Fuel Prices Expected to Increase Transit Ridership, But School Bus Ridership is Hurting


Here’s an interesting study released recently by the American Public Transit Association on the effect rising fuel prices could have on federally-funded transit ridership.

APTA said last week that an additional 670 million rides could result if nationwide gas prices average $4 per gallon, which the organization representing more than 1,500 public and private transportation providers says could lead people to leave their car keys on the kitchen table in favor of paid rides on transit buses and metro trains. And APTA said annual rides could increase by a whopping 1.5 billion if gas hits $5 per gallon.

Using APTA’s most recent numbers, that means there were about 9.3 billion passenger trips taken via transit over the past year. A 2007 study by APTA found that, on average, 10.6 to 10.7 percent of those trips are taken by school students. But those studentscan range in age from elementary or middle school all the way to college. And the latter, especially in today’s economic environment, could be comprised of students in the their late teens to senior citizens.

Meanwhile, the school bus industry has long touted a figure of approximately 10 billion student rides a year, when factoring in some 480,000 buses currently on the road each day transporting about 48 million students one way and an additional 10-percent mark up for athletic, activity and other trips made on the school bus.

APTA says that many transit systems across the country are seeing double-digit increases in riders since February, when fuel price started to become a major concern as unrest in the Middle East and Africa took hold. But, at the same time, school bus ridership is decreasing. A recent STN fuel survey found that 22 percent of the 221 who responded said they are already reducing service as a result of skyrocketing fuel prices.