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Recently, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) predicted that rising gasoline prices could lead to a savings of $14,376 for commuters in New York City who choose to switch from personal to public transportation. However, keeping that amount of coin in one's bank account may not be as simple as it first seems.

An additional study released by the APTA claims that soaring gas prices will convince Americans to turn to public transportation in record numbers, possibly overloading the our transit systems. The APTA predicts that if gas prices hit $4 a gallon (it's $3.546 today), public transportation networks will need to add 670 million trips per year to keep up with rising demand. If pump prices soar to $5 a gallon, 1.5 billion additional passenger trips will be required. If prices were to soar to $6 a gallon, well, let's not go there.

William Millar, president of the APTA, is calling on Congress for investments aimed at addressing rising demand for public transportation:
We must make significant, long-term investments in public transportation or we will leave our fellow Americans with limited travel options, or in many cases stranded without travel options. Public transit is the quickest way for people to beat high gas prices if it is available.
Saving money by switching from personal to public transportation is a good idea – but only if there's an available ride.

[Source: American Public Transportation Association | Image: njt4148 – C.C. License 2.0]
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$5 a Gallon Gas Could Spur Up to 1.5 Billion Additional Passenger Trips On U.S. Public Transportation Systems

Congress needs to provide long-term investment in public transit to address impending demand


Washington, DC- A study released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) predicts that as gasoline prices continue increasing, Americans will turn to public transportation in record numbers. APTA is calling on Congress to address this impending demand by providing a greater long-term investment in public transportation.

The analysis reveals if regular gas prices reach $4 a gallon across the nation, as many experts have forecasted, an additional 670 million passenger trips could be expected, resulting in more than 10.8 billion trips per year. If pump prices jump to $5 a gallon, the report predicts an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips can be expected, resulting in more than 11.6 billion trips per year. And if prices were to soar to $6 a gallon, expectations go as high as an additional 2.7 billion passenger trips, resulting in more than 12.9 billion trips per year.

"The volatility of the price at the pump is another wake up call for our nation to address the increasing demand for public transportation services," said APTA President William Millar. "We must make significant, long-term investments in public transportation or we will leave our fellow Americans with limited travel options, or in many cases, stranded without travel options. Public transit is the quickest way for people to beat high gas prices if it is available."

Many of the public transit systems across the country are already seeing large ridership increases, some reaching double digits in the month of February. For instance; the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Pompano Beach, FL increased by 10.6 percent; Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority of Philadelphia, PA increased by 10 percent; The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority of Oakland, CA increased by 14 percent and Triangle Transit of Research Triangle Park, NC increased by 22.8 percent.

"We saw this same story in 2008 and several times before where high gas prices caught our country without adequate travel options," said Millar. "However, this time we can write a happy ending and make sure investment is made to expand public transportation so that more Americans have a choice in how they travel."

APTA supports the Obama Administration's transportation authorization blueprint and proposal which increases public transit investment by 128 percent over the next six years. This type of investment would help close the gap for the 46 percent of Americans who do not have access to public transportation.

APTA is encouraging riders to tell Congress they need more transportation options by going to publictransportation.org or text TRANSIT to 86677 and join the "I <3 (heart) transit campaign."

The projected estimates use the 2010 APTA Public Transportation Ridership Report as a baseline. The ridership is then increased by the reported elasticity multiplied by the projected price change to show ridership growth at a given increase above the average price for regular gasoline as reported in the last 2010 report by the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy.

A copy of the report can be found at www.apta.com .

Below is a sampling of systems that have reported increases in ridership in 2011, starting with those systems that have seen double digit increases. Please note that not all systems have February figures yet.

