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"American light rail booming" – that's how
the Light Rail Transit Association headlined the impressive 2.8% growth rate
of light rail transit (LRT) in the United States in the 3rd Quarter of 2002.
Data from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)
indicated that the LRT ridership increased at a rate almost as fast
as motor bus ridership decreased (3.0%). As the data in the
graph below illustrates, grade-separated rapid rail ("heavy rail")
increased slightly, by 0.6%, although regional ("commuter") rail
declined slightly, by 1.7%. Trolleybus ridership led in second
place, after LRT, with a growth rate of 1.8% (for a little over one-third the total ridership of LRT).
These rates are for all major fixed-route services – the mainstay of urban public transport. it should be noted, however, that "unconventional", special-purpose services also showed impressive growth rates. Demand-response transit (typically, using small minibus or van-sized vehicles) grew by 5.0%, while all "Other" services – including ferries, aerial tramways, automated guideway transit, monorail, cable car, and vanpool operations – grew at a hefty 5.5%. This suggests considerable market potential for many of these types of services.
At the same time, however, that potential may exist within only a small "universe" of possible riders, if one judges by total ridership. Taken altogether, the Demand Response and Other categories, on the whole, accounted for only about two-thirds as many rider-trips as LRT, and only about 2.3% of all US public transit ridership.Updated 2003/04/11