LeeTran carried a record-breaking 4,075,250 riders in the fiscal year that ended September 30, achieving a one-year increase of 8.6 percent and a three-year increase of 35 percent.
“This is our third consecutive year of record growth,” said Transit Director Steve Myers. “On a percentage basis, we’re growing faster than the majority of transit agencies across the country.”
For example, in 2012 the nation’s 38 large bus systems reported an increase averaging 1 percent. The largest increase was in St. Louis, Mo., with 7.1 percent. The largest increase in Florida was in Fort Lauderdale, at 4.3 percent.
“Two big reasons for the increased national transit ridership are high, volatile gas prices and … a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” explained American Public Transportation Association President and CEO Michael Melaniphy of the national trend. “Public transportation saves people money, and people save even more so when gas prices spike. Also, since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it makes sense that ridership increases in areas where the economy has improved and new jobs have been added.”
Myers agrees that LeeTran’s dramatic growth is largely due to residents rejoining the workforce, plus increasing usage from high school and college students. “People aged 18 to 34, known as the millennial generation, are flexible in their transportation choices,” said Myers. “They want to save money and be able to connect with other modes of transportation, like biking and walking.”
APTA’s Melaniphy notes that attitudes are changing across age groups. “There is a sea change going on in the way that people look at transportation,” he said. “Americans want travel choices; they want to be able to choose the best travel option for their lives. This is an exciting time for the public transportation industry as more and more Americans support it and want it.”