According to a recent study, New York is the only US city with a significant rail network where ridership has increased since 2012, while it has actively decreased in other major U.S. cities.
Worth noting is also that that the majority of U.S. cities with popular public transit systems are often northern and coastal (like Washington, Boston and San Francisco) with only one southern city is deemed comparably good (Houston).
There are many underlying reasons as to why it has become this way. One is political, with reports of gasoline and asphalt producer Koch Industries financing activists to go door to door, to recruit locals to vote down plans to build light-rail trains, a traffic-easing tunnel and new bus routes.
Existing public transport is also often plagued with both safety and functional problems. Some of the problems include the fixation of mistakenly prioritize reach over frequency. American travellers want buses and trains to go everywhere as opposed to a few trains that come all the time. This desire is in stark contrast with the fact that it’s better to have a few lines with frequent trains, rather than many lines that leave once every two hours.
The most fundamental issue however (that may need to be dealt with to ensure change) is the fact that Americans view public transit as a welfare system for those who can’t afford to drive their own car.
With the mentality that public transport is only an option for people who can't afford to choose the car, it is no wonder Americans are hesitant toward it. With more mobility services being created everyday a third option is taking form – the merger of car usage with public transport. Maybe the transition to a higher usage of U.S. public transport systems lies in combining it with other mobility services.
Written by Mahdere DW Amanuel, RISE Viktoria.