Recent Decline in Public Transportation Ridership: Analysis, Causes, Responses

Public transportation ridership has been declining nationally as outlined in a recent article in the U.S. News and World Report: "Analysis by the Eno Center for Transportation of data from the American Public Transportation Association found that from 2014 to 2016, all but seven of the country's largest urban areas lost riders. For the nation as a whole, ridership declined by 4.5 percent. These decreases are coming at a time when the U.S. population has actually increased by 4.5 million people and our economy has added 5 million new jobs. The vast majority of this growth is occurring in major cities and metropolitan areas." The transit industry is generally aware of this challenging situation but most of the discussion to date has been anecdotal with little in-depth analysis of trends and causes—let alone potentially strategic or desirable responses. There is thus a critical need to conduct research that will analyze ridership trends, both nationally and within specific different types of communities. This analysis should lay the foundation for understanding the causes of this decline and identify policies, strategies, and operational tactics that can help address the root causes, and counter the trends. There are likely to be numerous causes, both external and/or internal to transit agencies, that are working in combination and affecting different communities in different ways and to different degrees. Sorting this out will be a complex challenge. The objectives of the research are to (1) analyze broad mobility trends for the last 10 years for public and private transportation modes and external factors affecting ridership; (2) conduct in-depth analyses for a number of communities representing a variety of contexts to understand the diversity of factors that may be causing transit ridership declines; and (3) identify response strategies being implemented or contemplated.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $400000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project A-43

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20180501
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01667912
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project A-43
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Apr 30 2018 3:14PM