* Durham, NC – Durham Area Transit Authority saw a 14.8% increase in ridership in January and a 21.8% increase in February.
* Fort Wright, KY – Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky saw an increase of 3.6% in January, which jumped to a 10.3% in February.
* Lafayette, IN – CityBus of Greater Lafayette saw an increase in ridership of 12.6% in January.
* Oakland, CA – Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority saw double digit increases in ridership in January (11%) and February (14%).
* Orlando, FL – LYNX saw a 10.7% increase in January.
* Philadelphia, PA – SEPTA saw a 10% increase in February, up from 2% in January.
* Pompano Beach, FL – South Florida Regional Transportation Authority saw an increase of ridership of 6% in January and a double digit increase of 10.6% in February.
* Raleigh, NC – Triangle Transit saw a 17.7% increase of ridership in January and a 22.8% increase in February.
* Salt Lake City, UT – Utah Transit Authority had a 12% ridership increase in January and a 4.3% ridership increase in February.
* San Antonio, TX – VIA Metropolitan Transit's Express bus service had an 18% increase in ridership in January.
* San Diego, CA – Metropolitan Transit System had a 7.3% increase in bus ridership and a 13% ridership increase in trolley ridership for January.
* Tampa, FL – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit had an 18% increase in ridership in January and a 19% ridership increase in February.
* Wenatchee, WA – Link Transit saw a 20.8% increase in ridership in January and 12.4% ridership increase in February.


Other systems that have reported ridership increases in 2011 include:

* Arlington Heights, IL – Pace Suburban Bus saw an increase of 6.5% in January.
* Cincinnati, OH – Metro saw an increase in ridership of 1% in January and that rose to a ridership increase of 5% in February.
* Cleveland, OH – Greater Cleveland RTA's total rail ridership was up 7% and heavy rail ridership was up 11% in January.
* Columbus, OH - Central Ohio Transit Authority saw an 8.3% increase in January.
* Fort Myers, FL – Lee County Transit saw ridership increase by 4.9% in January and by 8.5% in February.
* Fort Worth, TX – Fort Worth Transportation Authority saw an increase in ridership of 3.6% in January.
* Kansas City, MO - Kansas City Area Transportation Authority saw an increase in ridership of 2.6% in January.
* Los Angeles, CA - Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. With some of the highest gas prices in the nation, LA Metro saw a 4.6% jump in ridership in January. (LA Metro is planning buying the historic Union Station to enhance it for future expected growth in transit ridership with new rail lines being built, including high-speed rail.)
* Louisville, KY – Transit Authority of River City saw an overall increase of 4% in January. Additionally, TARC added buses on our two most popular routes in February and they are showing big gains --- 14 percent on one route and 15 percent on the other route.
* Minneapolis, MN – Metro Transit saw an overall increase of 2.25%, but commuter rail is up 7.8%. Also, the number of individuals visiting the Metro Transit web site for the first two months of the year are up 18% over Jan/Feb last year (179,382 avg./mo in 2011). Additionally, the number of visits to our web site for the first two months of the year are up 31% over Jan/Feb last year (586,199 avg./mo in 2011).
* Muncie, IN – Muncie Indiana Transit System saw an increase in ridership of 8.1% in January.
* Nashville, TN – Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority saw an increse of 6.5% in February.
* Oakland, CA – Bay Area Rapid Transit saw an increase in ridership in January of 4.8% and increase in February of 3.7%.
* Olympia, WA – Intercity Transit saw an increase of 3% in January. Also, Intercity Transit is witnessing a surge in vanpool ridership, in the first 2 months of 2011.
* Oxnard, CA – Gold Coast Transit's total ridership for the month of January was up 3.0.
* Painesville, OH – Laketran saw an increase of 3% in ridership in January.
* San Antonio, TX – VIA Metropolitan Transit's Express Bus service had an 18% increase in ridership in January.
* San Diego, CA – Metropolitan Transit System saw a 2.8% increase in bus ridership and a 6% increase in trolley ridership for February.
* Springfield, MO – City Utilities of Springfield, MO had a 9% increase for January.
* Wilmington, DE - Delaware Transit Corporation had an increase of nearly 8% in January.

# # #

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of more than 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne passenger services, and high-speed rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems.


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  • 25 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      One-sided article. The APTA is employing scare tactics to promote more government subsidies for public transport expansion projects.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't understand what people are complaining about in terms of "choice". Putting in a high-speed rail line doesn't mean that they are going to tear up the highways. Get your heads out of your ideology and think!

      Ridership of all rail transportation in the DC metropolitan area is at record levels - we've been breaking ridership records year over year starting before the current recession!

