It was only a few years ago that the mac-daddy SUV’s ruled the road and it was cool to haul around town in a Denali, Tahoe, Escalade, Hummer or Excursion, a phenomenon that I was certainly guilty of. Then everyone became concerned about the environment, gas prices went up, and the cross-over vehicle was all the rage. But now many Americans are considering going hybrid or dumping the car altogether in favor of public transportation. It seems as though public transit planning and engineering has been “the wave of the future” for many cities for quite some time now. Some cities were ahead of the curve, but most were on the curve or behind. Now we are at a critical juncture, and of course, everyone is scrambling to build out or make MAJOR overhauls to their existing public transit systems. Take a look:
Earlier this month the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) published* the following statistics, which in light of the rising gas prices, should not surprise you:
- Americans took 2.6 billion trips on public transportation in the first three months of 2008 (85 million more than last year for the same time period).
- 10.3 billion trips were taken on public transportation in 2007, the highest number of trips taken in fifty years; the first quarter of 2008 showed an up tick of 3.3%.
- Light rail had the highest percentage of ridership increase among all modes, with a 10.3% increase for the first quarter; the largest increases in ridership were found in Baltimore, Minneapolis, St. Louis and San Francisco.
- Commuter rail increased 5.7 in the first of quarter of 2008; the largest increases in ridership were found in Seattle, Harrisburg, Oakland, Stockton, Pompano Beach and Philadelphia…all of which experienced double digit growth rates.
- Heavy rail increased by 4.4% in the first quarter of 2008; the largest increases in ridership were seen in Staten Island, Boston, Jersey City, Los Angeles, New York City, Baltimore and San Francisco.
- Bus ridership increased 2% in the first quarter of 2008; the largest increases in ridership were found in San Antonio, Denver, San Diego, Minneapolis, Seattle and Phoenix.
A very interesting point was made at the end of the video above…it stated that a good percentage of transit funding comes from a state’s gas tax. But if we are seeing a major increase in the use of public transportation, that means that less and less folks are fueling up their cars…you see where I’m going here? Where do we now turn for the funding that is being lost?
Quite frankly, I am pretty sure that we will never see $3.00 gas again unless you purchase a new vehicle from Chrysler , so we will continue to see the public transportation ridership rates rise. What does all of this mean? What it means is that if you are a civil engineer, you’ve got a bright future ahead with a strong demand for your talents. There will always be minor bumps in the road, like the state of the current land development market, but that will come back. But we need to repair, rebuild, upgrade, and expand our existing infrastructure (roads, bridges, utlities, etc), we need to build new to meet the demands of our population, and now public transportation is feeling the squeeze to meet the needs of the American public.
Have you made the full cross over into utilizing your local transit systems? Are you seeing an increase in RFP’s from your local transit agencies? Where will the funding come from? What projects are your firm working on in the area of public transporatation? Let’s hear from you!
*To see the complete ridership report published by the APTA go to http://www.apta.com/research/stats/ridership