Monday, December 8, 2008

Transit Ridership Up Up Up

mass transit

Big news today, as the Washington Post reports that mass transit ridership broke national records in September, as people continue to flock to the buses and trains despite the decreasing cost of gasoline. Transit agencies experienced a 6.5% increase in riders over the same quarter last year, the largest percentage increase in 25 years! Not only that, but people drove 4.4% less than they did in September of the previous year, which may signal some real behavioral changes for people.

The key graf shows how this might be a generation-changing moment:

The trends are likely to boost support for more transit funds in the economic stimulus package that Congress will send to President-elect Barack Obama. With the economy in a recession, Obama pledged Saturday to create the largest public works construction program since the building of the federal interstate highway system in the 1950s.

I like that reference to the building of the interstate highway system in the 50s, as it's hard to underestimate how important that moment was to the decline of cities. They enabled people to move further and further away from the city, they lead to disastrous design choices where highways were built through the hearts of neighborhoods and planning focused on making life for cars easiest. Now, with Obama's plan to invest at least $500 billion on infrastructure, we may be seeing the pendulum swing back to the right side, as cars continue their decline and cities rise again in the popular imagination.

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