Introduces the transit modes discussed throughout the NTST.
National statistics and trends in ridership, miles of service and number of transit systems by mode.
Trends in operating costs by mode and measures of cost efficiency and effectiveness.
National trends for safety, maintenance reliability and lift equipped bus fleet.
Trends in miles between major system failures.
Trends in the percentage of buses that are ADA lift- or ramp-equipped.
Funding sources used in transit, trends in recovery ratio and subsidy per passenger.
Funding sources used in capital projects and capital expenditures by mode.
Trends in the average fleet age of the national bus fleet.
Trends in fixed guideway mileage for bus and rail systems.
Trends in the percentage of the national bus fleet using alternative fuels and the share of fuel type used by non-electric transit vehicles.
Aggregate data for capital, operating funding and expenses, and characteristics for all modes operated in the nation.
Aggregate data grouped by urbanized area. Items include operating expense, vehicle revenue miles, fixed-guideway directional route miles, passenger miles as reflected in the 2005 apportionment and recovery ratio.
Aggregate data reported to the NTD.
Data used to develop graphics for data not presented with graphic.
Key characteristics and uses of capital by transit agencies.
Welcome to the National Transit Summaries and Trends (NTST), a portion of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) annual report. The goal of the NTST is to summarize transit data in an easy to read format. The 2005 NTST discusses data covering the period 1996 to 2005.
On an average weekday, the nation’s transit systems carry over 30 million riders (unlinked passenger trips). There were 9.2 billion riders in 2005.
The NTST presents aggregate transit operating statistics by mode. Fifteen transit modes are included in the National Transit Database; for this publication statistics are presented for the predominant modes: bus, heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, demand response and vanpool.
The most common form of mass transit service provided throughout the United States. Buses operate on fixed routes and schedules over existing roadways. Buses must be in compliance with mass transit rules including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions.
Local (short-distance) travel operating between a central city and adjacent suburbs. Service is provided on regular schedules, moving commuters within urbanized areas or between urbanized areas and outlying areas. Multi-trip tickets and specific station-to-station fares characterize commuter rail service, with one or two stations in the central business district.
Heavy rail service is characterized by high-speed and rapid acceleration passenger rail cars operating singly or in multi-car trains on fixed electric rails; separate rights-of-way from which all other traffic is excluded; sophisticated signaling, high platform loading and a heavy passenger volume.
Service (passenger cars, vans or small buses) provided upon request to pick up and transport passengers to and from their destinations. Typically, a vehicle may be dispatched to pick up several passengers at different pick-up points before taking them to their respective destinations and may be interrupted en route to these destinations to pick up other passengers.
Light rail is an electric railway with a lighter passenger volume compared to heavy rail. Passenger cars operating singly (or in short, two-car trains) on fixed rails in shared or exclusive right-of-way, low or high platform loading characterizes light rail service. The vehicle’s power is drawn from an overhead electric wire.
Service operating under a ride sharing arrangement providing transportation to individuals traveling directly between their homes and a regular destination. The vehicles (vans, small buses, and other vehicles) must have a minimum seating capacity of seven. Vanpool(s) must also be in compliance with mass transit rules including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions, be open to the public, availability must be advertised and the service must be operated by a public entity or a public entity must own, purchase or lease the vehicle(s).
These modes provided the most transit service and change over the time frame considered, 1995 through 2004. The remaining modes (aerial tramway, automated guideway, cable car, ferryboat, inclined plane, jitney, monorail, publico, trolleybus and alaska railroad) are combined in the single category “other”.
Rounding may lead to minor variations in total values from one table to another for similar data or may lead to instances where percentages may not add to 100. Due to rounding, percent changes may not match exactly the values calculated using the formatted figures shown in the exhibits.
All dollar amounts are the actual figures reported and have not been adjusted to reflect inflation for the timeframe considered (21.4 percent from 1996 through 2005).
