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COTA posts nation's largest ridership increase from 2010 to 2011

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Columbus, Ohio's Central Ohio Transit Authority's popularity is growing by leaps and bounds - the service increased its ridership by 1.7 million trips from 2010 to 2011.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, the total COTA trips for 2011 was 18.8 million, an increase of 10.1 percent from the ridership counts of the previous year. Columbus was one of only two "big-city" markets in the country to have a ridership increase of that amount, the other being St. Louis, MO, at 10 percent.

Nationwide, the total number of public transportation trips was 10.4 billion, up 2.3 percent from 2010 figures. From the APTA:

“U.S. public transportation ridership in 2011 is now the second highest ridership since 1957,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “What is exciting is that the uptick in ridership occurred in large, medium and small communities, showing the broad support that public transportation has nationwide. In fact, the largest rate of growth was in rural communities with populations under 100,000 where public transit use increased by 5.4 percent.”

And the news is getting only better for Columbus, as their January trips count was already up 6.1% over the previous year.

An improving employment scene combined with higher gas prices is credited for the increase, as more people turn to the economy and convenience of public transportation as they commute to work. Also credited is the improvement in consumer-focused information technology solutions, such as Google Maps public transit features.

The study looked at a four transportation modes, heavy rail (subways and elevated trains), light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys), large bus systems (in which COTA made the most gains), and paratransit (where COTA also qualifies).

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