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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Average Transit Fares

Monday, September 10, 2012

Average Transit Fares

Transit fares remained relatively stable during the 1990s (figure 37). Increases in fares per passenger-mile for some modes of transit were offset by lower fares per passenger-mile for other modes.

Local transit bus service, which accounts for 60 percent of public transportation ridership (by number of unlinked passenger trips1), is slightly more expensive than it was 10 years ago (figure 38). Transit bus service cost 20¢ per mile in 2000, up from 18¢ per mile in 1990 (in chained 1996 dollars).2 Bus ridership, which dropped by about 15 percent during the mid-1990s, rebounded by 2000. Rail transit—heavy, commuter, and light rail—was less expensive in 2000 than in 1990, with light-rail fares dropping the most, at 30 percent.

Heavy rail comprises most of the nation’s subway systems. It is the second most heavily used form of transit with over 30 percent of total transit ridership. The cost of using heavy rail declined from 19¢ to 18¢ per passenger-mile between 1990 and 2000 [1].


1. American Public Transportation Association, Public Transportation Fact Book 2001, Tables 18 and 26, available at, as of February 2003. Data for 2000 are preliminary.

1 See Urban Transit Ridership in section 7, “Availability of Mass Transit,” for a discussion of unlinked trips.

2 All dollar amounts are expressed in chained 1996 dollars, unless otherwise specified. Current dollar amounts (which are available in appendix B of this report) were adjusted to eliminate the effects of inflation over time.