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Recovering economy helps public transit use surge, report says

Recovering economy helps public transit use surge, report says
Americans took 10.5 billion trips on public transportation last year, 154 million trips more than 2011, a report said. Transit riders in Riverside board a bus. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

As the job market slowly recovers, Americans set a record for public transit use in 2012, the American Public Transportation Assn. said Monday.

In its report, the association said Americans took 10.5 billion trips, the second highest ridership since 1957. That's 154 million more trips than in 2011.

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"Two big reasons for the increased national transit ridership are high, volatile gas prices and in certain localities, a recovering economy with more people returning to work," said Michael Melaniphy, the association's president and chief executive.

Public transportation in Los Angeles was among notable year-over-year increases. Ridership of the city's light rail system increased 18.5%, partly because of the opening of a new line last year.

Large bus systems nationally notched an increase of 1%, but Long Beach saw an improvement of 4.5% from the year before, the association said.

The group's report follows Friday's surprisingly upbeat jobs report that found that employers added 236,000 jobs to payrolls in February. Since February 2012, the unemployment rate has fallen 0.6 percentage points, dipping to 7.7%, a four-year low.

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ricardo.lopez2@latimes.com

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