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Gas Prices Surge, Transit Ridership Jumps, VMT Drops

<p>As gas prices inch beyond $4 a gallon, transit trips increase by 3.3% for the first quarter of the year and vehicle miles traveled drop 4.3% in March.</p>
June 3, 2008, 2pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Americans took 2.6 billion trips on all modes of public transportation, including subways and buses, in the first three months of 2008, a 3.3 percent increase, or almost 85 million more trips than in the same period last year, according to a report released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

"There's no doubt that the high gas prices are motivating people to change their travel behavior," says William Millar, APTA president.

The ridership increase is noteworthy because it occurred when the economy was declining, said APTA, a transportation industry group. Sixty percent of transit trips are work-related, so for ridership to jump when the economy is flat or on the decline signals an increase in demand that is likely to continue if gas prices remain high, said Rob Padgette, APTA's director of policy, development and research. "It is a significant number," he said.

Even more noteworthy, Padgette said, is that ridership at many transit agencies increased despite higher fares...

That's a stunning thing and says to us that demand is there even if we raise fares," Padgette said, referring to the national statistics. "We haven't had this situation before where the ground is shifting underneath us. Fuel prices are at a totally different level than ever before, and we are facing surging demand."

"The U.S. Transportation Department reported last month that in March, Americans drove 11 billion fewer miles than in March 2007, a decline of 4.3 percent and the first time since 1979 that traffic has dropped from one March to the next."

"Of all modes, bus transit showed the lowest ridership increase - 2 percent nationwide."

While ridership jumps, some transit agencies and state budgets have reduced transit funding. In California, Gov. Schwarzenegger has shifted $1.4 billion from the Public Transportation Account to the general fund to help balance a state budget deficit that exceeds $17 billion. [See related link].

Thanks to ABAG-MTC Library

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Published on Tuesday, June 3, 2008 in The Washington Post
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