What is Generating Transit Ridership Increase in US and Canadian Cities?

What is Generating Transit Ridership Increase in US and Canadian Cities?


Timothy Rosenberger, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Caroline Nardi, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Kenneth Liwag, Parsons Brinckerhoff


Transit use has grown in older American cities and in smaller and auto-centric ones. Demographic and socio-economic trends underlie this growth. Many of these trends affect European cities, and will generate policy changes to support transit growth.


Transit ridership is rising in America. Ridership in the United States has increased by more than 37% since 1995, outpacing population growth of 20%, and increased by 1.1% in between 2012 and 2013, in spite of falling fuel prices. Transit has always been an important form of transport in some large American cities, like New York, Boston and San Francisco. But in the past decade, transit has been increasing in most US cities. Smaller cities like Flagstaff, Arizona and Canton, Ohio, and auto-centric ones like Los Angeles and Indianapolis, are seeing large gains. Canadian cities have seen even greater increases, in larger cities like Vancouver and Toronto as well as smaller ones like Regina, Alberta and Oakville, Ontario. The authors, who have performed transit system restructuring projects in a number of smaller and mid-sized US and Canadian cities, document the long-term demographic and socio-economic trends that are the underlying cause of this ridership growth, and explain why it is likely to continue. These trends include the changing tastes and lifestyle preferences of the millennial generation, the retirement from work of the baby boom generation, concerns about environmental issues and global climate change, growing economic polarization, immigration, and changes in the population’s ethnic composition. Many of these same trends will affect European cities, albeit in ways that are unique to each city and country, and subtly different from most American cities. In many cities and regions, the funding structures that have supported local transit systems are inadequate to meet the growing demand for transit service. Likewise, the systems that national governments use to support transit infrastructure development are generally inadequate to meet the demand for vehicles and infrastructure that these long term trends will generate. Policymakers both in North America and Europe will soon be forced by public demand to allocate greater importance, and greater funding, to transit to meet this growing demand.


Association for European Transport