Cheap gas could cut into transit ridership

Adam Allington Jan 30, 2015
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Cheap gas could cut into transit ridership

Adam Allington Jan 30, 2015
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With gas prices as low as $2 in some parts of the country, mass transit providers are starting to worry that their ridership numbers will also dip.  

Use of public transit in the U.S. is at levels not seen since the 1950s, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

High gas prices are a part of that growth, and now that costs are falling some cities fear a drop-off in ridership.

That has not been the case – so far – in Chicago.

“In the two months that fuel prices have been well below $3 we have not seen any significant shifts on either the rail side or the bus side,” says Brian Steele, a spokesman for the Chicago Transit Authority.

Steele points out that gas is just one cost associated with driving a car, in addition to costs for parking, insurance and maintenance. 

But others question whether public transit use has really gone up as a percentage of population growth.

“Think of it in terms of inflation: has mass transit ridership, in terms of a percentage increased each year, kept up with inflation? No, it hasn’t come close to it,” says Ray Mundy, director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.  Despite increases in ridership, Mundy says transit still only accounts for 5 percent of trips in metro areas.

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