For information about National Transit Database publications and training, see FTA’s website at
or visit the National Transit Database website at
Federal funds applied to transit are Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Urbanized Area Formula Program funds (financial assistance used to offset operating costs and pay for capital projects).
Unlinked passenger trips are the number of patrons boarding public transportation vehicles.
Ridership increased by 10 percent from 1985 to 2005. During the same period, Federal assistance applied to transit increased by nearly 105 percent.
Transit agencies that receive or benefit from Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Urbanized Area Formula Program funds (capital or operating) are required to report selected transit data to the National Transit Database (NTD) program. In addition, transit agencies not receiving FTA funds are encouraged to submit data, providing a more complete picture of public transit throughout the United States. These transit agencies report financial (capital and operating) data and non-financial operating statistics by transit mode. A total of 643 transit agencies reported data in 2005.
(*) Does not include agencies receiving reporting waivers
of Agencies Reporting 1996 — 2005
(*) Bus data does not include agencies receiving reporting waivers.
Vehicle revenue miles are the miles a transit vehicle travels while in revenue service. A transit vehicle is in revenue service when the vehicle is available to the public with the expectation of carrying passengers. Passengers pay full fares, reduced fares (senior citizen, student, special ride fares, etc.), or provide payment through some contractual agreement.
Deadhead travel is not included in vehicle revenue miles. Deadhead mileage consists of the miles a transit vehicle travels while not in revenue service (leaving or returning to the garage or yard or changing routes).
Vehicle revenue miles increased by nearly 31 percent between 1996 and 2005. Modes showing the most significant growth are those that had an increase in the number of systems in operation during the period.
Revenue Miles (Millions) 1996 — 2005
Ridership increased by nearly 21 percent from 1996 to 2005.
The share of vehicle revenue miles for demand response has steadily increased from slightly less than 11 percent in 1996 to 16 percent in 2005 while the share of vehicle revenue miles for bus decreased from 57 percent to 52 percent.
At the same time, the share of unlinked passenger trips for demand response remained below 1 percent, illustrating the low capacity nature of this service, while the share of unlinked passenger trips for bus decreased from nearly 62 percent in 1995 to 57 percent in 2004.
Distribution of Vehicle Revenue Miles
Distribution of Unlinked Passenger Trips
Urbanized areas (as defined by the U.S. Census) are geographic areas with a population of 50,000 or more. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are 465 urbanized areas. For National Transit Database purposes, the NTST groups urbanized areas by three size categories:
National Transit Database data are highly concentrated in large urbanized areas. The reported data most heavily concentrated in large urbanized areas are:
Operating expenses are those expenses incurred by transit agencies that are associated with operating mass transportation services (vehicle operations, maintenance and administration). Reconciling items are expenses where accounting practices vary in the way transit agencies handle them due to local requirements. The NTST excludes reconciling items such as depreciation, interest expenses, leases and rentals.
Operating expenses increased nearly 67 percent over the last 10 years, a rate higher than inflation over the same period (21.4 percent). The modes showing the highest increases were light rail, demand response and vanpool. These increases reflect the addition of new systems during the same period.
Operating expense data is reported by mode, function and object class. Function refers to the activity performed or cost center of a transit agency. Object class refers to groupings of expenses on the basis of goods or services purchased.
The four functions are:
The transit industry is labor intensive. Salaries, wages and fringe benefits account for nearly 80 percent of the total directly operated expenditures. Fifty-two percent of total expenditures are devoted to vehicle operations.
Operating Expense — 2005
Cost effectiveness is the relationship between service inputs and service consumption.
Service input is the quantity of resources expended to produce transit service, expressed in either monetary or non-monetary terms. Examples include operating cost (dollars expended for operations, maintenance and administration), employee hours (total operating, maintenance or administration), capital investment and energy (fuel cost or volume).
Service consumption is the amount of service used by the public expressed in either monetary or non-monetary terms. Examples include unlinked passenger trips, passenger miles and operating revenue.
