Research Reports – American Public Transportation Association

Public Transportation Ridership Update

Ridership rebounded to 79 percent of pre-pandemic levels in March 2024, according to the latest data from APTA’s Ridership Trends Dashboard. After declining to 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels in April 2020, ridership recovered to nearly 40 percent of pre-pandemic ridership in summer 2020. By summer 2021, after the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, ridership had recovered to just over 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Public transit ridership was 7.1 billion total trips in 2023, a 16 percent increase from 2022 to 2023.

2023 Public Transportation Fact Book

The annual Public Transportation Fact Book contains national aggregate statistical data covering all aspects of the public transit industry in the United States and Canada. Major sections include an overview of U.S. transit facts, transit finances and operating statistics by modes of travel, transit vehicle characteristics and deliveries, federal grants and the Federal Transit Act, and statistical trends of Canadian transit operations.

Transit Savings Grow as Auto Costs and Gas Prices Increase
September 2023

Riders can save more than $13,000 per year by using public transit instead of driving, according to the latest information on public transit fares, auto costs, and gasoline prices. Increases in auto and fuel costs mean that people can save more than before by using public transportation instead of driving. Prices for new and used cars have increased significantly since the pandemic. Financing costs have increased dramatically due to interest rate hikes. In 2023, gasoline prices have increased 25 percent because of constricted supplies and added demand.

Restoring RAISE Grant Investments in Public Transportation
September 2023

Although DOT has partially reoriented the RAISE Grant Program to multimodal priorities in the last three years, APTA strongly urges the Secretary of Transportation to direct a significantly greater percentage of RAISE grant funds to vital public transit and passenger rail projects. In FY 2023, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded $404 million for public transportation projects, equal to 18 percent of available RAISE grant funding. The percentage of FY 2023 public transportation investment is, by percentage, a slight decrease from FY 2022 and FY 2021. The percentage of RAISE grant funds awarded for public transit and passenger rail projects in FY 2020 through FY 2023 remains significantly less than the historical average (33 percent).

Public Transit Agencies Face Severe Fiscal Cliff
June 2023

Public transit agencies experienced unprecedented decreases in ridership and fare revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Transit agencies have obligated more than 99 percent of emergency funding provided by Congress. While ridership levels have recovered to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels nationwide, agencies are facing looming operating budget shortfalls, or “Fiscal Cliffs.” APTA’s survey of public transportation agencies has found that one-half of all agencies, and 71 percent of the largest agencies (those with annual operating budgets over $200 million) expect to face a fiscal cliff in the next five fiscal years.

Transit Workforce Shortage: Phase 2 Report and Agency Toolkit
March 2023

Public transit providers across North America face a shortage of operators and mechanics, a crisis that has strained budgets and forced agencies to reduce service. APTA’s Transit Workforce Shortage Study combines information from a survey of public transit workers and interviews with public transportation agencies to provide insight into ways to address the national shortage of transit workers. The report provides information on actions agencies have taken to address the workforce shortage, and the toolkit provides step-by-step answers to workforce shortage scenarios agencies are facing every day.

Public Transportation Ridership Update

Ridership rebounded to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels in March 2023, according to the latest data from APTA’s Ridership Trends Dashboard. After declining to 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels in April 2020, ridership recovered to nearly 40 percent of pre-pandemic ridership in summer 2020. By summer 2021, after the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, ridership had recovered to just over 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels. After dipping due to the omicron wave, ridership recovered throughout 2022 to stand at over 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels in March 2023.

RAISE Grants Are Critical for Public Transportation Projects

Since 2009, the RAISE Grant Program has provided $12.1 billion for critical surface transportation projects, including public transit and passenger rail investments. It has funded new public transit stations, streetcar lines, bus rapid transit projects, vehicle purchases, station renovations, transit signal priority systems, grade separations, and automated vehicle pilot projects. These projects not only help enhance mobility but also result in positive safety, environmental, equity, and economic benefits. However, the percentage of RAISE grant funds awarded for these projects in FY 2021 and FY 2022 remains significantly less than the historical average.