      Also, as any cursory study of a populated area will show you, development always follows public transportation. The hottest retail locations are near subway stations. Apartment, condo and housing communities advertise that they are close to a train station or a subway station. Property values skyrocket around public transportation. When businesses large and small advertise for new employees, it's always a good draw if the offices/factory are close a transit station.

      I agree that support services are important as well - rail doesn't go everywhere - you need bus systems and such. However, those systems aren't necessarily going to exist if there's no rail to connect to.

      Growth - meaning jobs, income and tax revenue - follows transit. Period. It is universally an intelligent investment. People need to stop falling for such selfish, ignorant leaders. Stop, smell out the bullshit, and see them for what they are - incompetent.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What this article suggests is impossible! Nobody actually rides the train anywhere! I know, because the great Florida Governor said so!

      Sorry, just another reason why I can't get over the lack of vision that the Ohio, Wisconsin & Florida governors have shown in deep-sixing their rail funding in favor of "road repairs" or "bettering our ports". Argh.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @aagarrett - The article above refers to "public transportation". Indeed, there is a difference between "rapid transit systems" and "high-speed rail", though as a DC-Metro resident, I am fortunate to have access to both, and ride commuter rail to work daily.

        Also, as someone who was just forced to sit in nasty traffic for hours on the I-4 between Orlando and Tampa, I can tell you that I would have MUCH preferred to pay $20 to take a 170mph train, than to pay $20 for my 'spensive gas and the opportunity to wait in increasingly awful traffic. And no, I'm not a Union worker. I just hate wasting my time & money.

        But the other point is that with high-speed rail comes the real possibility to use rail as a commuter option, as I've done with various jobs in points north of DC on the only high-speed corridor this country has. If we had more such rail, such an option would be present for an exponentially-higher number of Americans who right now have only their cars as practical forms of transportation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        There is a difference between "mass transit" and "high speed rail". The Florida boondoggle was the latter. The article is about the former.
        If you think anyone is going to ride a train from Tampa to Orlando because gas is $5.00, you must be a union person.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's already happening. Here in the DC metropolitan area, all commuter rail services are beyond capacity, not only during morning and evening rush hours, but also at random times on weekends. This has been the case for about a year or more. For some services, such as the DC Metro (subway system), have been packed during rush hour for longer than I've lived in the region (almost 10 years).

      The encouraging thing is, despite fare increases and overcrowded conditions, people of all walks of life still use the various rail systems. But, improvement is desperately needed. If there was more capacity and the addition of express routes, more people could, and would, use these systems. There just isn't money available to do so.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Same in Philadelphia.
        How hard can it be to add cars, and add Profit?
        • 4 Years Ago
        The problem with using the DC Metro as an example is that not only is it a "Great Society" subway system, but it's in a federal company town. By and large, the Federal government has kept federal employees (and their auxiliary enterprises, such as lobbyists) concentrated downtown, whereas MOST other cities have seen enterprise (corporation HQs, department stores, movie theaters, etc.) fleeing from downtown for decades. Buses are far too declasse or "rabble-filled" for middle- and upper-class folks to ride voluntarily in most places (Metrobus in DC is considered a pariah compared to the Metro subway), and by the time a major subway/monorail/Light Rail can be planned, designed, and built in the US, the traffic demands that made the line so obvious twenty years ago are gone by the time the line is completed.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Have to disagree here. Whilst a large number of Federal Government employees do work downtown, it has been LOCAL city planning efforts which have continued to contribute to the success or failure of DC Metro's usability. I.e. look at the disparity between the outstanding transit-oriented-development of Arlington County's Orange Line Corridor ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ArlingtonTODimage3.jpg) and the relative bumbling of Fairfax County - creating totally car-dependent sprawl-factories like Tysons Corner and the Dulles Corridor that only NOW has a rail line finally being built 30 years later.

        Look to places like Portland Oregon as examples of a strong local government pushing through obstacles and setting up a damn good transit system based on light rail, trollies, busses, and bicycling options to reduce the area's dependence on the automobile.

