The number of Americans riding public transit in 2012 increased to the second highest level since 1957. And the growth in ridership would have been even stronger if not for the near total shutdown of services on the transit-heavy East Coast thanks to Superstorm Sandy.

Altogether, U.S. transit ridership rose 1.49 percent, with passengers taking 10.52 billion trips on trains, buses and commuter rail in 2012.

The increase was universal across the different modes of transit.

There were 1.42 percent more trips on heavy rail such as subways, 4.47 percent more on light rail, and 0.52 percent more on commuter rail than in 2011. Meanwhile, bus ridership grew 1.2 percent. Some of the light rail rise came from cities expanding or creating lines.

With 10.7 percent growth, Sound Transit was one of six light rail systems to see double-digit ridership increases last year.

The gradually recovering economy is of course creating demand for more commuter trips. But rising gas prices and crowded highways are no doubt the main factors driving more commuters to choose transit. And neither gas prices nor traffic are likely to get better in the future.

And to those devout drivers in the comment thread who scoff that riders should pay the full cost of transit—just imagine how much worse your commute would be with another 10.52 billion car trips crowding America's roads?