- Thursday marks the inaugural National Get on Board Day, an education and awareness campaign to highlight the societal and economic benefits of public transit.
- More than 200 public transit agencies are participating in the campaign, with more than 20 cities or transit agencies offering free rides or pre-loaded fare cards to riders. Initiatives vary from customer appreciation events to social media contests to win transit passes.
- The campaign is sponsored by the American Public Transit Association (APTA), which encourages community leaders to sign a petition to commit to increased investment in public transportation.
National Get on Board Day comes at a time when transit ridership is on the decline, according to a recent APTA report which found public transit trips decreased 2% from 2017 to 2018. Data released from the U.S. Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey last fall also revealed commutes are growing longer, and nearly 12,000 fewer commuters used public transportation in 2017 as compared to 2016.
Some blame the rise of Uber and Lyft for the decrease in public transit ridership, suggesting the convenience of ride-hailing has diminished the need for many commuters to utilize public transit. The likes of Uber and Lyft have fought back on this claim and have even partnered with cities to increase access to public transit, offering first mile/last mile transportation options through ride-sharing or bike and scooter offerings. APTA reports nearly half of Americans don't have frequent access to public transportation.
While assistance from ride-hailing companies is welcomed, many cities acknowledge the need to step up their own efforts to get folks on public transit. By utilizing social media, transit agencies such as DART in Iowa and Rio Metro Regional Transit in New Mexico are working to engage a younger audience of riders — many of whom are otherwise likely customers of ride-hailing companies.
Other initiatives, such as T-shirt giveaways (Mountain Line in Arizona) and scavenger hunts (Palm Tran in Florida), will likely be effective in getting riders bought-in to public transit offerings in a manner that's different than traditional messaging.