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Transit Continues Its Death Spiral




Public transportation is a declining industry. Randal O’Toole writes:

Nationwide transit ridership in the first quarter of 2019 was 2.6 percent below the same quarter in 2018, according to data released by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) last week. Transit’s most recent downward spiral began in 2014, and ridership over the twelve months prior to March 31 was 8.6 percent below the same twelve months four years ago.

Ridership is declining for all major forms of transit travel. First quarter bus ridership was 2.1 percent below 2018 while first quarter rail ridership declined by 3.2 percent. Commuter rail, light rail, heavy rail, and streetcars all lost riders. […]

Many urban areas haven’t seen the decentralization experienced by Chicago, Cleveland, and other older cities because they were never very centralized in the first place. Many Sunbelt regions have seen their populations grow primarily after World War II, which high auto ownership rates allowed most people to live in low-density neighborhoods and jobs were similarly decentralized.

Many of these urban areas have seen their long-term ridership grow, but this is often due solely to population growth, while their per capita ridership has often massively declined. In 1985, Atlanta transit carried 83 trips per urban area resident; by 2017, this had fallen to 26. The Miami urban area (including Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach) saw per capita ridership fall from 49 to 22 trips per year.

Even some of the biggest transit regions have seen per capita ridership decline. Chicago dropped from 110 trips per resident in 1985 to 68 in 2017; Washington from 102 to 82; Boston from 106 to 87; Philadelphia from 92 to 62; and San Francisco-Oakland from 121 to 108.Nationally, per capita ridership was 36 trips per urban resident in 2018, the lowest ever recorded, and 2019 is on its way to being lower still.

[Randal O’Toole, “Transit Continues Its Death Spiral,” Cato Institute, May 14]


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  1. I have seen few public system that were not overrun with degenerates. D.C public system seems okay (I use it frequently) and BART in San Fran was decent back in the 90s. Chicago’s and NY is filed with homeless, scum bags, degenerates, gang bangers and nut cases.