Get on the Bus: U.S. Public Transit Use Hits Nearly 60-Year High

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Environmentalists have new reason to cheer: More people are using public transportation than ever in modern history – 10.7 billion in 2013, the most since 1956, according to study released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association.

The rise signals a significant shift in the way car-loving Americans move as this is happening in the absence of record-high gas prices; the last post-1950s spike was in 2008 when 10.59 billion rode public transit as gas prices rose as high as $5 a gallon.

“Now gas is averaging well under $4 a gallon, the economy is coming back and people are riding transit in record numbers,” Michael Melaniphy, the president of the association, told The New York Times. “We’re seeing a fundamental shift in how people are moving about their communities.”

Public transit ridership rose 37% from 1995, compared to 20% growth in population and a 23% increase in vehicle miles traveled, according to the association. The rise in urban population and the expansion of bus and train services account for much of the growth, the association said.

“People want to work and live along transit lines,” Melaniphy told The Associated Press. “Businesses, universities and housing are all moving along those corridors.”