Public-transit trips increased in 2013

Americans are boarding public buses, trains and subways in greater numbers than at any time since the suburbs began booming.

They took nearly 10.7 billion trips in 2013, to be precise — the highest total since 1956.

The new numbers come from the American Public Transportation Association.

Transit ridership has now fully recovered from a dip caused by the Great Recession. With services restored after economy-driven cutbacks, the numbers appear set to continue what had been a steady increase. Expanding bus and train networks have helped spur the growth, as has the nation’s urban shift.

The sprawling city of Houston had a large ridership gain. So did Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, Denver and San Diego.

The New York area’s behemoth transit network saw the greatest gain, accounting for one in three trips nationally.

— Associated Press

Prisoner who killed is awarded $451,000

A former handyman serving life in prison for the 1993 murder of seven people at a suburban Chicago restaurant has been awarded nearly half a million dollars in a civil lawsuit in which he alleged a jail guard punched him in the face.

Victims’ relatives Sunday criticized jurors’ decision for James Degorski, who, with an accomplice, shot and stabbed two restaurant owners and five workers at Brown’s Chicken and Pasta during a botched robbery. Their bodies were found in a walk-in cooler and freezer.

Degorski, now 41, accused a Cook County jail guard of punching him and breaking his cheekbone and eye socket in 2002 — just after Degorski’s arrest in what had been one of the most notorious, unsolved murder cases in Illinois history.

Despite the $451,000 award, it’s not clear whether Degorski will ever see any of the money. Prison officials could seek to seize it to cover costs of imprisoning him at the Menard Correctional Center, southeast of St. Louis.

— Associated Press

Weight may have caused stage collapse: Investigators combed through a collapsed theater stage at a Southern California high school Sunday, trying to determine why it buckled during a performance, sending 25 students to the hospital, most with minor injuries. Police, firefighters and medics responded to a call Saturday night after the wooden stage gave way at Servite High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Anaheim. About 250 students from nearby Rosary High School, an all-girls sister school, were singing and dancing on the platform when they fell five feet, Anaheim police Lt. Tim Schmidt said. The likely cause appeared to be too much weight, he said.

Air tests show no contamination at N.M. nuclear plant: The Department of Energy says new air testing in the nation’s only underground nuclear repository shows no detectable radioactive contamination from a leak last month. Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., said Sunday that instruments used to measure air quality and radioactivity were sent underground Friday and Saturday in the first step to resuming operations at the plant.

Israeli draft proposal sparks protest: Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews filled the streets in Lower Manhattan on Sunday to protest Israel’s proposal to draft strictly religious citizens into its army. The gathering took up a stretch of 10 blocks, with dark-clothed demonstrators standing behind police barricades amid tight security.

— From news services