Urban Transit Ridership

The California Energy Commission relies on the National Transit Database (NTD) to analyze trends in urban transit ridership, and to inform transportation energy forecasting. There are over 100 transit agencies providing transportation services in California. The NTD tracks the number of passengers that board public transit vehicles each year. Figure 1 provides the annual number of urban passenger trips for the busiest urban transportation agencies in California for the 2013-2018 period. Statewide, urban passenger trips declined by about 10 percent between 2014 and 2018, with more than half of the decline coming from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority area. 

Figure 1: Annual Urban Passenger Trips (in millions)
Source: Energy Commission Analysis of National Transit Database NTD Service Reports 2013-2018.

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Figure 2 presents the statewide distribution of urban transit trips by transit mode for 2012 through 2018. Mode types are listed as a percent of the total number of transit trips. From 2012 to 2018, the majority of urban transit trips were on motor buses. For a complete list of transportation modes please visit the NTD (linked below in sources).

Figure 2: Statewide Urban Transit Trip Distribution by Transit Mode
Source: Energy Commission Analysis of National Transit Database NTD Service Reports 2018

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Fuel Consumption

Assembly Bill 8, amended in 2013, propelled the transition to alternative fuel use for urban transit. Figure 3 illustrates the annual urban transit fuel consumption data provided in thousands of gallons for diesel, gasoline, natural gas, and other fuels, and in megawatt hours for electricity. While gasoline consumption in urban transit has declined slightly between 2015 and 2018, electricity and natural gas consumption has increased since 2013.

Figure 3: Urban Transit Fuel Consumption
*Other fuels include: bunker fuel, recycled cooking oil, ethanol, hydrogen, kerosene, liquefied natural gas, and any other fuel not listed.

*Natural Gas in 1000s gallons of compressed natural gas used.
*Diesel presented in 1000s gallons of conventional diesel fuel used.
Source: Energy Commission Analysis of National Transit Database NTD Energy Reports 2013-2018

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Long-Distance (Intercity) Transit

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has promoted intercity passenger rail service since 1976 by augmenting Amtrak’s basic system of interstate trains. In 2018, Amtrak had 12,306,444 boardings and alightings (deboardings) in California (the sum of boardings and alightings represents Amtrak ridership). Over 869,116 California residents were members of the Amtrak Guest Rewards frequent user program in 2018. Figure 4 provides the number of boardings and alightings by counties in 2018 and the percent change in ridership from 2017 to 2018.

Ridership increased in Solano County after a new station opened in Fairfield-Vacaville at the end of 2017. In other counties, natural disasters impacted ridership. Santa Barbara ridership increased because Highway 101 was closed due to mudslides. Wildfires temporarily suspended service in Butte, Shasta, and Siskiyou counties and may have also impacted ridership in San Luis Obispo.

Figure 4: Amtrak Ridership in 2018
Source: Energy Commission Analysis of Amtrak Fiscal Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2018
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