Americans used public transit in record levels in the third quarter of 2008 according to a survey released on December 8 by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Despite falling gas prices, public transit ridership increased by 6.5 percent over last year’s third quarter, the largest quarterly increase in public transportation ridership in 25 years. More than 2.8 billion trips were taken from July through September, rising 8.5 percent on light rail (streetcars), 7.2 percent on buses, 6.3 percent on commuter rail and 5.2 percent on subways. The upward trend is present across the country, while vehicle miles traveled on the nation’s highways declined by 4.5 percent for the same period between 2007 and 2008, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

As Congress seeks to stimulate its economy, investment in public transit represents an important opportunity for job creation and economic development. APTA found that at least 736 public transportation projects worth a total of $12.2 billion could be initiated within 90 days of approval of federal funding. The investment would create more than 340,000 American jobs and help transit systems meet the steadily growing demand for public transportation. For a two year period, APTA identified transit investments of $32.4 billion that would create more than 900,000 jobs. A number of studies support the value of public transit investment for job creation. A 2004 study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) found that every $1.25 billion spent on public transit creates approximately 51,300 jobs, while the same expenditure on roads and bridges would create 43,200 jobs.

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