America is still the most car-dependent nation on Earth, but we’re making progress. In 2013, we took 10.7 billion (with a b) mass transit rides, the highest number in 57 years (and the eighth year in a row above 10 billion).
But the really mind-blowing thing is that all that transit growth is moving faster than our vehicle trips. Our public transportation rides have grown by 37.2 percent since 1995, and vehicles miles just 22.7 percent. As we’ve reported before, despite a population increase of more than 20 percent in the last 18 years, trips by car and truck peaked in 2004.
And we thought that only Europeans were ditching their cars! These days Americans have an increasing number of zero-car households (9.3 percent in 2011, up from 8.7 percent in 2007). There’s a bunch of reasons for this, including that famous lack of interest in driving among millennials; not to mention that biking, walking, car-sharing and commuting by rail are getting popular. As noted by Green Car Reports, those car-hating millennials are also moving to cities, where transit is more likely available, car ownership expensive, and they can exercise their concern for the environment.
Cities showing big ridership increases include Ann Arbor, Denver, Cleveland, New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles (yes, car-crazed L.A.), Indianapolis and Tampa. Some 17 of 27 transit systems report light rail drawing bigger crowds. Bus ridership, meanwhile, is stable, but up 3.8 percent in smaller cities (those with a population below 100,000.)
MNN's Sami Grover has already pointed out that smartphones play a role here, because you can use them to summon a cab (Uber and others) or to check transit schedules. It’s a great benefit of new technology.
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