Transit Workforce Shortage: Root Causes, Potential Solutions, and the Road Ahead
October 2022

Public transit providers across North America face a shortage of operators and mechanics, a crisis that has strained budgets and forced agencies to reduce service. This shortage is occurring during a period of economic instability and reshuffling exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies’ ability to respond to the worker shortage has been hampered by inadequate information about its causes and effects. The Transit Workforce Shortage Study builds a framework for APTA, its members, and its partner organizations to better understand the workforce shortage’s causes and provides best practices for recruiting, hiring, and retaining transit operations workers.

Public Transportation Ridership Update
September 2022Ridership rebounded to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels in September 2022, according to the latest data from APTA’s Ridership Trends Dashboard. After declining to 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels in April 2020, ridership recovered to nearly 40 percent of pre-pandemic ridership in summer 2020. By summer 2021, after the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, ridership had recovered to just over 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels. After dipping due to the omicron wave, ridership recovered in spring and summer 2022 to stand at just over 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels in September 2022.
Workforce Shortages Impacting Public Transportation Recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted public transportation’s workforce, creating shortages at many positions across the industry. While the workforce shortage issue has been on the industry’s radar for some time, it has been pushed to new levels in the pandemic recovery period. Ninety-two percent of public transportation agencies indicated that they are having difficulty hiring new employees, and 66 percent are having difficulty retaining employees. Nearly three-in-four transit agencies said that they have either had to cut service or delay service increases because of worker shortage issues.

Public Transportation Ridership Update
April 2022New variants of COVID-19, telework policies, and the related emergency stay-at-home orders have had a significant negative impact on ridership on public transportation in the United States beginning in March of 2020. After falling to 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels in April 2020, ridership has recovered to slightly more than 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Success in ridership recovery has been dependent on external factors, such as the makeup of local economies, and also factors like service delivery and reliability. As we saw during the pandemic, public transportation continues to provide mobility to essential workers which has helped to support ridership for the past two years.
On the Horizon: Planning for Post-Pandemic Travel

Transit agencies played an essential role in ensuring the mobility of millions of Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic especially essential workers who kept society going even at the height of the health crisis. As the industry and nation begin to look to the future, we examine how demographic, employment, and travel trends may change in the coming decades. Based on the data, four overarching recommendations were developed for agencies that included integrating best practices from the COVID-19 period, prioritizing social equity, leveraging opportunities to expand ridership, and keeping abreast of changing trends.

Mobility Innovation: The Case for Federal Investment and Support

The pace of innovation in the public transportation industry has accelerated over the past five years. The six case studies in this report illustrate the true innovative potential of the public transit industry in the United States today. These programs focus on serving sectors of the market most in need of help: people living in areas that are currently underserved by transit, those who require wheelchair access, and those who commute during off-peak late-night hours. These programs epitomize how transportation services can be used to foster more equitable and inclusive communities.

APTA Recommendation on Commuter Rail Liability Insurance

Due to current market conditions that have reduced competitiveness and raised prices in their insurance market, Commuter Rail Agencies have struggled, and will continue to struggle, to fill their substantial liability insurance requirements. There is a clear federal interest in maintaining and expanding effective commuter rail operations in the United States. APTA recommends establishing a Commuter Rail Insurance Program at the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide insurance to commuter rail agencies that operate commuter rail services in the United States