Overall, operating expense per unlinked passenger trip increased 38 percent over the last 10 years, a rate nearly 16 percent greater than inflation (21.4 percent). With the exception of heavy rail all modes had increases greater than inflation.
Operating Expense per Unlinked Passenger Trip 1996 — 2005
Cost efficiency is the relationship between service inputs and service outputs.
Service output is the quantity of service produced by a transit operator, expressed in non-monetary terms. Examples include vehicle hours (total and revenue), vehicle miles (total and revenue), capacity miles (total vehicle capacity times revenue mileage), service reliability (miles between system failures) and safety (number of accidents).
Overall, operating expense per vehicle revenue hour increased by approximately 28 percent over the last 10 years (inflation not factored into the rate).
Operating Expense per Vehicle Revenue Hour 1996 — 2005
Service effectiveness is the relationship between service outputs and service consumption.
Unlinked passenger trips per vehicle revenue hour decreased by 7 percent from 1996 to 2005. This was due to increased service supplied for bus mode in low density urbanized areas and increased demand for low capacity modes such as demand response and vanpool.
Unlinked Passenger Trip per Vehicle Revenue Hour 1996 — 2005
A fatality is defined as a transit-caused death confirmed within 30 days following an accident.
Fatalities are categorized according to six categories of individuals:
Total Fatalities 1996 — 2005
Most victims in transit-related accidents are non-passengers. Passenger fatalities account for 16.1 percent of all fatalities (excluding suicides).
A major failure is a failure of a mechanical or electrical component of a revenue vehicle that prevents the vehicle from completing a scheduled revenue trip, starting the next revenue trip because actual movement is limited, or because of safety concerns.
Mechanical failures include, but are not limited to: the breakdown of air equipment, brakes, doors, engine cooling system, steering and front axle, rear axle and suspension and torque converters.
Vehicle miles are the total miles that a vehicle travels while in service (actual vehicle revenue miles and deadhead miles). See Transit in the United States for definitions of vehicle revenue miles and deadhead miles.
Due to changes in the definition of major and minor system failures over the years, only the years 2001 through 2005 are shown in the NTST.
Miles between Major System Failures (Directly Operated Service) 2001 — 2005
The American with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires transit agencies be accessible to individuals with special needs. For the NTST, buses fall into the following categories:
Historically, type “C” buses have comprised the largest percentage of lift- or ramp-equipped vehicles, currently showing a 99 percent level of compliance. This is expected due to this class’ low average fleet age.
Note: Data are not available prior to 1993.
Operating funds are the funds transit agencies receive from Federal, state, local and directly generated sources that are applied for operating expenditures. These funds are applied in the year in which they resulted in liabilities for benefits received whether or not receipt of the funds actually took place within the report year.
Federal funds are financial assistance used to defray some of the operating costs to provide transit service.
Operating funds applied to transit operations increased 63 percent, a rate greater than inflation during the period (21.4 percent).
Fare revenues are funds earned carrying passengers in regularly scheduled service. It includes the base fare, zone premiums, express service premiums, extra cost transfers and quality purchase discounts applicable to the passenger’s ride.
Recovery ratio (also known as working ratio) is the percentage of operating funds applied (operating expenses) paid through fare revenues.
After a period of increase and then decrease, recovery ratio is at an all time low.
Note: In previous editions of the NTST, recovery ratio was calculated based on operating expenses net of reconciling items. Beginning with the 2004 report year all operating funds applied are included for the 1996 – 2005 timeframe.
Subsidies are financial assistance received from Federal, state and local governments. Subsidies also include directly generated funds including: grants from private foundations, directly levied taxes and other funds dedicated to transit.
Subsidy per passenger increased approximately 61 percent over the last 10 years, while the rate of inflation was 21.4 percent.
Medium and small urbanized areas had a rate of increase greater than the rate for large urbanized areas. This is due in part to the expansion of fixed route service in low-density areas combined with the expansion in demand response services. Demand response service accounts for a substantial portion of the service provided in medium and small urbanized areas.
