Transit’s Surprising Advantage is Sitting Right in Your Pocket

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab. Edited for this site.]

Metra Commuters

With public-transit use riding a 58-year high of 10.8 billion trips last year, it only makes sense to ask: why? Technology may be partially responsible for public transit’s record ridership, but probably not in the way you think.

As smartphones and other electronic devices have skyrocketed in popularity, more people are becoming dependent on them (much to the chagrin of some psychologists). These technology-dependent commuters want to to remain engaged with their devices at all times, and more of them are choosing public transit for the ease at which they can do so while riding the bus or train.

A new study by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development finds that the most avid users of mobile devices may be boosting Chicago’s transit ridership numbers, and there is reason to believe this trend is occurring in other metropolitan areas. Apple, Google, and Amazon aren’t just changing the way we work, communicate, and socialize, but are also influencing our transportation choices as well.

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What Would Make Your Commute Better?

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Vice-President Biden at the event 'Fix My Commute'Jeff Bezos‘ $250 million purchase of The Washington Post in 2014 changed the direction of the newspaper in some fairly significant ways. Among them: The Posts’s focus became less local and more global, it began expanding digital access dramatically (promoted by the Kindle, of course), and started spending some serious cash on events.

One of these events is the America Answers series. Begun in 2014, it is intended to showcase the ways people are solving some of America’s biggest problems, such as commuting. To that end, America Answers’ Fix My Commute event will take place for the second time this October.  Last year the forum took place in Washington D.C.’s Studio Theatre, and it was apparent from the catered lunch and generous swag bag that the Post had committed some serious money to it. Vice-President Joe Biden was the keynote speaker, and I was lucky enough to literally be within spitting-distance of him (see above).

The Post wants your participation before this year’s October 21 Fix My Commute forum. It is soliciting comments via the Dr. Gridlock column, or you can tweet comments or questions before-hand using the #americaanswers hashtag. Last year’s event resulted in a ton of new content for the Washington Post web site, as well as useful data for geeks like me. It was also live broadcast over the Web, and should be this year as well.

Photo by the author

Two Main Reasons D.C. Transit Ridership is Decreasing

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab and GreaterGreaterWashington]


Americans took a record 10.75 billion trips on public transportation in 2014, according to annual ridership statistics released this month by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

This is up from 10.65 billion trips in 2013, with the number of trips outpacing population growth. In a year of low gasoline prices, the increase is welcome news for the public transportation industry.

Nevertheless, CityLab’s Eric Jaffe has advised caution at reading too much into these numbers, pointing out that New York City’s transit ridership skews the data, and that overall, bus ridership is down. Also, Washington D.C.’s ridership numbers have been decreasing. Apart from the ART Bus in Arlington, Washingtonians’ use of public transportation declined between 2013 and 2014. The decreases are not dramatic, but are still worrisome.

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Bicycling Gains Could Eventually Put U.S. Cities on Par with Copenhagen

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[By Paul Goddin for Mobility Lab, published on June 19, 2014]


The mainstreaming of bicycling is nothing short of a comeback story in the United States.

Bicycle ridership generally is up, and so is bike commuting, particularly in some key urban markets. In automobile-congested but bicycle-friendly regions such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., the ability of bikes to outmaneuver automobiles and avoid headache-inducing traffic is envied and admired.

Bike commuting is still a small number of trips overall, but has increased in mode share in recent years. The increase in people biking to work nationwide has been “small but steady,” according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

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