It has taken a global recession, stagnating wages, and high gas prices, but use of public transportation in America has reached a 57-year high. Public transit use has leaped up more than 37% since 1995, one study finds, and this could be a key factor in pushing for improved access to better mass transit systems.
Put out by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the study finds that Americans took some 10.7 billion trips on subways, buses, and streetcars across the country. This is the highest estimated public transit usage since 1956, which is about when the American auto industry really started to hit its stride and transit use started to slide to embarrassingly-low levels.
Public transit use has grown for the past six consecutive quarters, a growing trend since 2008 when gas prices surged over $4.00 a gallon. But it seems like America has experienced a fundamental shift in how public transportation is perceived, and the old Homer Simpson “Public transportation is for suckers” mentality is starting to fade, especially among Millennials. With renewed interest in living in places like New York City and San Francisco, where owning a car is often more hassle than its worth, it’s a natural transition for many people to seek out alternatives like car sharing or public transit.
Americans are also driving less overall, with peak miles traveled dating back to 2007. Even though most of us are “used to” $3.00+ a gallon gasoline, it doesn’t mean that most of us can afford the luxury of, you know, just driving.
It’s a good trend for the environment, and America overall, as our public transportation system has been woefully underfunded and unimproved in the past decades. With public transit use growing though, new projects and improvements are bound to break ground, opening the door to even greatest mass transit usage.
That also means more room on the road for car lovers like you and I. Can you dig it?