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More people using public transport in US

Washington, March 9 (DPA) More people in the US were using public transportation at present than at any time in the last 52 years, according to an industry study released Monday.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) said Americans took 10.7 billion trips on buses, trains and trams in 2008, a 4-percent increase from 2007. Ridership has jumped 38 percent since 1995, the study said.

There was a corresponding drop in the use of cars in 2008 – a topsy-turvy year in which petrol prices more than doubled over the summer months before falling sharply in the autumn. The number of kilometres travelled by car fell 3.6 percent from 2007, according to the US Department of Transportation.

APTA President William Millar in a statement said the rise was partly due to people looking to save money during the country’s worst recession in decades. More than 4 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007.

The new figures will likely aid supporters of expanding public transportation infrastucture in the United States, which is less developed than in many other Western nations, especially in Europe.

President Barack Obama’s administration has touted public transportation as a means of reducing the country’s climate-damaging carbon dioxide emissions. Vice President Joe Biden, who as a senator famously commuted daily by train from Delaware to Washington, is considered a key proponent.

In a $787-billion economic stimulus package passed by Congress last month, about $18 billion went to public transportation projects – including the development of high-speed rail lines that are virtually non-existent in the country – in the largest single cash injection ever in the US.

Road improvements were also given nearly $30 billion, the most in a half-century.