Monday, December 5, 2011

Transit and gas prices

I have drifted away from posting info about national or general news unless I feel there is a lot of relevancy locally. This would be one of them, if only because I did similar research in graduate school on the subject. The basic gist is that the researcher took data from bus and rail systems around the country and found that bus ridership increased up to four percent and rail up to eight percent for every ten percent increase in gas prices.

My report was a bit different in that I used only the rail system in Dallas and measured ridership against other factors like fare increases, rail expansion and economic recessions as well as gas prices and found only gas prices had any significant effect on ridership one way or another.

I don't think the concept is that advanced. Prices go up, people shift to another product that is cheaper, simple economics. The trouble is that transportation is not subject to pure economic forces. Human behavior is a big factor, particularly when talking congestion. When you consider that some economists peg the U.S. government subsidy for gasoline over $10 a gallon, it certainly is time to reconsider the current model.


Ken Duble said...

I see no recent support for this relationship in Dallas.

Locally, the 2007 run up in fuel prices resulted in an increase in DART ridership. In a similar run up in 2011, however, there was no measurable increase at all.

Despite the higher prices, the only increase in transit use here resulted from Green line extensions to Carrollton and Pleasant Grove. Factor out the new service, and DART's year-to-year figures were actually down.

This phenomenon has caused DART a great deal of consternation. Dallas Morning News Transportation writer Roger Jones reported on this quite a bit on the newspaper's transportation blog

Branden said...

That was 2010. Daily ridership is already on the rise. In my research, there was a relationship between economic recession and a decrease in ridership, though the variable was not statistically significant.

I also wonder how much downtown occupancy rates play in DART's ridership levels, since it is such a downtown focused system. When the ridership was highest, the vacancy rate was one of the lowest downtown had seen in two decades.