Correction to This Article
This article about an increase in mass-transit ridership incorrectly said transit officials estimate that 40,000 jobs would be created by 736 transit projects nationwide if federal money were made available. The correct number is 340,000 jobs.
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New Ridership Record Shows U.S. Still Lured to Mass Transit

Transit officials have identified 736 ready-to-go projects nationwide, valued at $12.2 billion, that would create more than 40,000 jobs if federal money is made available. An additional $20 billion in improvement work could be ready in two years. The 90-day projects include 15 more rail cars for Virginia Railway Express, rail car parts and escalator canopies for Metro, and in Bakersfield, Calif., 24 new replacement buses. "We could have the bid package on the street in 30 days," said Karen King of Golden Empire Transit in Bakersfield.

Even if ridership slows as job losses grow, industry officials say a sizable portion of the population seems to have made the switch to transit. The breadth of change is most significant at bus agencies serving smaller communities, which have posted quarterly double-digit increases for about a year, Millar said.

"We've been watching these systems," he said. "You know something is really starting to change when you get these kinds of middle-class riders who thought they would never need the bus."

In the greater Lansing, Mich., area, the bus system carries about 50,000 riders on an average weekday, but the third-quarter increase was 14.5 percent, officials said. October ridership jumped 9 percent over the same month last year, the largest increase in the agency's 35-year history, according to chief executive Sandy Dragoo.

"We have seen ridership going up for the last couple of years pretty steadily, and we're in the car capital," she said. "We're seeing more briefcases in the last year and more people in business suits riding into downtown."

Even after fares rose to $1.25 in the spring, Lansing residents voted last month to increase property taxes to boost transit funding.

Bus and rail officials say support for transit goes beyond ridership. On Election Day, voters passed 25 of 33 ballot initiatives to increase local and state taxes for public transportation. The communities included Jonesboro, Ark., Aspen, Colo., Greensboro, N.C. and Los Angeles.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.


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