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Gas Prices Driving People To Transit As Service Cuts Reduce Choices

Skyrocketing gas prices are expected to drive ever more people to seek alternatives to driving personal automobiles, but those people who want to hop on a bus are likely to find fewer options and a more limited schedule than the last time they tried transit, according to two recently released studies.

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the arrival of $5-a-gallon gasoline could spur up to 1.5 billion additional passenger trips on U.S. public transportation systems.

But due to shortages in state and local revenues, U.S. public transit systems are carrying out some of the steepest fare increases and deepest service cuts in recent history, according to the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).

Since the beginning of 2009, according to the union, approximately 85 percent of public transit systems have raised fares or cut service, and thousands of workers in the transit industry – a significant percentage of a “green” workforce – have been laid off. Fifty-six percent of transit systems have cut rush hour service, 62 percent have slashed off-peak service, and 40 percent report reductions in geographic coverage.

APTA is calling on Congress to address this impending demand by providing a greater long-term investment in public transportation.

"The analysis reveals if regular gas prices reach $4 a gallon across the nation, as many experts have forecasted, an additional 670 million passenger trips could be expected, resulting in more than 10.8 billion trips per year," APTA announced. "If pump prices jump to $5 a gallon, the report predicts an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips can be expected, resulting in more than 11.6 billion trips per year. And if prices were to soar to $6 a gallon, expectations go as high as an additional 2.7 billion passenger trips, resulting in more than 12.9 billion trips per year."