Consumers turned to public transportation in a big way during the recent recession. The slow return to normal employment levels and the high prices for gas have been factors in keeping readership high. Public transportation agencies are rolling out new marketing tools to keep riders on board as the economy recovers.

Heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, and trolleybuses are all popular ways for people to travel about in urban areas. One of the biggest complaints from passengers has been not knowing when the next bus is coming. Now, transportation companies are rolling out apps to let riders know when the next bus or train is due. And for riders who have a long commute, there’s good news about connectivity. More operators are offering free wifi so passengers can use their commutes productively.

In general, the number of people using public transportation rose 2.31% in 2011 and ridership is expect to increase, especially as more consumers return to work. Michael Melaniphy, CEO and president of the American Public Transportation Association, notes that the interest in public transportation is not limited to urban areas. In cities with population counts of under 100,000, ridership increased 5.4% in the past year.

Some large cities have been forced to cut back service lines and raise prices to improve the economics of their operations. But, these transit agencies are also growing more aware of operating efficiencies. As a result, they’ll also be marketing to the riding public to promote services.

[Sources: Copeland, Larry. Public transportation use up across the nation in 2011. USAtoday.com. 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2012; Public Transportation Ridership Report, 24 Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2012]