Ridership on public transportation inches toward pre-pandemic levels

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According to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association, public transportation ridership rose to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels in September.

After falling significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership has begun a climb back to pre-pandemic levels, APTA said. In April 2020, during stay-at-home emergency orders across the country, ridership levels fell to 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Levels have since risen to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels, APTA said on its Ridership Trends Dashboard.

“Public transit agencies suffered catastrophic blows to ridership when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in March 2020. Systems saw significant declines in ridership as offices closed, and Americans were urged to work from home for extended periods,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “But now, as we see more workers return to the office, more students return to school, and more community destinations such as restaurants, theaters, and retail stores reopen their doors, agencies from coast-to-coast are seeing a rise in ridership.”

APTA’s Ridership Trends Dashboard helps track ridership trends in real time. It combines APTA’s ridership report data with app usage information from Transit to predict ridership levels each week. New data is posted each Monday. The dashboard debuted in January 2020 and includes ridership trends for 130 agencies.

“Throughout the course of this pandemic, transit systems have provided mobility to essential workers and earned riders’ trust every day by remaining vigilant about their health, safety, and cleaning protocols as new variants of the coronavirus continued to emerge,” Skoutelas said. “Even though workers in many cities continue to work from home, at least on a part-time basis, we are seeing steady growth in ridership and are optimistic those trends will continue. As the latest data shows, public transportation continues to move people and shape the future of our communities.”