In 2008, US transit posted its highest ridership since 1950, a development widely noted and celebrated in the media. Ridership had been increasing for about a decade, however, 2008 coincided with the highest gasoline prices in history, which gave transit a boost.
Less reported was the fact that despite higher ridership, transit’s market share (of transit and motor vehicles) has fallen since the 1950s. In 1955, transit’s market share was over 10%. By 2005, transit’s share had dropped to 1.5%, but recovered only to 1.6% in 2008. Transit’s all time peak ridership was in 1945, driven up by World War II and gas rationing. It is thus not surprising that national transit ridership (boardings) declined 3.8% in 2009 as gasoline prices moderated.