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Demand for public transportation in the United States reached record highs in 2008 and rose in the decade prior to 2008. Increased demand for public transportation can create opportunities and challenges for communities working to meet demand, improve service, and maintain transit systems, while operating within budgetary constraints. Transit agencies rely on a variety of funding sources, including federal, state, and local entities, and other sources, such as fares. The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Transit Administration administers federal grant programs transit agencies can use to help meet ridership demand, such as for purchasing buses and modernizing rail systems. As requested, this report addresses (1) trends in transit ridership and services from 1998 through 2008, (2) challenges, if any, transit agencies faced during this period to address increased ridership and actions they took in response, and (3) factors that might affect future ridership demand and the ability of transit agencies to meet that demand. GAO analyzed data from the National Transit Database on transit ridership (i.e., passenger miles traveled), service (i.e., vehicle revenue miles), costs, and revenues; conducted interviews with 15 transit agencies operating heavy rail, light rail, and bus; interviewed federal officials and others; and reviewed prior GAO recommendations. DOT generally agreed with the report and provided technical comments.

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