More Americans Ditching Cars for Public Transit

Here’s some good green news: more and more Americans are taking public transit and are ditching their gas-guzzling cars for more fuel efficient models, or getting rid of their cars all together.  According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), transit ridership nationwide shot up by 5% over the first quarter of 2012, with an increase of 2.7 billion trips.  This number has steadily increased over the past five quarters, specifically for bus and rail. Interestingly, APTA noted that …”even when gas prices start to fall, riders stick with transit.”

So, what’s going on?  This data is clearly indicative of deep behavioral change and the APTA report mentions that this commuter shift isn’t merely a knee jerk reaction to high gas prices, but a more intrinsic switch in how Americans perceive and ultimately use public transportation.  And it’s not just major cities like New York and Chicago that are feeling the effects.  Smaller and medium-sized cities like Ann Arbor, MI, Charlotte, NC and San Diego, CA are also seeing transit numbers go up and stay up.

One reason taking transit may be growing in popularity is that it enables the passenger to “turn off” and instead take a nap, focus on a book or check email while en route to their destination.  After all, commutes today are some of the longest in history.  Taking public transportation also opens up social opportunities; it’s possible to make a new friend or meet your future spouse while on a train or bus.  None of this is possible if that same person is driving solo.

To add to this trend, younger Americans, particularly those aged 35 and below, are driving less in general, falling 23% between 2001 and 2009, and in some cases are foregoing the drivers license altogether.  Apparently, driving is no longer viewed as the ultimate “freedom” it once was; cars are instead viewed as a main source of economic hassle and environmental damage.

Cars also cost more than just the gas put into them — the annual maintenance, general upkeep, parking fees and insurance can hit the wallet hard.  In the city of San Francisco, for example, the cost of simply fueling your car today can cost you upwards of $3,000 a year (based on a U.S. Department of Energy calculation estimating $4 per gallon, driving 15,000 miles per year at 20 mpg).  On the contrary, you can take public transportation and get around the city on MUNI for an annual grand total of just $768.

Still, not every American lives in an urban center where public transportation is an option and if that’s the case for you, car-share, carpooling or driving a fuel efficient vehicle is something to consider.  If there are enough people in your community who demand public transit options, local governments will have to pay attention, even if it means putting in a simple bus line. In the end, there are always ways to be creative, save money and help the planet at the same time; it merely takes effort to get those programs implemented. After all, taking the APTA figures into account, it looks like Americans are itching for a major transportation overhaul that could have sweeping impacts for our health and our planet.

Related Stories:

4 Reasons Conservatives Hate Public Transit

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Study Shows That High Gas Prices Do Reduce Driving, Encourage Use of Alternatives

Photo Credit: AlNo


Michelle T.
Michelle T.4 years ago

What I saw in London is example what we really need.

Jane L.
Jane L.4 years ago

though I'm not American, i suppose I'm part of the new generation of thinking: that it costs more to have a car than it is to take public transit; I'm part of the statistic of people who chose to forego getting a license completely; and I prefer walking and enjoying the sunshine with music playing in my ears rather than pent up from inside my house to inside a car to inside a building that I call my workplace! I think by doing this, I become a statement of the change I want to see happening in this world. I too am itching for a "major transportation overhaul"!

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V.4 years ago


Ela V.
Ela V.4 years ago

that's great

Marlene Dinkins
Marlene dinkins4 years ago

noted i want the best for them

Juliet Defarge
judith sanders4 years ago

As I get older I pay more attention to how hard it is to get to our grocery stores, health clinics, and other essential services are. Is is just Virginia, or do other states put their DMVs and Social Security offices in the most far-flung, hard to get to sites? I feel like developers are trying to ghetto-ize everyone who doesn't have a car.
I guess some idiot will say that European style urban planning is socialism.

Christine C.
Christine C.4 years ago


Harshiita Sharma
Harshita Sharma4 years ago

Thats great!!

Harshiita Sharma
Harshita Sharma4 years ago

Thats great!!

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola4 years ago

Thanks for sharing!