I'd like to say that this is impressive, but it's not. If we are going to get something done in this country we can't be happy just going to the Olympics, we should want to win the gold. I will say that light rail again led the way for ridership increases at 6% but we need more.
For comparison to the much touted 10 Billion number that we've had the last two years consider this, Budapest (my favorite transit city) residents took over 1.4 Billion trips in 2003 in a region of 2.4 million people. The population of the United States is around 300 Million. While there are obvious differences in urban form and the availability of transit there versus here, its telling of what is possible if we design transport systems correctly and design our neighborhoods accordingly.
For a better western example that wasn't over run by communism until 1989, Vienna (A metro of 2.2 million) takes 700 Million annual trips. The tram network carries 280,000 passengers a day. The U Bahn metro carried 427 million trips in 2005. They began building their metro system in the 60s and finished in 1982. While they had a legacy street railways network, that can be done in time as well.
It's possible for us to catch up, but we gotta start moving a little faster. If each of the top 50 metro regions can get 700 million trips per year, we can increase ridership to 35 Billion trips. Is that possible? I don't know, I'm just tossing out numbers, but it would be amazing and would do a lot for the environment and create jobs.
I also love a good reason to use pictures from my trip last fall. The one below is a tram loop on the Ringstrasse in Vienna.