Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mass Transit Ridership Soaring

From the New York Times

Some cities with long-established public transit systems, like New York and Boston, have seen increases in ridership of 5 percent or more so far this year. But the biggest surges — of 10 to 15 percent or more over last year — are occurring in many metropolitan areas in the South and West where the driving culture is strongest and bus and rail lines are more limited...the increase in transit use coincides with other signs that American motorists are beginning to change their driving habits, including buying smaller vehicles. The Energy Department recently predicted that Americans would consume slightly less gasoline this year than last — for the first yearly decline since 1991.

Should make a good bit sense. Eventually, the gasoline just gets so damn expensive that it is cheaper to use mass transportation instead. I can't say I have seen a big impact in Chicago: Don't keep a running list of the number of people.

Personally, I love mass transit: it relieves me of stressful driving. Standing still on a highway for an hour is not my idea of a good time. And I can easily chat with my friends on the Metra trains, or read, or do homework. That's freedom that you can't get in an automobile.

Not everything is sunshine and flowers, though:
But meeting the greater demand for mass transit is proving difficult. The cost of fuel and power for public transportation is about three times that of four years ago, and the slowing economy means local sales tax receipts are down, so there is less money available for transit services. Higher steel prices are making planned expansions more expensive.

Typically, mass transit systems rely on fares to cover about a third of their costs, so they depend on sales taxes and other government funding. Few states use gas tax revenue for mass transit.

See: Chicago's public transit crisis, resulting in large service cuts. Eeeeep. Ain't no such thing as a free ride.

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