Mass transit numbers soar, but service updates fall behind

Photo courtesy of Live from the Third Rail

As gas prices soared, Americans jumped on mass transit to save some cash. And despite the plummeting prices these days, mass transit converts seem to be sticking to their new mode of transportation. 

Americans rode mass transit in record numbers in the third quarter of this year, according to the Washington Post. Nationwide, the 6.5 percent ridership increase over the same period last year is the largest quarterly increase in public transportation ridership in 25 years. The increase started during the first and second quarter, but the third quarter saw a big decrease in gas prices and a rise in unemployment, which makes the increase notable. 

At the same time, driving continued to decline. Americans drove 4.4 percent less (11 billion fewer miles) in September compared to the previous September. 

Minnesota's transit increases are above the national average. Check out the stats below.

As ridership increases, the money to help update the services isn't following. More from the Washington Post:
"We understand ridership demands are putting a strain on transit agencies, and their costs are going up and they don't have the money to add additional capacity," said Jim Berard, a spokesman for Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
According to the Star Tribune, our ridership increases are better than the national average:
The Twin Cities are outpacing other parts of the nation in the growth of bus and light-rail travel, according to a survey released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association. The third quarter of 2008 saw a 7.4 percent rise in public transit use in the metro area, totaling 22.3 million rides in all.
As new riders jump on the bus or light rail, they are increasingly squished with their fellow neighbors in the Twin Cities:
While ridership over the past four years is up about 17 percent, Gibbons said, there has only been about a 2.5 percent increase in routes and service. So it's harder to find a seat, and the system is getting strained.
Do you ride mass transit in the Twin Cities? How's your ride? We know quite well the perils of being in a full bus, particularly when everyone is plump with their winter gear and getting sweaty. We think it's worth it, but how much can we take as prices continue to rise and comfort levels decline?