Posts Tagged ‘gasoline prices’

RTA Expects to Gain Riders From Gas Price Surges

March 11, 2022

Sharply increasing gasoline prices are presenting opportunities and challenges for public transit agencies.

Although higher fuel costs may prompt higher ridership it also leads to higher costs for bus fuel.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority operating officer Floun’say Caver told WJW-TV that the agency expect spikes in ridership on buses and trains due to rising gasoline prices.

 “I think that we could start to see ourselves get back in the 20 to 25 percent increase,” Caver said.

That would go a long way toward helping RTA regain ridership lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Caver said RTA experienced a similar situation in 2008 during another round of gasoline price surges.

However, RTA also had to pay millions more than expected in fuel costs. RTA has since begun buying fuel in advance to avoid the shock of price fluctuations.

In the meantime, RTA is increasing its promotional efforts on social media to seek to draw new riders.

The public transit agency said it is prepared to add buses or trains to busy routes if needed to keep up with ridership increases.

The Double Edge Sword of Rising Gas Prices

August 25, 2017

Lower gasoline prices present a dilemma for public transportation agencies.

On the upside, that means lower operating expenses for their buses. On the downside, it means more people are likely to drive than take public transportation.

It is not just local public transit that is suffering. Amtrak and intercity bus services have seen their ridership tumble due to lower gas prices.

A DePaul University study released this week found that eight of the 50 most heavily-traveled routes between cities 120 to 400 miles apart in America have lost express bus or Amtrak service since 2014.

Nine metropolitan areas in the United States with populations above 700,000 have no Amtrak passenger rail service or express bus service at all.

The decline of ridership on Amtrak and bus services such as Megabus and BoltBus has declined since 2015 in rough tandem with a decline in U.S. gasoline prices, the DePaul study found.

It concluded that so long as gasoline remains cheap, public transportation is bound to suffer.

When gas prices rose past $4 per gallon a few years ago, many transportation companies added a fuel surcharge to their normal pricing to cover their increased costs.

Ridership of public transportation and public intercity transportation typically rises when gas prices increase.

But gasoline prices this week across the United States averaged $2.34 per gallon, the American Automobile Association reported.

The DePaul study said the low cost of gasoline made driving cars an inexpensive transportation option, which led to the loss of intercity bus service in particular.

Joseph Schwieterman, co-author of the study and director of the Chaddick Institute at DePaul said there is wide agreement that gasoline taxes eventually will have to go up to help fund aging road infrastructure.

Although more expensive gasoline could lead more people to consider taking the bus, he said it could be a “double whammy” for bus operators because ridership gains could be offset by higher fuel costs to operate their fleets.

The DePaul study found that travelers tend to favor airplanes for trips of more than 400 miles. They favor their own automobile for trips of less than 100 miles.

When Low Bus Fares Clash With Low Gasoline Prices, Place Your Money on Low Gas Winning

February 15, 2016

When it comes to riding the bus for a low fare versus driving your car when gasoline prices are low, the latter is going to win most of the time.

That was one of the takeaways from the recent news that Megabus has ended service between Cleveland and Columbus.

On TransportationNot only has Amtrak ridership suffered from falling gasoline prices over the past year, but so has a bus company that sells tickets for as low as $1.

Joseph Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University in Chicago who studies intercity bus transportation, told The Plain Dealer that the intercity bus industry is contracting after several years of rapid growth.

“Gas prices are raining on the parade of bus companies in a big way,” Schwieterman said. “It’s surprising how quickly people change their habits when fuel is cheap.”

It was also surprising that Megabus passengers tend generally to be more affluent, younger and more likely to own cars.

So when gas prices drop, they are inclined to drive rather than take public transportation.

That is not necessarily good news for advocates of public transportation, particularly those who favor free enterprise rather than government intervention to meet transportation needs.

Why? Because it means that if you need to take public transportation as opposed to want to take public transportation then your ability to travel hinges on the whims of the market.

And the market seeks to make money, not provide a social service or assure uninterrupted access to public transportation.

The decline of intercity rail passenger service in the 1960s received a lot of publicity and ultimately led to the creation of Amtrak.

The intercity bus industry experienced a similar decline, which also began in the 1960s, but accelerated in 1982 after the deregulation of the intercity bus industry.

In 1982, there were 11,820 places in America where you could board an intercity bus. By 2008 that had fallen to 2,423, a 20 percent decline.

A 2014 paper published by the AARP cited U.S. Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation figures showing that 8.4 million rural residents lost access to intercity bus service between 2005 and 2010.

Megabus has never been a viable public transportation option in rural and small town America. Since starting service in April 2006, Megabus has operated much like an airline.

You won’t find Megabus stopping in small towns or even small cities unless they happen to have a large state university.

That is why the only place that Megabus serves in largely rural West Virginia is Morgantown, the home of West Virginia University. In Ohio, Megabus serves Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

Megabus cited low ridership for ending its route linking Cleveland and Cincinnati.

But a Megabus spokesman told The Plain Dealer that the company had done well on the Cleveland-Columbus leg and might reinstate that service down the road.

In the meantime, Greyhound continues to serve the Cleveland-Columbus market, so those wishing or needing public transportation between the two cities still have it.

I am reminded of a report by the Interstate Commerce Commission of its investigation of plans by the Erie Lackawanna to discontinue a passenger train between Chicago and New York in the 1960s.

Although a number of people opposed the discontinuance, many of them had either never ridden the train or rode it infrequently.

That led the Commission to conclude that many who opposed ending the train wanted it as a standby service during, for example, inclement weather.

And for that they wanted the EL to continue losing money providing a service that few of them used.

It was true then and it remains true now. For all of the talk about the need for public transportation or even the desire for it, the private motor vehicle remains the first choice of most Americans so long as they can afford it.

It might seem that there are a lot of people wanting or willing to take public transportation between Cleveland and Columbus. There are, but so long as they see it as affordable most of them would rather drive than buy a low fare ticket on the bus.