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Public transit use grew in 2011

In communities large to small

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Public transit use in America grew significantly last year, but many challenges still remain, according to The New York Times:

Americans took 200 million more rides last year on subways, commuter trains, light-rail systems and public buses than they did the year before, according to a new report by a leading transit association.

Americans took 10.4 billion rides on public transportation in 2011 — a billion more than they took in 2000, and the second most since 1957, according to a report being released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association, a nonprofit organization that represents transit systems. The increase in ridership came after the recession contributed to declines in the previous two years.

With the return of jobs came a return of straphangers. Studies have found that nearly 60 percent of transit rides are taken by people commuting to and from work, and there were big increases in ridership in parts of the country that gained employment. And with the price of gas rising again — the $4 gallon has already returned in some states — many systems are bracing for even more riders this year.

The increase was announced after Republicans in the House of Representatives proposed ending the three-decade practice of putting aside a portion of the nation’s highway trust fund to pay for transit, worrying local transit systems and drawing heated opposition from Democrats and quite a few Republicans. Michael Melaniphy, the president of the transportation association, took pains to note that some of the strongest ridership growth was in rural communities, which are often represented in Congress by Republicans.

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