Combo Of Economy, Health Benefits Drive Many To Public Transit

July 22, 2014

Photo by Andrew Bernier - KJZZ
Valley Metro Buses awaiting passengers outside Central Station.
(Photo by Andrew Bernier/ KJZZ News)
Phoenix Councilman Daniel Valenzuela and other representatives of the organizations that helped produced the report.
(Photo by Andrew Bernier/ KJZZ News)
The entrance of Central Station at Central Avenue and Van Buren Street.

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Despite the increasing population in Arizona, there are fewer cars on the road now than there were nearly a decade ago. While some might think motorists are still recovering from the economic recession, a new report suggests there may be other factors.

In a report issued Tuesday, new statistics suggest a combination of economic and health benefits are driving many to use public transportation, led particularly by the Millennial generation.

Since 2007, the number of registered vehicles in Arizona has dropped by half a percent, but the number of public transportation trips increased by 16 percent.

Diane Brown is with the Public Interest Research group that helped produced the study.

"Arizona and the Phoenix area are experiencing a shift in how people travel. One of the key elements that will be important moving forward is for transportation officials to look at these trends and to plan accordingly," Brown said.

As more young people continue to use alternative modes of transportation, the city of Phoenix and Valley Metro are planning for increased expansion of bus routes and light rail.

Forty miles of new track are planned by 2026 along with increased accessibility of sidewalks and bike routes. 

"Research shows that when people are using public transportation they tend to walk more, or they might bike more. That helps promote a healthier lifestyle," she said.

Valley Metro has already surpassed its 2020 goal of more than 40,000 daily riders, and last year saw a total ridership of 73 million for both bus and light rail.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect the number of registered vehicles in Arizona dropped by half a percent between 2007 and 2012. The Arizona Public Interest Research Group admitted there was a numerical error in its report.

Updated 8/11/2014 at 5:21 p.m.