Operating funding sources include:
Other funds include non-transportation funds, subsidies from other sectors of operations, auxiliary transportation funds, charter service, freight tariffs, school bus funds and directly levied taxes.
For large urbanized areas, state, local and other funding shares remained stable from 1996 to 2005. A decrease in the share of fare revenues was compensated for by an increase in the share of Federal assistance.
Small and medium urbanized areas are more dependent upon operating subsidies than large urbanized areas. Fare revenues account for approximately 18 percent for these areas.
Operating Funding Sources (Millions) by Urbanized Area Size 1996 — 2005
Comparison of Share Funding Sources by UZAs
UZAs with More than 1 Million Population
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UZAs with More than 200,000 and Less than 1 Million Population
UZAs with Less than 200,000 Population
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Capital funds are the funds that the transit agencies receive from Federal, state, local and directly generated sources and applied to capital projects. Directly generated sources include any funds generated or donated directly to the transit agency including passenger fares, advertising revenues, donations and grants from private entities.
Capital investment increased by nearly 70 percent over the last 10 years, while inflation rose 21.4 percent. The role of the Federal government accounted on average for approximately 39percent of all capital invested in transit.
Federal assistance per unlinked passenger trip increased by 9 percent from 1996 — 2005.
Most of capital invested in transit comes from Federal sources. Federal funds account for most of all capital invested in small and medium urbanized areas. Large urbanized areas rely primarily on Federal funds and directly levied taxes to pay for capital projects.
Sources of Capital Assistance by Urbanized Area Size
Uses of capital were reported until 2001 by mode in three major categories:
All exhibits depicting Uses of Capital show rolling stock, and combined facilities and other into a single category.
Currently, Uses of Capital include the following categories:
Large and medium-sized urbanized areas operate almost all rail systems in the nation and guideway and facilities account for a significant portion of the overall capital costs.
For small urbanized areas, bus and demand response are the most common modes. Thus, most uses of capital are revenue vehicles and facilities.
Bus systems dedicate less capital to revenue vehicles than rail systems. Generally, rail systems are located in high-density corridors within the larger metropolitan areas of the United States. The high levels of service supplied in these areas require large investments in transit infrastructure (e.g. track, signals and communication systems, complex maintenance facilities, passenger stations, inter-modal terminals, real time data acquisition systems and other cost intensive items).
Bus systems do not require the same level of investment in infrastructure as rail. Therefore, revenue vehicles are the main use of capital for bus.
Large, medium, small and articulated buses are rubber tired passenger vehicles powered by diesel gasoline, electric battery or other alternative fuel engines.
The average fleet age of type “C” buses have been stable over the last 10 years, while the average fleet age of large and medium buses decreased 12 percent and 18 percent respectively.
The average fleet age of articulated buses dropped significantly in the last 6 years (from 11.2 years old in 1998 to 4.6 years old in 2005).
The share of articulated buses 5 years old or less increased from 23.5 percent in 1998 to 63.6 percent in 2005.
Fixed guideway directional route miles are the miles in each direction that transit vehicles travel while in revenue service on fixed guideways (not high occupancy vehicle lanes, transit malls, bus ways, or railtrack).
Fixed guideway mileage is a measure of the route path over a facility or roadway, it does not measure the service carried on the facility. This mileage is computed with regard to direction of service and is recorded without regard to the number of traffic lanes or rail tracks existing on the right-of-way.
Bus fixed guideway directional route miles increased by nearly 100 percent over the period, while rail modes increased 18 percent.
Alternative fuels are not diesel or gasoline. They include compressed natural gas, electric, battery, ethanol, methanol, liquefied petroleum gas, liquefied natural gas, kerosene, bio-diesel, grain substitute and other fuels.
The share of the national bus fleet using alternative fuels rose from 3.8 percent in 1996 to 16 percent in 2005.
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