COVID-19 Emergency Funding Critical to Public Transit’s Survival

The COVID-19 emergency funding provided to transit agencies has been critical to their survival. Almost one-half of public transit agencies (44 percent) stated that COVID-19 emergency funding helped them avoid a complete shutdown of service. In addition, the overwhelming majority of agencies said that COVID-19 funding helped them avoid layoffs (79 percent) and cutting service (62 percent). Today, two-thirds of public transit agencies (65 percent) are operating at 75 percent or more of their pre-pandemic service levels. A majority of agencies (51 percent) expect to exhaust their COVID-19 emergency transit funding by January 2023. By January 2024, the vast majority of agencies (82 percent) will have expended all COVID-19 funding.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Public Transit Funding Needs in the U.S.
(January 2021)Even after considering the emergency funding for transit agencies provided by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA) in early 2021, public transit agencies still face a projected shortfall of $39.3 billion through the end of calendar year 2023. While the funding from CRRSAA and CARES provided transit agencies across the nation with needed relief, gaps in transit funding continue to grow due to ongoing losses of ridership, fare revenue, and tax revenue. In addition, transit providers are coping with higher costs related to training, personal protective equipment, personnel absences, and growing labor costs.
COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Public Transit Jobs and Service COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Public Transit Jobs and Service (January 2021)

Public transit agencies face a critical funding shortfall that threatens jobs and service due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even after receiving emergency relief from the federal government. In 2020, 65 percent of public transit agencies were forced to cut service. Now, four in 10 agencies are considering additional cuts to service to close their budget gaps. Nearly one in every three agencies (28 percent) have delayed, deferred, or cancelled capital projects, impacting jobs at manufacturers and construction firms across the country. If Congress and the Administration do not provide significant additional COVID-19 emergency transit funding, many public transit agencies will be forced to cut service and lay off or furlough employees.

COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Public Transit Businesses (January 2021)

The financial pressures faced by public transportation agencies are having a significant impact on public transit industry businesses as well. More than three in four businesses (76 percent) have seen a reduction in their transit industry business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On average, businesses have seen a 40 percent reduction in activity. In 2020, 32 percent of businesses were forced to lay off employees and 11 percent have been forced to close a facility. In addition, more than one-half of public transit businesses (53 percent) have cut back on hiring. If Congress does not provide additional emergency funding for transit, nearly four in 10 businesses (38 percent) will be forced to consider additional layoffs. One of every five businesses (22 percent) are concerned they may go out of business due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Public Transit Jobs and Service (September 2020)

Public transit agencies face a critical funding shortfall because of the COVID-19 pandemic that threatens jobs and service. If Congress and the Administration do not provide $32 billion of additional COVID-19 emergency transit funding, more than six in 10 public transit agencies will have to cut transit service or furlough staff. Without this emergency funding, transit agencies are considering laying off or furloughing staff (54 percent) and reducing service (61 percent), including eliminating routes (38 percent) and reducing days of service (20 percent). Eight in 10 large agencies are also considering delaying, deferring, or cancelling capital projects to close their budget gaps.

COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Public Transit Businesses (September 2020)

More than eight in 10 businesses (86 percent) have seen a reduction in their transit industry business as a result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than one-third of these businesses have already furloughed employees. If Congress and the Administration do not provide additional COVID-19 emergency funding for public transit agencies, nearly one-half of businesses (47 percent) expect to lay off employees. One-third of transit industry businesses (31 percent) are concerned that they may go out of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Report Cover Titled Public Transit and COVID-19 Pandemic: Global Research and Best Practices

This September 2020 report is based on a comprehensive review of United States and global research regarding COVID-19 transmission and public transit, interviews with public health experts and new analysis of various data sources.

The coronavirus pandemic struck major cities across the world quickly and with devastating impacts. Within three months of the first recorded case, many major cities were shut down, with residents forced to stay at home. In the United States, New York City became the epicenter for cases and deaths. At first, rural areas and less-dense cities saw few infections. This led some researchers and media pundits to proclaim that public transit was a major cause for the severity of urban outbreaks.

Since then, however, the disease has spread to nearly every corner of the country and world and is widespread in many communities where public transit ridership is low or non-existent. Recent analyses, and a growing number of experts, have now concluded that public transit had little or no role in the spread of the disease.

Transit Agencies Need Additional Emergency Funding brief cover Transit Agencies Need Additional Emergency Funding

Reduced revenues due to depressed ridership, paused fare collection, and reduced tax revenues, together with increased operating costs to protect workers and riders, are straining public transit agency budgets. Almost one-third of public transit agencies have been forced to furlough employees or are planning future furloughs More than one-third of public transit agencies have had to delay capital projects, and nearly one in five agencies have shifted funds from their capital budget to their operating budget. Public transit agencies need additional emergency funding to provide these essential services as the pandemic continues, according to a July survey of APTA transit agency members.

