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Transit ridership slowly rises but still far from pre-pandemic peak levels

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Transit ridership has significantly declined across the country since the start of COVID-19, and the new fourth-quarter reports show that while ridership is slowly creeping back up, it is still struggling to reach pre-pandemic numbers.

Data released by the American Public Transportation Association shows that transit ridership increased by 2.2% in the fourth quarter of 2023 when compared to the previous quarter with 1.9 billion passenger trips.

Overall, transit ridership in the fourth quarter of 2023 was 32% below peak ridership in the second quarter of 2014, with 2.7 billion recorded passenger trips.

Transit ridership dropped from 196.3 million the week of Feb. 1, 2020, to 39.2 million the week of April 5-11, 2020, because of the pandemic, as previously reported by The Center Square.

After the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines at the end of summer 2021, ridership was left at 50% of pre-pandemic levels and dropped after the omicron wave, but ridership has continued to stay at 77% of pre-pandemic levels, according to a separate report from the American Public Transportation Association.

Due to the pandemic and the impact of the drastic drop in ridership, transit agencies across the country have continued to seek out revenue for transit.

In 2020 and 2021, the federal government approved $70 billion in one-time supplemental funding for transit as well as The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act gave transit another $18 billion a year from 2022 through 2026.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey recently doubled the funding for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to $314 million and signed an executive order creating a task force focused on developing a long-term and sustainable finance plan.