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U.S. mass transit ridership sets record

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. residents continued their surge onto public transportation this fall, even though gas prices dropped significantly, statistics show.

The American Public Transportation Association said Monday U.S. public transportation ridership reached record levels in the third quarter of 2008, with more than 2.8 billion trips logged, an increase of 6.5 percent over the year-earlier quarter.

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The transit surge corresponded with a 4.6-percent drop in vehicle miles of travel on U.S. highways, the Federal Highway Administration said.

"The record increase in public transportation trips demonstrates the exceptional value of public transportation in today's economy," APTA President William Millar said. "The fact that public transit ridership surged while gas prices and highway travel declined, shows a growing demand for more bus and rail services."

Light rail -- such as modern streetcars, trolleys and heritage trolleys -- had the highest percentage of ridership increase among all modes, with an 8.5 percent increase for the third quarter. Buses were next with a 7.2 percent increase while commuter rail ridership grew by 6.3 percent.

Millar congratulated U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on announcing a major economic stimulus package that would include significant transportation infrastructure investments.

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