An estimated 5.2% of American workers commute on public transit. Larger, denser cities often require comprehensive public transportation systems that can reduce residents’ dependence on automobiles and help decrease traffic congestion, air pollution, and in some cases, travel time. In the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area, 14.4% of workers commute on public transit, larger than the national share.
One indication of a good transit system is an economically diverse ridership. In Washington, the typical public transit commuter earns $52,211 a year, roughly 101% of the $51,704 median earnings of commuters who drive to work alone in the metro area. Nationwide, the median earnings of public transit commuters is 89% of the earnings of workers who drive alone to work.
There are a number of benefits to public transportation. Riders save money, get more physical activity, and, on some routes, may even save time. On average, those who take public transit in Washington take 17 minutes longer getting to work than those who drive. Nationwide, taking public transit adds 25 minutes to the average commute.
In the city of Washington, the largest urbanized area in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority runs public transportation. In total, the WMATA handles 411.3 million passenger trips per year, making it one of the larger public transit agencies nationwide. The average resident of the city travels 429 miles and takes 90 trips on public transit a year, making the Washington public transportation system one of the largest and most utilized in the country.