skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Three-fourths of US cities have seen increases in public transit usage

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 21, 2008

, , , , ,
Share | | |


I reported back in the spring that, based on 2007 data, ridership on public transportation in the US was up 32 percent from 1995 and that, in 2007, ridership was at its highest point in 50 years.

public transportation in Gainesville, FL (by: Douglas Green, Wikimedia commons)I also noted that, after a long period of sustained growth in driving, aggregate vehicle miles traveled are now going down nationwide.  Central cities are now growing again, and claiming a much larger share of regional growth in their locations.  While sparked by the unfortunate pain of gasoline prices and a precipitous drop in home values on the fringe of metro areas, this is welcome news for the environment.  Smart growth is working.

Along with the rise in demand for alternatives to now-expensive driving, however, is the strain being put on public transportation systems.  We need more investment in public transit and we need it now.

Our friends at Environmental Defense have released an analysis showing that fully three-fourths of American cities are experiencing increases in transit use.  Ridership in Jonesboro, Arkansas, for example, doubled in one year.

On the map below, the darker the green, the bigger the percentage increase in public transportation use.

cities all over the US are seeing increased transit use (by: Environmental Defense)   

Visit ED’s blog, where the map is interactive, and see how the numbers change when you move your cursor over the various locations.  The post also contains a list of the ten cities showing the biggest increase, along with those showing a decrease. 

Lots more information on transit use, of course, from the site of the American Public Transportation Association.


Share | | |


Dan TroutmanJul 21 2008 03:45 PM

Ironically at a time when public mass transit is being used more, small cities like Abilene, TX are considering eliminating public transportation because it's too costly to run the buses. Go figure!

Kaid @ NRDCJul 21 2008 03:47 PM

Wow - how short-sighted can they be? Thanks for reading!

Peter BlackJul 21 2008 05:27 PM

Kaid, thanks for your nice comment on my blog. One request: will you please use the map as a link back to my blog instead of to a static image? That will make things a bit more user friendly and then you can get rid of the textual link. Either that, or use the web address directly:

More to come I'm sure!


Kaid@NRDCJul 21 2008 10:56 PM

My pleasure, Peter. For convenience I had stored the image on my online image account, and ran up against that site's preference for linking to it. But I think an exception in this case is clearly warranted. Keep up the great work!

Peter AltmanJul 22 2008 10:07 AM

I have noticed more people biking to the metro station where I live, in Rockville MD. I actually had a hard time finding a slot to lock up my bike last week. And the local bike shop has a three-week backlog for bike tune-ups because they've been swamped with old bikes brought out of storage, and new bike assembly jobs.

Belinda ChambersJul 22 2008 09:27 PM

I'm thrilled to see my town's 34% increase in public transit ridership. Yet, while it's true there are more people on the buses, the increase in folks riding motorized scooters is more noticeable. I'm wondering if the same is true nationwide. I'd like to believe that, were there more bicycle lanes, we'd see a huge increase in bike riders. That would be my preferred mode of transportation, but as it stands now, it's too scary out there.

Kaid@NRDCJul 23 2008 11:12 PM

Peter and Belinda, thanks for adding good content to the discussion.

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Stay Plugged In