Eighty Five Percent of Public Transit Systems Experience Capacity Problems as Ridership Surges

Eighty Five Percent of Public Transit Systems Experience Capacity Problems as Ridership Surges

65% of Public Transit Systems Report Insufficient Revenue to Operate Additional Service

September 9, 2008

APTA contacts:

Virginia Miller
(202) 496-4816

Mantill Williams
(202) 496-4869

WASHINGTON, DC – With ridership on public transportation surging and high fuel prices severely impacting public transportation systems’ budgets across the nation, 85 percent of public transit systems report capacity problems, according to a new nationwide survey of transit systems released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

The survey, titled Rising Fuel Costs: Impacts on Transit Ridership and Agency Operations, reveals that of the public transit systems that report capacity problems, six out of ten (63 percent) are experiencing capacity problems during the peak period. According to the survey, almost all agencies responding (91 percent) report they are facing limitations in their ability to add service to meet increased ridership demands. The survey reveals the most common limitation is budgetary, with 65 percent reporting insufficient revenue to operate additional service. More than half of all agencies reported declining or stable local and state financial assistance over the last year, due to the economic downturn.

Additionally, survey results indicate that due to the high cost of fuel, more than 60 percent of the public transportation systems responding to the survey said they are considering fare increases and 35 percent are considering service cuts, some for the second time in less than a year.

“Just as high gas prices impact a family’s budget, so too do high fuel prices severely impact a public transportation system’s budget,” said APTA President William W. Millar. “No one wants to raise fares or cut service, but the high cost of fuel is severely impacting public transportation system budgets and the shortfalls need to be closed.”

Millar continued, “Public transportation system is woefully underfunded in this country. Public transit systems nationwide are being asked to accommodate record numbers of riders with little, and even diminishing, local and state revenue. This financial crisis must be addressed, especially at a time when Americans are depending more and more on public transportation.”

Survey respondents indicated that federal action is essential. More than half of the public transportation systems that responded believe that the most effective short-term federal action would be new federal financial support for fuel purchases. Twenty percent of systems responding said that they need additional federal funding to add new transit vehicles.

“As Congress returns this week, it should put funding public transportation at the top of its list and include it in any stimulus or energy legislation,” said Millar. “High fuel prices have been on the rise for more than three years and the time to act is now, before Congress recesses until next year. With public demand for public transportation escalating, the federal government should respond with financial assistance that will help public transit systems expand service and keep the costs of fares down.”

APTA also reported today that public transit systems across the country experienced a 5.2 percent increase in ridership for the 2008 second quarter, representing nearly 140 million more trips than last year’s second quarter. To see the 2008 second quarter ridership report go to: http://www.apta.com/research/stats/ridership/index.cfm

“Judging from the second quarter ridership numbers, it looks like we are on track to beat last year’s modern record ridership numbers,” said Millar. “This increased ridership underlines the urgent need for Congress to take action this fall.”

Rising Fuel Costs: Impacts on Transit Ridership and Agency Operations survey was conducted from July 11, 2008 through July 28, 2008. A total of 115 transit systems nationwide responded, representing transit systems from small to large. To see the survey, go to: http://www.apta.com/research/info/online/fuel_survey_0809.cfm.

(source : APTA)

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