Gas prices affect public transportation

April 22, 2008 10:42:09 AM PDT
Are these rising gas prices causing people to get out of their cars and onto public transportation? In checking with the Bay Area's major transportation agencies, we found there's been an uptick in ridership. Nonetheless, it'll take more than $4 a gallon to get people out of their cars.

"How much more expensive does gas have to get for you to ride public transportation?" asked ABC7's Tomas Roman.

"Probably, about 15 more cents," said Elisher Muhammed, a commuter.

Regular fuel at some Bay Area gas stations has already hit and passed the $4 a gallon mark. For the self employed, like Dorothy, there is no way out.

"I have no choice. Today, this is costing me $72.66. I do this a couple of times a week," said Dorothy, a commuter.

Dorothy says since she has to visit the disabled for her business so public transportation doesn't serve her very well. Latanya Beamon commutes from Richmond to San Rafael.

"When public transportation goes where I need to go, I'd be happy to get out of [my car]," said Beamon, a commuter.

Their complaints are familiar. Many commuters say they need their cars for business or that public transportation isn't fast or convenient enough to use. However, there are signs that some drivers are abandoning their cars for the rails and busses as gas prices rise.

"Ridership is up because getting around is a lot more expensive to drive and it's getting more difficult to sit in traffic burning up that expensive gas, paying those high bridge tolls and the expensive cost to park. That's why it's going up," said BART Spokesman Linton Johnson.

In San Francisco the average cost of a gallon of gas was $3.47 in January. It now sits at about $4. That's a 17 percent increase. During that same time VTA ridership has increased 10 percent in the last four months. BART has seen a 4.5 percent rise in riders. Caltrain also reports more passengers, about 10 percent over this time last year.

"We'd love to say gas prices are the only reason, but it's not," said Johnson.

Johnson says few drivers are willing to give up the convenience of their cars over public transportation. There is a limit to the cost of that convenience, but so far we haven't reached it.


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