As gas prices spike and as employment levels rise, more people are getting where they need to go aboard Metropolitan Transit System buses and trolleys. Since July 1, there have been more than 3.6 million trips in fiscal year 2012 than over a similar period in 2011.
Year-to-date ridership is up 6.4 percent for the entire system, with bus ridership up 7.1 percent (2.5 million more trips) and trolley ridership up 5.2 percent (1.2 million more trips). February ridership increased more than 7.5 percent over the previous February and set a record ridership for the month (the record would have been set even if February 29 was not counted in the total).
“We are on pace to approach our record-high annual ridership of more than 91 million trips that was set in our fiscal year 2008, which was the last time gas prices got to $4.50 per gallon,” said Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer of MTS. “At that time, unemployment was very low as well. If the price of gas and job creation keep going up, our ridership gains will grow.”
MTS is already adding buses to routes that are at capacity in order to carry more commuters. For example, buses have been added to the morning Premium Express routes on the I-15 to meet demand. Other routes are also experiencing very high demand.
“Monthly passes that provide access to our entire system can be cheaper than just one tank of gas,” Jablonski said. “Public transportation is a cost-effective alternative, especially when you consider all of the other costs associated with driving, including parking and wear and tear.”
The American Public Transportation Association calculates that the average two-person household that gives up one car in favor of riding public transportation can save more than $10,000 a year.