For the past nine months, transit agencies have been spewing out ridership data fast enough to make your head spin. And why wouldn't they? Ridership skyrocketed when gas prices rose to record levels last summer, and continued to climb even when fuel prices fell and unemployment rose. So it came as no surprise when the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released 2008 ridership totals today that showed transit agencies posted 10.7 billion trips in 2008, a 4 percent increase compared with 2007 and the highest ridership level in 52 years.Talk about perfect timing. The transit industry is just about to start heavily advocating for a new surface transportation authorization bill, as SAFETEA-LU is set to expire on Sept. 30. The latest ridership stats serve as further proof that transit options are wanted, needed and should be expanded. APTA is capitalizing on the public transit renaissance by launching "Public Transportation Takes Us There," an advocacy campaign aimed at building congressional support for increased federal investment in transit. Featuring advertising, public relations and grassroots outreach components, the campaign will highlight transit's role in creating jobs, improving the environment, boosting energy independence, and improving quality of life.Fittingly, the association announced the new campaign earlier today at its Legislative Conference currently being held in Washington, D.C., where more than 500 APTA members are convening to promote the importance of public transit to congressional representatives. Given the new staggering ridership figures, growing need for affordable transportation options and overall increased awareness of public transit, I think it's safe to say many congressional leaders are listening.
Being that transit is so unrelated, because of politics, to the actual market demand of riders it has been difficult for systems to handle this massive increase that has been occurring. One of the biggest problems facing the industry as a whole is how to connect funds to actual demand so that services can increase when demand goes up.
As it stand even here in uber transit friendly Portland, the local authority TriMet, is cutting services on a number of lines and canceling services outright on others. All at a time when demand is higher than ever and the actual need has increased more than ever!
Being disconnected from the market, is well, disconnecting.