Transit Work Trip Market Share
Trends Downward in All US New Rail Cities
Transit's greatest potential to reduce traffic congestion is during weekday peak travel periods (Section 3.1). Nonetheless, the percentage of people using transit to get to work has also declined --- a 70 percent decline is estimated from 1960 to 1995 (Figure #1).(1) Latest US Department of Transportation information places transit's work trip market share at 3.5 percent.(2)
During the 1980s, public transit work trip market share declined in all 39 metropolitan areas with
more than one million population, except for Houston and Phoenix. In those two metropolitan
areas, much of the increased transit ridership was in response to significant bus service
expansion. At the same time, transit work trip market share declined in all nine metropolitan
areas that built new rail systems (Table #1).(3) Based upon their impact on work trips, it is apparent
that new urban rail systems have done little to reduce traffic congestion during peak hours.
While more recent work trip market share data is not yet available, trends tend to indicate little
transit impact in the new rail metropolitan areas. In the 12 metropolitan areas that have opened
new rail systems (include three systems opened in the 1990s), the maximum percentage of new
urban travel captured by transit was a negligible 1.8 percent in Portland (Appendix Table #1).
Transit's percentage of new travel was 0.6 percent or less in all other metropolitan areas,
including declines in three (Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Jose). Based upon these data, it is
likely that transit's work trip market share has declined in all new rail metropolitan areas during
the 1990s.(4) There were more than 800 new private vehicle (primarily automobile) passenger
miles per new transit passenger miles in Buffalo, and more than 650 in St. Louis (Figure #2).
Transit, with or without rail, has had little success in retaining its market share in the peak hour
market that represents its greatest potential for reducing traffic congestion.
1. Estimated from US Census Bureau and US Department of Transportation (USDOT) data.
2. Nationwide Personal Transportation Study, 1995.
3. Calculated from US Census Bureau data (1990 is most recent data).
4. If it is assumed that overall transit market share trends are reflective of transit's work trip market share trends, a work trip market share decline would occur in all new rail metropolitan areas, since the percentage of new travel by transit is less in all such metropolitan areas than the 1990 transit work trip market share.