• May 9, 2011
HNTB graphic
With the price of a gallon of gasoline steadily rising, many U.S. motorists now say that steep payouts at the pump will soon limit their ability to drive as they please. According to a survey conducted by HNTB Corporation, 63 percent of U.S. motorists believe that gas will be so costly that their time spent behind the wheel will sharply decline. In fact, 22 percent of the respondents are "extremely confident" that gas will soon be too expensive to continue drive normally.

On average, gas at $4.90 per gallon would push most of those surveyed to turn to public transit. Even though soaring gas prices were cited as the primary reason (42 percent) Americans with adequate public transportation in their area would hitch a ride rather than drive, 14 percent say that convenience factors in too. As for saving the environment, only six percent of surveyed drivers say that it will play a role in deciding whether or not to give public transportation a go.

[Source: HNTB]
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Fueling Americans' Transportation Choices

HNTB Survey: Rising gas prices driving millions toward public transit


Tanking motivation to drive: In a sign of the times, three in five (63 percent) American drivers think that, thanks to current events, gas will get so pricey that they will not be able to afford to drive their car as often as they do now. Source: HNTB Corporation

Approaching a cut-off point: According to a new America THINKS survey from HNTB Corporation, on average, a price of $4.90 per gallon would push Americans to fill up local buses and trains instead of their tanks.

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As the price of gasoline pushes toward $4 per gallon, many American motorists think those rising costs ultimately will limit their ability to drive.

In a sign of the times, a new America THINKS survey from HNTB Corporation shows 3 in 5 (63 percent) American drivers think that gas will get so pricey that they won't be able to drive their car as often as they do now. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 (22 percent) are extremely confident this will happen.

With gas prices currently averaging $3.96 per gallon, a cut-off point may be quickly approaching when millions more Americans will fill up local buses and trains instead of their tanks. On average, a price of $4.90 per gallon would push Americans who say they are willing to use public transit to climb on board.

"Now is the time to elevate U.S. investments in public transportation," said Liz Rao, chair public transit services. "Providing transit as part of a community's mobility choices increases economic vitality and sustainability and enhances quality of life."

Pumped to take public transit

Rising gas prices were cited as the No. 1 reason Americans with public transportation in the area would ride rather than drive (42 percent). This reason was much higher than other potentially motivating factors, including convenience (14 percent) and the environment (6 percent).

A recent study by the American Public Transportation Association revealed if regular gas prices reach $4 a gallon across the nation, an additional 670 million passenger trips could be expected to ride the nation's transit systems. If pump prices rise to $5 a gallon an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips can be expected, totaling more than 11.6 billion trips per year. Many transit systems already are experiencing increased ridership.

Gaining additional access

Slightly more than half of Americans (51 percent) would like to have more access to public transit locally, and one-third (33 percent) would appreciate more rail options, including commuter, intercity and high-speed rail in their community.

For the most part, the local perspective aligns with Americans' views of what's needed nationally. More than half the nation thinks the U.S. needs greater access to public transit (56 percent) and rail (52 percent).

Rao said increasing access is just part of the solution. "While increased transit must be an essential part of the nation's modern transportation network, the United States also needs to adopt a new vision of what that network looks like. It requires changing our traditional point of view that transportation modes – highways, aviation, mass transit, rail and others – are independent from each other. Rather, we must see – and plan for – them as one, integrated whole."

That future hasn't been realized, yet. In fact, nearly 3 in 5 (59 percent) of Americans say their area does not have a multimodal transportation system, which would allow for better access and transfers between transportation choices.

About the survey

HNTB's America THINKS transit survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,000 Americans March 23-31, 2011. It was conducted by Kelton Research, which used an e-mail invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

About HNTB

HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving federal, state, municipal, military and private clients. With nearly a century of service, HNTB has the insight to understand the life cycle of infrastructure and the perspective to solve the most complex technical, financial and operational challenges. Professionals nationwide provide award-winning planning, design, program management and construction management services. For more information, visit www.hntb.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Additional regional statistics:

* On average, Northeasterners would use more public transit if gasoline prices rose to $5.60 a gallon, compared to those in other regions of the country who would use more public transit if gas was less than $5 a gallon.
* Southerners are more likely to say high gas prices would motivate them to take public transportation (46 percent) than people throughout the rest of the country (39 percent).


