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255 people were killed in transit-related incidents in 2015. Most fatalities were non-passengers—passengers accounted for less than 5% of all fatalities in 2015. However, several high-profile occurrences of smoke, fire, derailments, and crashes, primarily in the larger, older heavy and commuter rail systems, have occurred in the last several years.
Alternative fuel-powered vehicles using compressed or liquid natural gas, propane, hydrogen, or battery power have become more popular in the last decade; the share of the national bus fleet using alternative fuels rose from 21% in 2006 to 30% in 2015. Diesel-burning engines are still the most common, accounting for 68% of non-electric buses in 2015, but compressed natural gas buses now make up 18% of the fleet. From 2010 to 2015, the number of transit vehicles powered by electric batteries more than doubled. The number of transit agencies using electric vehicles also grew considerably—from 5 to 17—during that time period.
Transit resilience is often tested by extreme weather events, which degrade infrastructure and can temporarily shutter service. Super Storm Sandy demonstrated the need to address resiliency, as key tunnels under the East River and Hudson River were severely damaged.
The past several years have seen significant innovations in public transportation. Bikesharing and ridesharing companies have challenged people’s ideas of what is public transit. These services have also helped expand access to traditional public transportation systems by solving the “first mile-last mile problem” for riders who would otherwise find it difficult to get to the nearest transit station or to their ultimate destination after riding transit. Many transit operators now provide real-time updates about the location of their vehicles, allowing riders to better time their journeys, resulting in a plethora of smartphone applications.
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