Chart of the Day: US Transit Ridership over Time

I came across this cool chart when digging around researching the last Chart of the Day. It’s pretty self explanatory and nicely made:


I found it in this report on Bus Stop design. Enjoy! is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

11 Responses to Chart of the Day: US Transit Ridership over Time

  1. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller December 11, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    I’ve heard stories about the transit authority executives who were so devastated by the great light rail ridership crash of 1929 that they just couldn’t go on living.

    • Mike Hicks December 11, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

      Streetcars are classified as “light rail” for ridership reporting purposes, just in case anyone is confused by this.

  2. Matt Brillhart December 11, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    I agree, that is a very nicely made chart.

    Ridership per capita is basically flat since 1970, or right around the time we started building the cartoonish, completely car-dependent suburbs (in contrast to earlier suburbs which were largely platted out along the rectangular city grids). The billions of investment in new subway and LRT systems in the past 45 years has only had the effect of keeping ridership level flat. Not to mention that many (most?) central cities populations have really declined over that same time period, only recovering/growing the last decade and a half, depending on the region.

    • Aaron Isaacs
      Aaron Isaacs December 11, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

      Please note that the chart shows ridership per capita, not actual ridership, which has risen.

      • Matt Brillhart December 11, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

        Right, and that’s precisely why I was praising it. Ridership per capita seems a much more informative/useful figure than total rides, given that the US population is growing. The country added 105MM people between 1970 and 2010 – I’d certainly hope total ridership has grown, but it doesn’t really tell me anything about transit use…

  3. Mike Hicks December 11, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Heavy rail (=subway/elevated) ridership seems remarkably consistent, considering the fluctuation in overall ridership. It’s a little hard to make out since bus ridership distorts that band so much. They probably should have had heavy rail as the bottom layer of the graph.

  4. Dana DeMaster
    DanaD December 12, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    A while back TPT had a documentary on University Avenue that was interesting for lots of reasons. I found it amazing that at the height of popularity of the old street cars the street cars ran every minute and there would be a car every block! Imagine if our train ran that frequently.

  5. David Markle
    David Markle December 12, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    In the best of worlds, a modern streetcar line on University Avenue could run frequently for local service, and an LRT or HRT line–partly tunneled, partly along I-94–would handle faster point-to-point and commuter service for the region.

    As to the informative graph, I find it saddening.

  6. Amy Brugh December 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    It would be fascinating to see an overlay of obesity rates on this chart.

  7. David Markle
    David Markle December 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    It would be interesting to see this graph combined with a suitably rationalized graph of urban-area population growth as a percentage of total population. Maybe graph master and indefatigable blogger Bill Lindeke will take up the challenge. . . ?


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