Subways pick up speed in Boston, trolleys are faster nationally

The American Public Transportation Association posted more good news for itself yesterday, reporting that mass transit use went up by 3.3 percent nationwide during the first three months of 2008 compared to the same time in 2007. Boston’s MBTA also posted gains, though in a different pattern than found elsewhere.

Nationally, light rail — known as trolleys here — had the most improved stats (up 10.3 percent), though they were goosed by the 476 percent jump in ridership in New Orleans (thanks to the restoration of service disrupted by Hurricane Katrina). Still, there were double-digit increases in Baltimore, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. In Boston, the ridership was up by a more modest 5.0 percent, but it’s not surprising that our creaky — and recently crash-plagued — Green Line isn’t keeping up with the new trolley lines elsewhere. 

Commuter rail ridership nationwide was up by 5.7 percent, thanks in part to doube-digit increases in Seattle and Philadelphia, but it was up by only 1.3 percent in the Boston area. Ridership on heavy rail (subways) went up 4.4 percent nationally, and Boston’s jump of 8.8 percent was second only to that of the Staten Island Railway in New York (up 12.3 percent). Curiously, subway use went down by 1.1 percent in Philadelphia. In Boston, we seem to be shifting demand a bit from commuter rail to subway, while the opposite is occurring in Philly.

Nationwide, bus ridership went up by 2.0 percent, and it was up by 5.0 percent on the MBTA. Presumably, that figure doesn’t include the shuttle bus service that goes into action when the subway breaks down.