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March 16, 2011

Would growing ridership hurt or hinder transit agencies?

by Alex Roman - Also by this author

In a study released earlier this week, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) predicted that public transportation ridership would grow to record numbers as gasoline prices continue to spike.  

The analysis revealed that if regular gas prices reach $4 a gallon across the nation, many experts forecast an additional 670 million passenger trips could be expected, resulting in more than 10.8 billion trips per year, with the report predicting an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips or, an estimated 11.6 billion trips per year, if gas prices rise to $5 a gallon.

It's hard to argue with the report, since public transportation ridership hit record numbers in 2008 when fuel prices escalated. It is also easy to see what a public transportation's impact can be in the communities they serve, whether it's moving more folks because of escalating gas prices or helping to take more vehicles off the road.

What is not so clear from APTA's report, however, is the impact growing ridership would have on public transportation agencies. With budgets continuing to suffer from shortfalls due to a decrease in gas tax revenues and decreased support from state, local and federal governments, would a sudden surge in ridership boost agencies or cause them more hardship?

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "The end of the old oil order" here.

Alex Roman

Managing Editor


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  • george trudel[ March 16th, 2011 @ 4:20pm ]

    If gas prices are high and ridership goes up, so must fares. The states are broke. The are receiving less revenue and will have a hard time satifying customer demand. Even now you can see vehicles sitting idle in bus yards, because service had to be cut because of state funding cutbacks.If fuel prices come back down again like they did after 2008, then you will revert back to less ridership, but the pain will not be as bad, because transits will have raised prices.

  • Frank[ March 16th, 2011 @ 6:13pm ]

    No Thanks to the greedy Conservatives, Public Transit seems to be cut and cut and cut all the time, yet, those wealthy refuse to pay a decent wage to their workers, Through a group of people could car pool if their co-workers and live near each-other, but other people are not so lucky. People on low Income depend on Bus Service. yet, it take forever to get to work and back home again. We must improve Ground Public Transportation. and that Includes Amtrak, that if the Freight Railway want to host 2 more min Amtrak Trains on their line. However, why are we committing about fuel prices when in Canada, UK, EU, Australia, NZ pay anywhere from $5-$10 Gallon American Dollars. Now I have read that even Amtrak have made some Security Checks and why has it taken 9/5 years sense 09-11-01? Yet, before one gets on the Eur-star, one has to go through the Airport X-Ray. Either we sit in Traffic, as the Burbs get father and father out. and or we sit together on Public Transit. or we depend on our Co-workers for ride share. Nothing is perfect. No Ground Transit is perfect.

  • Bill Spickerman[ March 17th, 2011 @ 10:19am ]

    Each transit agency would probably be different based on their capacity. Those that are near their capacity of riders would need to expand, those that have the capacity available would create more revenue.

  • R. W. Rynerson[ March 17th, 2011 @ 9:13pm ]

    Having worked in transport jobs through every energy disruption since 1973, I can say that it is a mixed bag. It's better to attract customers than to have them feel forced into the system. On the other hand, if one has a recently improved product and some flexibility in adjusting to the situation, new customers can be retained. And, I can think of several places that are now better served by transit projects that were pushed from the endless study stage to implementation because of gasoline price spikes or shortages. In general, we have better tools for dealing with emergencies than we did in the '70's crises. The shortfalls can undercut that capability over time, but in the next year most systems can handle the level of demand that $3.50 to $4.50 gas will create. Over that level for a while and then the economy goes into a recession and ridership drops again -- except for the route to the Social Services office.

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Janna Starcic

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Alex Roman

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