Public transportation ridership grows


| lpenner@queenscourier.com |

The recently released American Public Transportation Association report highlighted that public transportation ridership in 2013 was greater than any time since 1956.  Various operating agencies of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including New York City Transit bus and subway, MTA bus, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, had a 3 percent plus increase in ridership during the same time period.  This increase in ridership, including many Queens residents, took place despite a fare hike in 2013.

Fare hikes are periodically required if the MTA is to provide the services millions of New Yorkers count on daily. They are inevitable due to inflation along with increasing costs of labor, power, fuel, supplies, materials, routine safety, state of good repair, replacement of worn out rolling stock, upgrades to stations, yards and shops along with system expansion projects necessary to run any transit system.

In the end, quality and frequency of service is dependent upon secure revenue streams. We all will have to continue contributing —be it at the fare box, tolls or tax revenues generated by different levels of government redistributed back to the MTA.

Increasing ridership can also be traced back to one of the late President Lyndon Johnson’s greatest accomplishments, which continues benefiting many Americans today.  On July 10, 1964 he signed the “Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964″ into law.  Subsequently this has resulted in the federal investment over time of several hundred billion dollars into public transportation.

In 1996, MetroCards were introduced which provide free transfers between the subway and bus. This eliminated the old two fare zones making public transportation an even better bargain. Purchasing a weekly or monthly subway/bus pass reduced the cost per ride and provides virtually unlimited trips. In many cases, employers offer transit checks which help subsidizes a portion of the costs.  More riders utilize this and reap the benefits.

Millions of Americans today on a daily basis utilize various public transportation alternatives.  They include local and express bus, ferry, jitney, light rail, subway and commuter rail services.   All of these systems use less fuel and move far more people than conventional single occupancy vehicles.  Most of these systems are funded with your tax dollars thanks to President Johnson.

The ability to travel from home to workplace, school, shopping, entertainment, medical, library etc. is a factor when moving to a new neighborhood.  Economically successful communities are not 100 percent dependent on automobiles as the sole means of mobility.  Seniors, students, low- and middle-income people need these transportation alternatives.  Investment in public transportation today contributes to economic growth, employment and a stronger economy.  Dollar for dollar, it is one of the best investments we can make.

Depending upon where you live, consider the public transportation alternative. Try riding a local or express bus, commuter van, ferry, light rail, commuter rail or subway.