Public Transit Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic
There has been much discussion around the role of public transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public transit has provided a vital service to move essential workers to work and home during the crisis.Transit agencies across the country have taken critical measures to safeguard riders and employees, yet there have been questions surrounding the safety of public transit during the pandemic and its role, if any, in virus transmission. The latest research from international sources shows that public transit can be used safely during the pandemic through the use of face coverings, and contact tracing programs in several countries have failed to find clusters of cases linked to transit. In addition, shifting trips from public transportation to automobiles would have a negative impact on public health and safety in terms of traffic injuries and deaths as well as vehicle emissions.
Survey Results: Continuing Impacts of COVID-19 on Public Transit Agencies

Public transportation has been and will continue to be an essential frontline service, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public transit continues to provide a vital lifeline to communities nationwide. This survey of APTA transit agency members was conducted in late April 2020. The survey found:

  • The overwhelming majority of agencies (83 percent) are using their CARES Act funds to maintain their workforce and avoid layoffs.
  • Public transit agencies are increasing the cleaning of vehicles and facilities, purchasing of personal protective equipment (PPE), and eliminating or not enforcing fare collection.
  • More than one-half of agencies have developed a restoration or recovery plan that includes new safety precautions for riders and the workforce.

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Public Transit Funding Needs in the U.S.

Due to COVID-19-related economic dislocations, US transit agencies are facing:

  • An overall funding shortfall of $48.8 billion between CY 2020 Q2 and the end of CY 2021.
  • Even with the infusion of $25 billion provided by the Congress in April through the CARES Act, transit agencies will still face a shortfall of $23.8 billion through the end of CY 2021.
  • Nationally, transit ridership and fare revenues were down in April 2020 from April 2019 by 73% and 86%, respectively.
  • Further, decreased transit capital spending across the country may result in the loss of 37,000 construction jobs in CY 2020 and 34,000 jobs in 2021 due to project delays and cancellations.
  • When the economy begins to recover, transit agencies will still be challenged with severe fiscal constraints. These constraints stem from social distancing requirements that reduce vehicle capacity, increased costs of facility and vehicle cleaning and disinfection, and some displacement of ridership resulting from greater acceptance of decentralized work locations adopted during the pandemic.

Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment

Increased investment in public transportation can lead to significant economic growth as a result of both the short-term stimulus impact of public transportation outlays and a longer-term, cumulative impact on economic productivity. Public transportation investment supports American jobs and industry, and provides savings for households and businesses through improvements to the transportation system.

Survey Results: Impact of COVID-19 on Public Transit Businesses

COVID-19 is affecting transit industry businesses as it is transit operators. Of the 231 APTA business members who responded to our survey, 87 percent said that their business operations had been disruped by COVID-19.

Survey Results: Impact of COVID-19 on Transit Agencies

Transit agencies are taking action to protect the public from COVID-19 by purchasing extra supplies, implementing additional vehicle and facility cleaning, and providing employees and the public with guidance on how to protect themselves. Some agencies have already seen ridership decreases in excess of 70 percent. Three in four agencies anticipate cutting service in the coming days and weeks, as they respond to state and local directives, closure of schools and businesses, and potential increases in employee absences from COVID-19.

Medicaid Transportation Benefits: Changes Negatively Impact Recipients

Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) is a Medicaid benefit that provides critical access to health-care appointments for Medicaid recipients with no other means of transportation. Federal and state Medicaid policy changes have negatively impacted NEMT users, including reducing NEMT efficiency, availability, and quality of service, while increasing the local tax burden or trip costs in some communities. APTA opposes any effort to eliminate NEMT. We support legislation that a) mandates NEMT as a benefit in the Medicaid statute; and b) prohibits funding to implement proposals making NEMT for Medicaid recipients optional for states.

