APTA Study Reveals Public Transportation Ridership Use Surged in First Quarter 2012

Nationwide Increase of 5.0% with Nearly 2.7 Billion Trips Taken
Release Date: 
Jun 4 2012

May 18, 2012 - A report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) showed public transportation ridership increased by 5% over the first quarter of last year with nearly 2.7 billion trips. 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.  

All public transit modes saw increases and several saw significantly high increases.  Light rail use increased by 6.7 percent and heavy rail use increased by 5.5 percent.   Some public transit systems throughout all the areas of the United States reported record ridership for the first quarter. (i.e. Ann Arbor, MI; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Fort Myers, FL; Indianapolis, IN; Ithaca, NY;  New York, NY; Oakland, CA; Olympia, WA; San Diego, CA; and Tampa, FL).

To see the complete APTA 2011 ridership report, go to:  http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/Ridership/2012-q1-ridership-APTA.pdf 

2012 First Quarter Ridership Breakdown and the Top Ten in Rail Transit Growth

Nationally, light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) ridership increased 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012.  Twenty-five of twenty-seven light rail systems reported ridership increases. The ten light rail systems with the highest rates of growth were located in the following cities:

  • Memphis, TN (45.7%)
  • Salt Lake City, UT (34.1%)
  • Seattle, WA – King County DOT (19.4%)
  • Boston, MA (12.6%)
  • Cleveland, OH (10.7%)
  • Houston, TX (10.3%)
  • Seattle, WA – Sound Transit (10.3%)
  • Los Angeles, CA (9.9%)
  • Sacramento, CA (8.5%)
  • St. Louis, MO (8.2%)

Fourteen out of fifteen heavy rail heavy rail (subways and elevated trains) systems reported ridership increases.  Overall, heavy rail ridership increased by 5.5 percent nationwide. The ten heavy rail systems with the highest first quarter increases in ridership were in the following cities:

  • Cleveland, OH (12.2%)
  • San Francisco, CA (9.7%)
  • Chicago, IL (8.9%)
  • Baltimore, MD (7.8%)
  • Boston, MA (6.4%)
  • Jersey City, NJ (6.1%)
  • New York, NY – MTA New York City Transit (5.6%)
  • Lindenwold, NJ (4.7%)
  • New York, NY – MTA Staten Island Railway (4.5%)
  • Miami, FL (4.2%)

Nationally, commuter rail ridership increased by 3.9 percent in the first three months of 2012 with twenty-two of twenty-seven commuter rail systems reporting ridership increases. The ten commuter rail systems with the highest growth were the following cities:

  • Anchorage, AK (43.8%)
  • Oceanside, CA (19.2%)
  • San Carlos, CA (15.0%)
  • Portland, OR (11.1%)
  • Seattle, WA (10.8%). 
  • New Haven, CT (9.7%)
  • Stockton, CA (9.4%)
  • Los Angeles, CA (8.9%)
  • Salt Lake City, UT (8.5%)
  • and Nashville, TN (8.4%)


About APTA

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.