        I'm trying to say that it's NOT just that DC is a "company town". ANY city, given enough vision and foresight, can build a fantastic transit system, and can encourage smart growth so that one can live comfortably without requiring an automobile for EVERYTHING.
      harlanx6
      • 4 Years Ago
      There isn't a real supply shortage. How high can the traders bid up the prices of crude and refined gasoline before the tanks are all full and someone gets stuck? Here in rural Northern California it is already $4.44 for unleaded regular and $4.87 for diesel, and there isn't any mass transit. I know I'm using less fuel, and I suspect everyone else is also. This is a glitch in supply and demand caused by speculators that have already forgotten what happened to them in '08. It's interesting, but I wouldn't be buying any futures right now.
      • 4 Years Ago
      lets not forget that public transit buys gas and diesel as well. So while ridership may go up, so does their cost of service if gas prices go up, and their range goes down with the additional stop and go due to the higher usage. So what transit ends up doing is scaling back service even further even with high demand since their operational costs have risen. People talk about raising the fares, but fares don't cover any meaningful part of operations, tax dollars do. So raising the fares just penalizes those who actually use public transit effectively barring them from riding and any fare increase won't go towards actually improving service. It's a shame too because the pennies per person it would cost to actually improve service for everyone (even those who do not use it) would be responded to with typical 'no raising taxes' vitriol when this is a direct service back to everyone.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yep. People have no idea how important those much neglected public transportation systems are . . . but as gas prices go up, people will eventually see the light.
        • 4 Years Ago
        ...and yet the public transportation systems cannot pay for themselves via fares. They require taxpayer subsidy.

        Add in the unfunded pension costs that lie just ahead, already bankrupting the states.

        But we can all rest assured: King Obama is flying both his 747s, and an entourage of support planes, people and gas-powered land vehicles to Rio this week...and to who knows which golf course next week.

        Public transportation is for the little people.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's "energy conspiracy" time. What if we defund public transit and raise oil prices by seeding unrest in the middle east... No wait, unrest is too much of a wildcard... How about instead, having a large oil company cause a spill in the golf so the american people will hold back on drilling, as a result, the price for oil starts moving up. That sounds do-able. Then people will be forced to pay for the higher oil prices, except that they have a choice of fuel this time... But those are infant projects that can't yet stand on their own, so defund solar, wind and anything "bio" so those projects don't get off the ground. Claim it is to balance the budget. And then don't forget we get a bunch of patriotic loyalist stooges that think they are helping america by limiting the response that the elected officials can make. Use the tea party because the other two parties never really cared about balancing the budget before and wouldn't seem credible if they suddenly pushed for it.

      Oil companies and their corporate political think tank win again. Well played guys. You lucked out on the natural disasters in Japan and the unrest in the middle east, (both helping raise the price of oil), but you also know how to play the game. Well played.

      (I didn't even go into how much they try to discredit the global warming idea.) They don't want to kill the cash cow at any cost.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thank you. I wote this to be amusing. I am glad you liked it. If I "disappear" please tell the media. :^D
        • 4 Years Ago
        Conspiracy theories are jokes. Control is an illusion.

        However, thanks - it's a clever and amusing read. Who knows - maybe we are pawns.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What public transit system?
      • 4 Years Ago
      If other places are anything like Portland, ridership will go way up, but for some reason, revenue will be way down and the transit authority will complain that they need MORE tax dollars while raising fare.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That pic looks straight out of the 1950's
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's a work train for NYC subway. They left a handful of spares of old relics to act as rolling toolboxes and to haul equipment and supplies.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am all for choice and do believe we should expand public transportation, however, I am no strong supporter for rail. Rail makes sense for the east coast. If I lived in DC or NY, I'd share the opinion most of you have. Once you move away from that population density, its hard to justify.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Sparse population densities do make public transit options harder to implement. That said, the time for more intellegent development is now. Many sprawling communities can be improved via infill development where blight is replaced with a real town center. Transit stops can then be connected with these centers which will in turn fuel their growth.

        This doesn't apply everywhere (true rural areas for example are lousy places to try to implement something like this - instead they should stay close to their roots) but a lot of suburban development can be improved this way. It will take time and it won't be a panacea, but it will make transit an option for many (note: the word "option")
        • 4 Years Ago
        @bvz - agreed.
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