Mass Transit Ridership At Highest Level In Decades

There were some 10.5 billion trips taken across the nation on mass transit last year, the second-highest number since 1957, according to the American Public Transportation Association, which keeps track of how many people ride buses, trains, subways and ferries.

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And when gas is around $4 a gallon, more people take public transportation. Last year, some 10 and a half billion trips were taken in the country on mass transit. That's the second highest number since 1957, according to the American Public Transportation Association. It tracks how many people ride busses, trains, subways and ferries. The association released its annual ridership report today.

NPR's Brian Naylor has more.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Last year saw the highest ridership level for mass transit since the economic collapse of 2008.

Michael Melaniphy, president of the American Public Transportation Association says ridership was up 1.5 percent from the previous year's level for a couple of reasons.

MICHAEL MELANIPHY: One, is certainly the high and volatile gas prices, and the other, as jobs are coming back people are taking public transportation to get to those jobs. And I think an important factor here is that cities that had good public transportation have recovered more quickly because they can get their citizens back to work.

NAYLOR: Cities such as Dallas, Seattle and Grand Rapids Michigan posted double-digit ridership gains, as local economies added jobs. The increase in ridership levels last year occurred despite Hurricane Sandy, which Melaniphy says led some major transit systems on the Eastern Seaboard to shut down entirely for several days.

MELANIPHY: And there were 74 million trips that were lost as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and yet we still hit a record ridership number.

NAYLOR: And Melaniphy says the federal budget sequester is for the most part not expected to have an impact on local transit operations.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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