U.S. Public Transit Ridership Hits 57-Year Peak

According to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), 2013 had the largest number of users of American public transit systems in the last 57 years. 10.7 billion Americans road trains, subways, light rail, and buses last year.

APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy commented on the figures presented from the report, saying “access to public transportation matters. Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.” Public transportation, including access to alternative means of transportation (biking and walking), can benefit a community in many ways. The White Flint district’s proximity to a Metro station provides many incentives for businesses and organizations to come to area, allowing for the district to grow economically. Access to public transportation also allows more people  “the opportunity to reach jobs.” People who do not have access to cars are able to get to jobs in the DC. In addition, the BRT system that is coming to Montgomery County will allow Montgomery County residents to travel around the county, which will also provide more opportunities for residents to access jobs in the county.

The report focused on the comparison between car-ridership and public transit ridership. Though Americans drove 0.6 percent more than 2012, it was found that Americans used public transit 1.1 percent more than the year before.

The breakdown of public transit ridership numbers from 2013 are as follows:

  • Heavy rails, which include subways and elevated trains: ridership increased 2.8 percent.
  • Commuter rail: increased by 2.1 percent.
  • Light rail, which include streetcars and trolleys: increased by 1.6 percent,
  • Bus: In cities with a population below 100,000, bus ridership was up 3.8 percent. For larger bus systems, there were a few cities that had a 3 percent or more increased ridership, including Washington, D.C. with a 3.5 percent increase.

These numbers show us how important public transit systems are the economic health of our cities and urban areas. As ridership continues to grow, we need to focus attention on the infrastructure of our public transit systems. Check out the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s forum on Metro’s Momentum plan to learn more and to have a chance to provide your thoughts and ideas for making the Metro system better for the county.

The 20-Minute Neighborhood

What if you could reach everything you could possibly need within 20 minutes of leaving your front door?  This is a movement that is stretching across the globe – from Melbourne, Australia, to Portland, Oregon – and is exactly what we’re talking about for little ol’ White Flint, Maryland.  A 20-minute neighborhood offers food, schools, parks and transit within a short walk from your home.  Not only are there economic benefits when residents’ hard-earned dollars remain local, but there are health and community benefits, as well.

To create a 20-minute neighborhood, though, we need not only grocery stores and other commercial options, but we need to ensure safe pedestrian access.  The improved street grid and safety plans for the White Flint district will move our area in the right direction, from an infrastructure perspective.

The city of Melbourne, from whom the above image came, recently released a strategy paper on how to make this happen:

A 20-minute city should have jobs for outer area residents and diverse housing in the right location at a reasonable price, a preview of the blueprint released yesterday states.

A “principles” paper released earlier this year said 20-minute cities had “safe, convenient and attractive local areas” that met the daily needs of residents with good local employment prospects and local services.

Mr Guy told the ABC that the city centre should operate over 24 hours but it needed to be managed.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/plans-to-make-melbourne-a-20minute-city-20121026289ll.html#ixzz2ucl8zwgI

Vancouver and Calgary are also marching in this direction; their goals are 15-minute neighborhoods.  Read more about them here.

Montgomery County is starting to hit all the right points by retrofitting our suburb to ensure services, transit and amenities within closer proximity to our homes and jobs.  They’ve also completed work on the Nighttime Economy – an important piece mentioned in the Melbourne plan.  Once again, we need not reinvent the wheel in order to build a vibrant White Flint – our neighbors from around the world are forging the path with exciting results!

What is “Driving” New York and D.C. to have the Smallest Share of Cars?

In our effort to make White Flint a walkable community, we like to find examples of trends or models throughout the United States and globally from which we can learn. Recently, it seems many other urban areas around the United States are also noticing a trend in their communities, declining presence of cars as their main means of transportation.

In a recent article by Derek Thompson, of The Atlantic, Thompson states that New York City and D.C. have the top two “highest share of non-car households in America”, with Boston and Philadelphia close behind, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. These four cities have something in common: they are known for having relatively good public transportation, which allows residents to rely more on this than a car. But is this the real reason behind the decline in car-use? It is most definitely a factor but even more striking is the overwhelming presence of the millennial generation in these cities. Young, recent college graduates flock to these cities because of the amazing job opportunities and amenities available to them. As we mentioned in past posts, D.C. has become the “millennial capital” of US, something White Flint hopes to capitalize on with its new residences, retail stores and its proximity to public transportation. As groups of people flock to cities, these cities must provide infrastructure that can support them and allow them to thrive. That is why public transportation in cities like New York and D.C. must be effective, which in turn creates smart and productive places. When a city has an effective public transportation system, cars become “an expensive nice-to-have rather than a have-to-have.”

Though this trend may be true for our neighbors (D.C.), can urban areas around Montgomery County begin to see a decline in car-use too?   We certainly have many residents that would prefer option to get around beyond the car.  Our hope is that White Flint residents will not rely so heavily on cars as their means for travel. Many of their goods and services will be readily available to them in a walkable and safe community without the need for a car.