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Indiana public transit usage bucking national trend

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Many Indiana cities aren't experiencing the same public transit trend that saw more Americans using public buses, trains and subways in greater numbers in 2013 than at any time in more than 50 years.

The American Public Transportation Association report, released Monday, found that number of people using public buses in Fort Wayne was down 3.6 percent last year, down 1.1 percent in Muncie and that ridership on northern Indiana's South Shore commuter railroad was down 1.6 percent.

In Indianapolis, however, the number of people using the public bus system increased last year, with a 2.75-percent increase.

According to the report, the number of rides taken on public buses, trains and subways nationally has fully recovered from a dip during the Great Recession. And with services restored following economy-driven cutbacks, ridership appears set to resume what had been a steady increase.

In 2013, the number of trips stood at nearly 10.7 billion nationally, the highest since 1956, according to data compiled by the American Public Transportation Association and released Monday.

Of course, the nation's population has been expanding, so there are more people to ride the rails and buses. The association's numbers don't mean that the average U.S. resident is taking public transit more often than in the 1950s, when investments in highways and a growth in car ownership began enticing Americans to move away from cities and heralded a decline in mass transit.

But even accounting for population growth, the transportation association argues, a wider segment of Americans are using mass transit, which now offers them more choices.

Since 1995, transit ridership is up 37 percent. During that time, the U.S. population has increased about 20 percent, and vehicle miles traveled are up about 23 percent.

"People are making a fundamental shift to having options" aside from a car in how they get around, said Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of the public transportation association. "This is a long-term trend. This isn't just a blip."

The increased ridership is not universal. Transit agencies in Tennessee, Kentucky, Milwaukee, Boston and Portland, Ore., for example, reported falling ridership rates. And voters in cities such as Atlanta have rejected taxes for transit improvements.

Even with the ridership rebound, public transit accounts for a small fraction of all trips taken nationally — about 2 or 3 percent, according to Michael Manville, a professor of city and regional planning at Cornell University.

He questions whether the nation is ditching its cars in favor of public transit.

"For most public-policy purposes, our concern is not with more transit use but less driving," Manville said. "If we are concerned about pollution and carbon emissions and traffic accidents and congestion, then transit is only beneficial to the extent people drive less because of it."

Federal data suggest that Americans (and Europeans) are driving less. That doesn't necessarily mean they are taking the bus or train more, said professor Marlon Boarnet of the University of Southern California.

 

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  • Why ride?
    It takes me 20 minutes to drive to work when it would be nearly an hour to ride the bus. Pure opportunity cost. If somebody has regular 1 hour commutes around here in the car, let them pay for transit.
  • Common Indy
    From first hand experience, I will tell you that the top college graduates do not want to live in Indianapolis whether they are from Indy or not. Young professionals and college graduates like living in urban neighborhoods that are vibrant for the first 2-7 years. Most top college graduates do not even consider Indy. I have seen this happen with all of my friends. Public transportation is something that could transform Indy in many ways.
  • Behind the Times!
    More data showing that Indiana is behind the times. Lets build more roads! Maybe Indiana will move into the 21st century when the year 2100 rolls around.
  • Better infrastructure is needed
    I think the transit ridership gains on Indy Go last year, including those on the express buses, are even more proof that people in Indianapolis want better transit options. With those options, we need better infrastructure to enhance any mass transit that might be created. The lopsided street resurfacing to sidewalk creation ratio in the Rebuild Indy project is unfortunate. More people would choose Indy Go yes if there was higher frequency among routes, but also if they don't have to walk in the grass/mud/snow/street combo just to get to the bus stop. Thank goodness the Indy Connect plan includes funds for some upgrades in this area, but that alone won't do it. City leaders have to see infrastructure and walkability as a priority for quality of life and aesthetic enhancement. Regarding the south shore line that Young Hoosier referred to, I wouldn't say that it runs at odd times. I've ridden the line many times between Gary and millennium station in Chicago and I have a friend that commutes back in forth between those two places for work daily. The rush hour frequency is nearly every 15 - 20 min. during part of the rush hour depending on what station you're going to. The weekend frequency and reverse commute frequency leaves a little less to be desired, but it is the weekend. The new expansion to Dyer along the west lake corridor will bring a steady increase in ridership. References: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DPW/RebuildIndy/Projects/Documents/Countywide%20Project%20List.pdf http://www.nictd.com/weekwest.html http://www.nictd.com/weekeast.html
  • Duh
    Obviously people in Indy don't ride as much public transportation - how could we? We don't have a subway, we don't have light rail. We have one overpriced and slow commuter train to Chicago that runs at odd times, and IndyGo is a complete joke.
  • Public Transportation
    Public transportation is the only thing holding Indy back.

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