- Associated Press - Monday, March 10, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Ridership on public transportation systems around New York state is on the rise, mirroring a trend seen across the country, according to data released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association.

Nearly 10.7 billion trips were made last year on public buses, trains and subways nationwide, the highest amount since 1956, according to data from the nation’s transit systems.

New York shared in that growth.

In the New York City region, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had a 4 percent increase in riders from 2012 to 2013 on New York City subways, and nearly a 2 percent increase on buses. The Long Island Rail Road had just over a 2 percent increase and the Metro-North Railroad commuter line went up slightly, at under 1 percent.

“We had strong growth in 2013, and a big part of that is a result of a long-term growth trend we’ve been seeing in recent years as young people in the millennial generation continue to increase our ridership during off-peak times,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said.

“Ridership in our region was also aided in 2013 by falling unemployment and continuing restoration of much of the service that the MTA had to cut in response to 2010 budget cuts,” he said.

The Public Transportation Association said ridership on transit systems has fully recovered from a drop caused by the Great Recession and appears to be continuing what had been steady increases before the financial crisis at the end of 2007.

Increases in ridership were also seen on the public transportation system in Albany and on buses in the Ithaca area. But the system in Buffalo saw a ridership decrease over the last year. Recent construction projects have created upheavals in the train schedules. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Public transportation advocates were pleased by the increases.

“We’ve observed a generational shift, where younger Americans are less interested in being car-dependent,” said Brian Zumhagen, of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group. “More and more young Americans now recognize that good, reliable public transit provides a kind of freedom that you can’t get when you’re behind the wheel on a traffic-choked highway.”

Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, agreed and called for continued and increased investments in public transportation systems to keep ridership usage on the upswing.

Investments need to “keep pace with that growth,” she said. “We’re not entirely seeing that yet.”

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