Public transit ridership rises to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels

Sept. 29, 2022
People returning to the office and school are fueling the ridership recovery, according to the latest data from APTA’s Ridership Trends Dashboard.

The U.S. public transit industry saw ridership rebound to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels in September, according to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) 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. 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,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas.  

“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. 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,” Skoutelas concluded.  

The COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate and significant impact on public transportation ridership. Ridership declines began in mid-March 2020, coinciding with stay-at-home emergency orders in many cities and states across the country. Ridership declined to a low point of 10 to 40 percent of pre-pandemic levels in many cities. After falling to 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels in April 2020, ridership has recovered to more than 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels. APTA says this rise in ridership is reflective of transit agencies adapting to the swiftly changing needs of their communities while delivering safe, reliable service.  

APTA’s Ridership Trends Dashboard aims to help the public transit industry track ridership trends in real time. This tool, built in partnership with the Transit app, allows APTA members and the public to compare ridership between agencies, regions and national trends. The Ridership Trends Dashboard combines APTA’s ridership report data with app usage information from Transit to predict ridership levels each week, with new data posted each Monday. The Ridership Trends dashboard has weekly predictions going back to January of 2020 and includes ridership trends for 130 agencies.