Few People Use Public Transit In U.S.

The United States has pumped trillions upon trillions of dollars over the last several decades into public transportation systems. Public transit advocates tell us that it is the transportation mode of the future.

And here in Albuquerque, we're spending $126 million on a nine-mile-long bus route. We spend more than $40 million every year to operate the entire bus system because it doesn't pay for itself. Both ABQ Ride and the Rail Runner commuter train have some of the lowest fair box return rations, meaning the percent of operating expenses that fares actually cover, in the nation.

But what public transit advocates never say is that almost no one uses public transportation. Nationally, 5.1 percent of the working-age population uses public transportation to get to work. That's 7.5 million people out of 145.2 million workers.

In the Albuquerque metro area it's even worse. A mere 1.8 percent of the working-age people here use public transit to commute to and from work. And that's according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which released new data Thursday as part of its American Community Survey series.

Public transit use is concentrated in large metro areas, but even in those areas, public transit never accounts for the majority of how people get to work. In fact, in some areas, it's surprisingly low.

Here's a look at public transit use for cities in our region:

City % of working-age population that uses public transit

Albuquerque 1.8

Austin 2.3

Denver 4.3

Colorado Springs 0.7

El Paso 1.5

Fort Collins 1.3

Las Cruces 0.4

Las Vegas 3.9

Oklahoma City 0.4

Phoenix 2.1

Pueblo 1.2

Reno 2.1

Salt Lake City 3.8

Santa Fe 1.3

Tucson 2.8

Here's a look at transit usage in New Mexico cities:

City % of working-age population that uses public transit

Alamogordo 0.7

Albuquerque 1.8

Carlsbad 0.7

Clovis 0.1

Deming 1.1

Espanola 1.6

Farmington 0.3

Gallup 0.6

Grants 0.4

Hobbs 0.6

Las Cruces 0.4

Las Vegas 0.4

Portales 0.2

Roswell 1.2

Ruidoso 0.0

Santa Fe 1.3

And finally, here's a look at public transit use in the nation's major metro areas:

City % of working-age population that uses public transit

Atlanta 3.0

Baltimore 6.5

Boston 19.2

Chicago 14.4

Dallas 2.0

Detroit 3.1

Houston 2.3

Los Angeles 6.5

Miami 5.5

Milwaukee 3.6

Minneapolis 4.6

New York 39.5

Philadelphia 21.3

Phoenix 2.1

Pittsburgh 5.4

Portland 6.4

San Diego 3.0

San Francisco 23.1

Seattle 10.8

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