-highest ridership since 1957 — with ridership locally on the Utah Transit Authority up by 3 percent as several new TRAX lines were in operation during the year.

Americans took 10.5 billion trips on mass transit last year, up by 154 million trips over 2011, according to data released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association.

“This is the second highest ridership since 1957,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Considering the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on some of the nation’s largest systems, this record level of ridership is truly significant.”

He added, “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.”

In Utah, ridership on UTA increased from 41.6 million trips in 2011 to 42.8 million in 2012 — a 3 percent increase, or double the national average increase of 1.5 percent.

The UTA reported that ridership on TRAX and FrontRunner were each up by an identical 14.7 percent. But bus ridership was down by 6.1 percent, as many bus routes were eliminated to connect into new TRAX lines. Its van pool ridership was up by 2.1 percent, and demand-respond bus ridership for the disabled was up by 20.1 percent.

That came during the first full year of operation of the new West Valley City and South Jordan extensions to TRAX. Also, the FrontRunner extension between Salt Lake City and Provo opened in December.

Several more expansions are scheduled to open this year. The extension of the green line TRAX to the Salt Lake City International Airport is scheduled to open on April 14; the extension of the blue line TRAX to Draper is scheduled to open in August; and the Sugar House streetcar is scheduled to open in December.

ldavidson@sltrib.com