Transit in America continues to grow, carrying 10.5 billion trips in 2015, and adding new lines and systems every year, yet the symptoms of overdue maintenance and underinvestment have never been clearer. Despite increasing demand, the nation’s transit systems have been chronically underfunded resulting in aging infrastructure and a $90 billion rehabilitation backlog. While some communities are experiencing a transit boom, many Americans still have inadequate access to public transit.
American transit systems carried 10.5 billion passenger trips in 2015. This is a 33% increase from 20 years ago, when transit carried 7.9 billion trips, but is 250 million trips less than in 2014. 11% of American adults reported taking public transportation on a daily or weekly basis in 2015.
As a result of years of insufficient funding, transit systems across the U.S. are struggling to cope with aging infrastructure and limited funding, creating a massive and increasing backlog. The most recent federal estimate quantifies the backlog of projects needed to attain a “state of good repair” at $90 billion and is projected to grow to $122 billion by 2032. The backlog was primarily in fixed guideway modes such as rail, due to specialized infrastructure requirements, such as tracks and stations, as opposed to roadway modes, likes buses, which utilize existing roads and bridges.
255 people were killed in transit-related incidents in 2015. Most fatalities were non-passengers—passengers accounted for less than 5% of all fatalities in 2015. However, several high-profile occurrences of smoke, fire, derailments, and crashes, primarily in the larger, older heavy and commuter rail systems, have occurred in the last several years.