World Cities Day, 31 October, is a day indicated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote the international community’s global urbanisation efforts. The theme for this year is “Better City, Better Life”.

At UITP, we believe that by improving the public transport networks of our cities, we are improving the everyday lives of people. In light of this, we are happy to share the latest UITP Statistics Brief, “Urban Public Transport in the 21st Century”, which indicates that global public transport journeys increased by nearly 20% between 2000 and 2015. Of the 39 countries involved in the fifteen-year study, twenty-four experienced an increase or maintained a stable rate of public transport use.

China’s growing ridership

Focusing on journeys per capita, the study showed a global average of 121 journeys per capita in 2015. Of course this figure differs significantly in each country. Concerning total number of journeys, China came out on top as the largest market for public transport (85 billion journeys in 2015).

China also experienced the second-largest growth in public transport use, after Turkey, in the study’s timeframe, largely due to strategic Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and public transport supply, which put public transport at the heart of planning and policy. Also contributing to sector growth in China, was the project “Opinions on the Development of Public Transport Priority”, which advocated for urban rail to be the backbone of mobility, bus the body, and other modes as supplementary.

Increasing urbanism leads to greater public transport use

The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2030 the urban population will account for 60% of the total global population. This growing urbanism also leads to a greater ridership of public transport.

According to the Statistics Brief, the urban population across the world is responsible for the majority of public transport journeys. This can clearly be seen in Canada, where 70% of public transport ridership comes from the three largest metropolitan areas (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver). Also of note is that 98% of demand for public transport in Canada is from cities with more than 400,000 inhabitants.

A similar pattern can be seen in European countries. The rate of public transport use in 24 European capital cities is approximately 2.5 times larger than the national average. In addition to a larger supply of public transport, this is largely due to the difficulty and expense of using private vehicles; for instance, stricter parking policies or greater congestion.

Singapore shines as paradigm of sustainable mobility

Facing a steady decrease in public transport use between 2000 and 2005, Singapore implemented a range of policies to increase ridership. Key investment in heavy and light rail services was the first step towards increasing use.

The most significant effort to reduce the number of on-road private vehicles was the reform and expansion of the congestion charge scheme in 2005. The coverage of Electronic Road Pricing was expanded around Singapore’s centre and on major expressways, ensuring optimal use of road space, reducing traffic congestion, and ultimately growing public transport ridership.

The introduction of a bus network planner in 2008 resulted in an increase of public transport use due to enhanced customer experience. The planner also improved the integration of buses into the whole public transport system.


Contact if you are interested in receiving the extended report and dataset! The extended report is offered to Advantage and Premium members for free!

Full price list:

  • Extended report: 75 Euros Standard members/150 Euros non-members
  • The dataset: 125 Euros members/250 Euros non-members
  • The dataset & extended report: 200 Euros members/400 Euros non-members