What’s behind the rise in public transit in the U.S. in the last few years, and how does our transit use compare with that of other developed countries?
— Angie Whitby, New Bern, NC

Transit ridership is indeed at its highest level in the U.S. in 57 years. According to data collected by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation in 2013—the highest number since the 1950s when many fewer of us owned our own cars.

And this increase “isn’t just a one-year blip,” says APTA. Since 1995—when Congress passed the landmark ISTEA legislation and other surface transportation bills that greatly increased funding for public transit—U.S. ridership has risen 37.2 percent, topping both population growth (up 20.3 percent) and vehicle miles traveled (up 22.7 percent). “There’s a fundamental shift going on,” says APTA’s president Michael Melaniphy. “More and more people are deciding …