Study: Volatile gas prices point to rise in public transit use
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and Building America’s Future (BAF) today released a study predicting that record numbers of Americans will turn to public transportation as a cost-cutting measure in the face of volatile gas prices. To meet this impending surge in demand, APTA and BAF are calling on Congress to pass a multi-year, fully funded surface transportation bill as the Senate and House begin Conference Committee negotiations.
The analysis used historical trends and independent research data to make predictions on the impact gas prices would have on public transit ridership across the nation. It showed that on average, nationwide public transportation systems will add nearly 200 million new trips this year even as gas prices fluctuate by as much as 50 cents per gallon.
For example, as gas prices approached an average of $4 a gallon nationally this year, the analysis predicted an additional 290 million passenger trips could be expected on average for the year, resulting in more than 10.7 billion trips per year. Even as gas prices drop to $3.75, the analysis predicted there would still be an additional 240 million passenger trips because of the volatile up and down nature of fuel prices. These behaviors show that Americans are looking for a long-term, sustainable alternative to driving.
APTA and BAF noted that commuters are initially drawn to public transportation because of gas price spikes but remained public transit users even when gas prices drop because of the numerous benefits of public transportation. The groups said that the nation’s public transportation infrastructure is not prepared to handle the long-term unpredictable nature of gas prices.
“The volatility of gas prices continue to highlight the vital need for our nation’s leaders to provide long-term solutions to the increasing demand for public transportation,” said APTA President Michael Melaniphy. “Nearly all experts agree that the swings in gas prices will continue for the foreseeable future. As millions of Americans are expected to turn to public transportation for a way to save money, we must address the ongoing capacity issues faced by many systems around the country. Congress must provide stable investments to allow public transit systems of all sizes from coast to coast to meet demand.”
“We know these up and down spikes in gas prices will bring more riders,” said Curtis Stitt, president and CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority. “We must invest now or our system will not be able to accommodate this influx of new public transit riders looking for alternatives to driving.”
The projected estimates use the 2011 APTA Public Transportation Ridership Report as a baseline. To show ridership growth, this elasticity projection is compared to a given increase above the average price for regular gasoline as reported in the last 2011 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.