It wasn't much of a surprise to hear that mass transit ridership was up when gas was selling for $4 a gallon. Now that pump prices are less than half of that, it turns out that ridership is still up.
The 6.5 percent jump in transit ridership over the same period last year marks the largest quarterly increase in public transportation ridership in 25 years, according to a survey to be released today by the American Public Transportation Association.
Ridership growth began hitting record levels last year and continued through the first and second quarters of this year, spurred in large part by gasoline prices that topped $4 a gallon in July, the industry group said. But the third-quarter increase is notable, it said, because gas prices began falling and unemployment rose, trends that tend to drive ridership down.
Instead, ridership has gone up across the board nationwide. More than 2.8 billion trips were taken from July through September, rising 8.5 percent on light rail (streetcars), 7.2 percent on buses, 6.3 percent on commuter rail and 5.2 percent on subways.
Americans drove 4.4 percent less, or almost 11 billion fewer miles, in September compared with September 2007, the 11th straight month of declining driving, according to the Federal Highway Administration. In early July, the national average price for a gallon of gas was $4.11, but it fell steadily through the quarter, dropping to $3.63 at the end of September.
Even though pump prices continue to plummet, transit officials said riders are sticking to buses and trains. Preliminary data for October show the upward trend continuing. In Los Angeles, rail ridership jumped nearly 17 percent in October compared with the same period last year. Loudoun County's commuter bus ridership rose 25 percent in October over the previous year and more than 25 percent for the first 13 days of November from last year. The national average price for a gallon of gas was $1.73 yesterday.
For what's it's worth, third-quarter ridership for Houston's Metro was down for both buses and light rail (both PDF). That decline was almost entirely due to a steep drop in ridership for the month of September. I'll give you three guesses as to what might have caused that. There was a small drop in August for each as well, for which the cause is somewhat less clear, but if you assign 2007's number for this September, then the overall ridership for the year is up a bit. We'll see what happens in the fourth quarter. Link via Atrios.Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 10, 2008 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles