For the struggling legacy transit systems, new mobility options present challenges and opportunities

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Despite decades of ridership and revenue growth, the country’s busiest transit systems have struggled in recent years both at the turnstile and in the farebox, even as operating costs and unmet capital needs continue to grow. Metropolitan transit agencies serving New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, Boston and San Francisco, the country’s five largest systems, have all seen ridership declines in each of the last three years, and only the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) saw revenues increase, according to financial disclosures.

Some of the decline can be attributed to service quality. But these systems are also challenged by competition from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, bike-share programs and the ever-polarizing electric scooter phenomenon.

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