Urban Mass Transit

October 17, 1975

Report Outline
Current Problems in Transit Industry
Transportation Trends in U.S. Cities
Plans for Improving Urban Transport
Special Focus

Current Problems in Transit Industry

Financial Woes of Urban Transportation Agencies

As URBAN pollution and congestion have increased and energy supplies have dwindled, interest in public mass transportation has grown among both civic officials and workday commuters. In 1974, a year marked by winter fuel shortages, mass transit ridership across the country rose by an average of 5.7 per cent after years of postwar decline. Although the latest statistics from the American Public Transit Association (apta) indicate a slight decline in the first eight months of 1975—about two-tenths of one per cent below the same period last year—the association interprets the figures to mean that most motorists who switched to public transportation during 1974 have not resumed driving to work even with the return of plentiful, if costlier, gasoline. “We're in the middle of a renaissance now,” said Albert Engelken, director of communications for the association.

Apta's statistics do not necessarily indicate that a majority of Americans are ready to give up their automobiles. “The automobile is and will continue to be the most universally accepted form of transportation in America,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman Jr. on Sept. 17 in the first transportation policy statement ever issued by the executive branch. According to a Gallup Poll taken in early 1975, 74 per cent of those responding chose to drive their cars to work. In another Gallup survey about the same time, this one commissioned by the Highway Users Federation during early 1975, 47 per cent said they would prefer to drive their automobiles to work even if public transportation services were improved and made more available.

Everyone agrees that public transit nationwide is in bad financial shape. According to preliminary figures released by apta, public transit systems showed an overall deficit of $1.3 billion in 1974, far worse than the preceding year. The last year they made a profit was 1962. In Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) has projected that the city's Metrobus system will lose $86.5 million a year by 1980. The transit agency in Minneapolis-St. Paul has estimated a $6.5-million deficit for 1975. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and many other major cities also have reported losses. “It doesn't take much searching of the historical record to find that financially [mass transit] is a sick industry,” said Matthew Huber, professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota, an expert on transportation.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mass Transit
Dec. 09, 2016  Mass Transit
Jan. 18, 2008  Mass Transit Boom
Jun. 21, 1985  Mass Transit's Uncertain Future
Oct. 05, 1979  Mass Transit Revival
Oct. 17, 1975  Urban Mass Transit
Dec. 06, 1972  Free Mass Transit
Jul. 08, 1970  Urban Transit Crush
Apr. 24, 1963  Mass Transit vs. Private Cars
Mar. 11, 1959  Urban Transportation
Dec. 10, 1952  Sickness of Urban Transit
May 15, 1942  Local Transportation
Jun. 26, 1931  The Motor Bus in Local Transportation
Dec. 20, 1928  Regulation of Motor Bus Transportation
Public Transportation