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  • 17 Comments
      upstategreenie
      • 3 Years Ago
      only six percent caring about saving the planet they live on is why gas needs to be much much much higher, for americans in particular...who are mostly selfish and spoiled...and don't care about the effects on rest of the world for their gluttony and ignorance. I hope gas ZOOMS to five dollar or more gas tomorrow.....don't care who anybody blames.....saudis can shut off spigot tomorrow..you can't drink oil; humans (at least) HAVE to have clean food and water, which is more and more and more finite every single day...unlike reptilians radical right wing. there ISN"T any plan B or Door Number 2. I don't care if you don't like muslims or blacks or whoever faux news tells you not to like; GET OFF OIL!!!
      upstategreenie
      • 3 Years Ago
      If you get yourself a Volt, Leaf, Prius or VW TDI, you are socially responsible and have done your part. you are right...as well as save water which is either too much as in two record 100 yr floods in six mos followed by record drought right now personally...... saudis now ship more oil to china than US and China is their biggest customer, not the US...this is due in part to increasing effect of sanctions on Iran based on more lies....by bush......it worked our perfectly as he created this sh*(storm we are in now, and most are now unable to have any retrospective analysis and just lash out and blame obama for no real reason, even as every single economist, all of whom know more than bobble heads on faux, say you can drill EVERY single orifice in US and won't dent price of oil a penny due to GLOBAL factors..... Saudis did what they were told...now 'middle class' which has been under long term assault by radical right, will suffer, and still can't correctly point to who is doing this to them. hint: it isn't obama.
        harlanx6
        • 3 Years Ago
        @upstategreenie
        I disagree. Your anti oil production bias is illogical.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @upstategreenie
        I agree with everything you said, except that the Saudis are even more afraid of Iran than we are, and if they are shipping more oil to China, it's because we have more diversified sources of it (Canada, South America...etc.)
        Richard Joash Tan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @upstategreenie
        yeah
      dellrio
      • 3 Years Ago
      I may change my driving style when gas hits $8.00 a gallon. 2010 Prius and my 1985 Honda Magna Motorcycle both easily get 50+ MPG. BUT - I would use public transit if gas was $1.00 per gallon if the infrastructure was there. I lived in Europe for 6 months and never used a car once - only a taxi on 2 different occasions. If we had subways, trains, and bus lines like they do - i would not hesitate to sell the prius.
      harlanx6
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't think you need to worry about it. Everything is working to stabilize the oil market. We will get along just fine will $100/barrel oil. If it gets any higher a number of forces work together to bring it back into equilibrium. These bubbles in the fuel market are temporary and caused by speculators and have nothing to do with supply. If the government were to use their tax policy to discourage speculation it would stabilize the market. If you get yourself a Volt, Leaf, Prius or VW TDI, you are socially responsible and have done your part. I think by late summer oil price will be below $90/barrel. The Saudis cut back on production today and they don't do that unless there is too much oil out there. They are addicted to the money.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        The idea that oil is in a 'bubble' caused by speculation is entirely erroneous. Where there is speculation when the market raises the margins on the trades, ie you have to lay down more cash to cover your bets, if there is a speculative bubble the price drops as the longs can no longer afford to play, as happened in silver recently. A similar hike in margins on oil resulted in only a 2% fall in prices: http://seekingalpha.com/article/269131-a-tale-of-two-lies-oil-and-silver There is no bubble and oil prices are where they are due to supply and demand, with the latter always growing as they are building 13 million new cars in China alone this year, and the oil to cover this sort of increase is simply not there.
        Marcopolo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Damn, those Saudi's, everyone else is addicted to stuff that makes Charlie Sheen look rational, and along come the Saudi's to one-up everyone! John, many factors affect the price of oil. Commodity speculation is like icing on the top of a cake. When oil is volatile, investors and speculators will be active in the market, once the oil crises stabilises, the speculators move on to other commodities. What you call 'speculation' is really investments made by gigantic hedge /investment funds that need to make vast profits to fund most of the first world retirement , superannuation, and public debt. The price of oil will continue to rise with peaks and troughs. But the Peaks will be higher and the troughs shallower. As the age of oil comes to a close, the price of transport fuel will no longer be economic due to the more profitable demand for oil from rival uses of the commodity. This is the inevitable future of all finite resources. The faster we reduce transport energy fuel, with non fossil fuel technology, the healthier and safer our planet will become. Oil is an international commodity, totally beyond the ability for any government, even one as powerful as Uncle Sam, to control by micro-economic tax policies.
          EJ
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Marcopolo
          "rise in production costs must be due to other factors" You mean like the fact that we know have to go through a few miles of seawater even before the drill head hits something tangible?
          harlanx6
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Marcopolo
          Marco: Oil is a fairly stable commodity. You have to admit there is plenty of supply to meet demand. If the supply is sufficient to meet demand, the rise in production costs must be due to other factors. The production costs in dollars would rise even if supply and demand were stable because of the US fiscal policy. Us expenditures are 42 % higher than revenues. The government tells us inflation is in check and uses in house statistics to prove it, but they aren't shopping at the grocery! We all know it's a lie. They certainly think we are stupid, and they can make a good case for that. One problem democracies have is for it to work, it is the electorate's duty as citizens to be well informed, and we definitely have lost that battle.
      Car Guy
      • 3 Years Ago
      So what. And about 20% of Americans think Obama was born in Africa. I don't believe surveys these days. You can slant the question in anyway you want to get the desired answer.
      electronx16
      • 3 Years Ago
      Of course the average American could just trade in his average 25MPG light vehicle for one of the new crop of 40 MPG vehicles and it's like $2.50/gallon gas all over again, and for repentant SUV owners even bigger gains are possible. BTW: whatever happened to the stationwagon as a fuel efficient SUV/CUV/MPV alternative?
        harlanx6
        • 3 Years Ago
        @electronx16
        I like that logic and there is a lot of truth in it.
        throwback
        • 3 Years Ago
        @electronx16
        If your car is paid for, trading it in on a new car will cost you money, not save you money.
      Noz
      • 3 Years Ago
      So almost 4/10 people in this country think they can continue living the indulgent lifestyles they are doing today...WOW....and we wonder why this country is going down the tubes and garners no respect from others beyond that of having military threats shoved in their faces.
      Marcopolo
      • 3 Years Ago
      Um...That's presuming that Americans do drive normally.......(sorry)
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