Summary: A Guide for Public Transportation Pandemic Planning and Response

This summary of NCHRP Report 769 gives transit agencies and other organizations information on how to prepare for the potential impacts of the coronavirus.

More information on this issue at Public Transit’s Response to Coronavirus.

Public Transit Leading in Transition to Clean Technology

The transportation sector is now the largest greenhouse gas emitting sector. Public transit agencies have been reducing their impact by modernizing their bus fleets, with now more than 21 percent of vehicles being hybrid-electric in 2018, and with agencies turning to pure electric buses. While capital costs for zero-emission buses remain higher than those of conventional buses, the lifetime costs of zero-emission buses are projected to be competitive with conventional buses. Public transit agencies nationwide are taking advantage of federal and state grant programs to acquire new electric vehicles.

The Real Estate Mantra – Locate Near Public Transportation

Since the Great Recession, many areas of the country are experiencing increased property values, especially near fixed-guideway public transit (rail and bus rapid transit). Easy access to destinations and activities is an important factor in home-buying decisions. At the same time, businesses are recognizing the benefits of locating near public transit to attract employees and customers, and to save on parking costs. The results of this analysis show that neighborhoods located within a half mile of public transit services outperformed those in areas farther from public transit based on a number of factors.

Supporting Late-Shift Workers: Their Transportation Needs and the Economy

Many public transit agencies around the country operate late shift services but additional services are vitally needed. Late-shift commuters represent a small percentage of the late-night workforce but generate an estimated $28 billion in wages and $84 billion in sales each year. Inadequate access to public transit services can prevent segments of the workforce from accessing better late-shift job opportunities while also increasing turnover and absenteeism rates for employers.

Leveraging Big Data in the Public Transportation Industry

Public transportation agencies generate large amounts of data as part of their daily operations. These agencies are working with private sector partners to use these data sources to provide valuable insight and improve public transportation service and efficiency. Leveraging Big Data requires long-term investment in infrastructure and talent, and it is poised to have a larger role in public transportation funding decisions.

Public Transit Increases Exposure to Automated Vehicle Technology

Automated Vehicle (AV) advancement is being pursued intensely by the technology and automobile industries. AV development is progressing in the public transportation industry through pilot programs, partnerships, private sector involvement, and research by the federal government and the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP). Public transit agencies will face complex challenges in implementing AV technology over the coming decades, though there is hope that it will lead to improved operations, more efficient cost structures, and enhanced safety.

Infrastructure Proposal: Critically Needed Public Transportation Projects

Bipartisan efforts to enact and infrastructure investment bill will provide a critically important opportunity to address the nation’s growing infrastructure needs. At least $232 billion in critical public transportation investments are identified for funding by an infrastructure bill.

The Business Case for Investment in Public Transportation

This 2019 brochure highlights how new technologies, data capabilities and business platforms have disrupted transportation, rapidly changing how people move and redefining urban mobility. It further explains how partnerships between public agencies and private entities can result in better operations and increased service in this new mobility landscape. Why not make your business part of this growth?

Transformation of the American Commuter (Report Cover) The Transformation of the American Commuter

The American commuter is no longer required to settle for private automobiles as their main way of getting around. More than three in four Americans (77%) see public transit as the backbone of a multi-transit lifestyle that includes current and future technologies such as ride-hailing (e.g. companies like Uber and Lyft), bikesharing, carsharing, autonomous vehicles (AVs) and other emerging technologies, according our new study.

Public Transit Is Key Strategy in Advancing Vision Zero, Eliminating Traffic Fatalities

As the movement toward Vision Zero grows, public transit is increasingly recognized as a core strategy to support safe mobility for all. Public transportation is one of the safest ways to travel. It is ten times safer per mile than traveling by car because it has less than a tenth the per-mile traffic casualty (injury or death) rate as automobile travel.

