With a total of 10.7 billion trips in 2013, comprised primarily of bus and heavy rail transport, new marketing ploys are drawing even more new riders. This year marked the eighth consecutive year in which more than 10 billion mass trips were taken.
The American Public Transportation Association states that since 1995, public transportation ridership is up by over 37%, making it seem as though the negative stigma that has been placed on public transportation is slowly receding. Yet many may still view buses and railways as a type of socialist program undermining American values. Homer J. Simpson said it best; “Public transportation is for jerks and lesbians.”
According to a study by the Frontier Group on the effect of younger generations on public transportation policy, “…between 2001 and 2009, the average number of vehicle-miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita – a drop of 23 percent.” America’s young people are clearly into the idea of using mass transit as a way of getting around versus the traditional American ideal of car ownership. Meanwhile though, wealthy people still avoid public transit like the bubonic plague.
In an attempt to grab more riders among the lower age bracket, some public transit authorities have gone the way of Groupon deals and happy hour specials. The ride-sharing app Lyft offers up discounts of anywhere from 10-50% during off-peak hour,s with a mindset of quantity over quality. In a time where their strongest competition, Uber, is dealing with price jacking scandals, this could be a decision that proves to be good for business.
With prices dropping and some cities beginning to offer Wi-Fi service on railways, as well as newer vehicles with more amenities, American public transit is breaking out of the outdated ideals that led to its neglect. Public transit isn’t just good for the environment either; it actually brings communities together. With the increase in ticket sales will come an increase in profits, which can help bankroll improvements to the infrastructure, such as conversion to all-electric or natural gas based engines.
Once renewable energy sources are widespread enough to support our economy, sustainability will inevitably help lower travel prices. These lower travel prices will continue to increase ticket sales and again increasing profit, continuing the cycle of advancing the public transportation system in this great country.
At least that’s the hope.