The Benefits of Reliable Federal Funding for Public Transportation

There is a bipartisan consensus that the United States is falling behind its global competitors on the condition of our infrastructure. Policies addressing the current lack of investment would have the potential to generate economic growth and enhance productivity. Guaranteed annual funding provides benefits that nonguaranteed funds do not, from spurring innovation and job creation to getting more “bang” for the federal buck. This paper examines guaranteed transit funding specifically and concludes that this type of infrastructure spending provides numerous benefits.

The Economic Cost of Failing to Modernize Public Transportation

Our failure to adequately invest in public transportation infrastructure holds back America’s economy. Absent of increased investment, the country would see $340 billion less in cumulative business sales over the next six years. This translates to a loss of $180 billion in cumulative gross national product (GNP) and a loss of $109 billion in household income. This equates to over 160,000 fewer jobs. The economy benefits when transit operators can devote resources toward expanding and modernizing service in response to emerging growth.

Understanding Recent Ridership Changes

APTA’s Policy Research Team has identified four major factors causing public transportation ridership declines, and the steps agencies can take to mitigate those factors and positively impact ridership.

Public Transportation’s Impact on Rural and Small Towns

While it is sometimes assumed that public transportation is only essential for large urban areas with significant traffic congestion, this report shows that public transportation can also play an important role in rural areas and small towns. Although public transit serves a minor portion of total rural travel, the trips that are provided are particularly valuable.

Evaluating Value Capture Financing Options for Public Transportation

This summary of TCRP Research Report 190 describes and provides examples of several value capture arrangements being used by cities and transit agencies.

fairtreatmentcover.png Fair Treatment: Commuters and Tax Reform

Changes to the tax code are possible with the election of a new administration and new members of Congress. Embedded in the code is a transportation fringe benefit that has positively impacted public transit agencies, employers, commuters, government and the environment. The program has yielded numerous positive outcomes, and continuation of this fringe benefit is advisable.

Who Rides Public Transportation

Public transit riders are part of the engine that powers America’s economy, with 87% of public transit trips directly impacting the economy through connecting people to employers needing workers and to retail and entertainment venues. Seventy-one percent of public transportation riders across the country are employed, and another 7% are students. This study, authored by the CJI Research Corporation, is the most extensive demographic report of public transit riders ever, with nearly 700,000 passenger surveys.

The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation

The most effective life-saving traffic safety tool for a commuter and a community may be the daily metro transit pass. A person can reduce his or her chance of being in an accident by more than 90 percent simply by taking public transit as opposed to commuting by car. This means traveling by public transportation is ten times safer per mile than traveling by auto. Transit-oriented communities are five times safer than automobile-oriented communities. This means public transit cuts a community’s crash risk in half even for those who do not use public transit. Public transportation communities spur compact development which reduces auto miles traveled and produces safer speeds.

Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit

Technology is transforming transportation. The ability to conveniently request, track, and pay for trips via mobile devices is changing the way people get around and interact with cities. This report examines the relationship of public transportation to shared modes, including bikesharing, carsharing, and ridesourcing services provided by companies such as Uber and Lyft. This research shows that the more people use shared modes, the more likely they are to use public transit, own fewer cars, and spend less on transportation overall.

Public Transportation’s Role in the Knowledge Economy

Public Transportation is critical in connecting workers with employment opportunities in innovation districts where knowledge-focused businesses and institutions cluster. This analysis finds that if the public transportation services envisioned in the innovation districts’ long-range plans are realized, additional businesses would relocate and productivity would increase. Because better access to workers enhances efficiency, new economic activity is generated.

A New Partnership: Rail Transit and Convention Growth

This joint report produced with the U.S. Travel Association examines how cities with rail stations connected directly to airport terminals can realize increases in hotel performance. The report compares six cities with direct rail access from their airport terminal to five cities without. The analysis found that from 2006-2013, hotels in the cities with direct rail access brought in 10.9% more revenue per room than hotels in those cities without.

Millennials & Mobility: Understanding the Millennial Mindset

This report seeks to understand the mindsets behind the decline in driving among millennials and understand the implications of this and other trends for public transportation in the United States, utilizing a mixture of in-depth interviews and a survey of 1,000 people in six cities that are representative of the types of cities Millennials find attractive.

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