April 24, 2006


Drivers switch to public transit (Barbara Hagenbaugh, 4/24/2006, USA TODAY)

•Washington, D.C. Thursday was the sixth-busiest day in history on Metrorail, the area's train system, while Tuesday was the ninth busiest. There were no special events in the area to explain the higher ridership. "We think gas prices had something to do with it," Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokeswoman Candace Smith says.

•Salt Lake City. Ridership is up 50% on the 19-mile, light-rail system in Salt Lake City from a year ago. The Utah Transit Authority has added 10 used rail cars it bought from San Jose, Calif., to meet demand. But in some cases, cars are becoming so packed that the doors are dragging on the platforms at stops because of the increased weight, spokesman Justin Jones says.

Riders responding to onboard polling increasingly are saying they are motivated to take public transportation because of higher gas prices, Jones says.

•Tulsa. Tulsa Transit's March ridership was the highest since August 2003. For the fiscal year, which began in July, trips on the bus system are up 28% from the prior year.

•San Francisco. After taking a "nosedive" in recent years, ridership on Bay Area Rapid Transit is up 4.1% this fiscal year, which began July 1, spokesman Linton Johnson says. He attributes the gain to heavier traffic and higher gas prices.

The increase in ridership, or number of trips, is similar to last year when gasoline prices hit record levels, William Millar, of the American Public Transportation Association, says. The number of trips nationwide was up 5% in August and September compared with the same months in 2004. "It looks like history is repeating itself," he says. "The spike in gas prices is causing many people to look for ways to beat the high cost, and trying transit is one of the things they are doing."

Always fun to listen to free market ideologues who insist that people will drive no matter what fuuel costs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 24, 2006 8:01 AM


Markets work by conveying price information regarding relative scarcity. You know that. Free market 'ideologues' dislike social engineering schemes put forth by utopian greenies who enjoy running experiments on their fellows. You're surprised by the uptick in mass transport usage with 3.00 a gallon gas or are you just concerned that it occurred with out your meddling?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 24, 2006 8:18 AM

Concerned that we aren't taking advantage of the obvious.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 8:20 AM

The rationale for meddling is rarely obvious to most fair-minded folks. The potential for unintended consequences of severing behavior from market prices should be obvious to everyone.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 24, 2006 8:53 AM

The rationale is multi-fold and manifest:

(1) Taxing consumption rather than income.

(2) Reducing reliance on an unstable fuel source

(3) Reducing the malevolent influence of oil on third world states

(4) Reducing the congestion and lost productivity of the current transport system

(5) Reducing auto emissions


Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 9:00 AM

Really, USA Today is doing quite a bit of a reach on this. The idea that "doors are dropping" from the weight of many light-rail passengers is silly. I've been on packed light-rail trains in Denver from various sports events, and the doors held up fine.

BTW, there has been no appreciable increase in commuters on my bus trips to work, and I work in metro Denver's most concentrated employment. Hint, OJ: It's not downtown anymore.

Posted by: Brad S at April 24, 2006 9:05 AM

We tax consumption rather than income?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 24, 2006 9:17 AM

Mr. Judd;

Your point (4) is silly and I would expect a significant increase in lost productivity with any substantial switch to mass transit. It would cost us about one hour lost per day to use mass transit. When you compute the vaue of that hour, using a car is cheap even at $3/gallon.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 24, 2006 9:22 AM


That's the model we're transitioning to. Taxing gas consumption more heavily is an easy start.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 9:23 AM

People will drive up to a certain level of tollerence, which is when the average commute/trip becomes so slow and so annoying, that they'll switch over to available mass transit to lighten the stress level (albeit there will always be a certain group of people who feel either a distaste for mingling with others at close quarters on a daily basis, or who just don't care about the added fuel/toll/parking costs that come with driving all the way into the city).

Of course, the development of highway has created the phenominon of "outer" downtowns in many big cities, located along city loops or at intersections of major highways 5-10 miles away from the outer downtown. To really get people out of their vehicle,s transit systems have to create connections between these outer areas, and not force all travelers into the original downtown before they can transfer to get to their final destination.

Posted by: John at April 24, 2006 9:24 AM


That's counterfactual. You make the mistake of extrapolating out from the self, a chronic libertarian error.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 9:24 AM


Like the transition from the Spanish-American War federal tax on telephones?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 24, 2006 9:29 AM


We don't even need to build mass transit options to these outer employment centers. In my state of Colorado, it is illegal to charge for carpooling. This law was heavily lobbied into passage by...hold on here...metro Denver's transit authority! Seems the transit authority doesn't like competition for the commuter.

Imagine having to work at Denver Intl Airport, which is 15-20 miles from most lower-income people's residences and paying $80/month for a bus pass while working

Posted by: Brad S at April 24, 2006 9:35 AM


Brad just described a beautiful example of government mismanagement as a consequence of conflicting interests. The state has it's own and when they conflict with the general interest the state wins. Regulating car-pooling! Schmuks!

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 24, 2006 10:26 AM


Precisely. You can't micromanage such things effectively, which is the mistake the Left makes. Rather just raise the cost of gasoline and the market will make the necesary adjustments.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 10:55 AM


Sure, make car pool lanes free and hike tolls for fewer occupants.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 11:05 AM


Obviously the modern telephone doppleganger should be taxed.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 11:06 AM


What about the state's perceived self-interest? They protect their turf. No surprises there. Social engineering schemes supported through a consumption tax allow one to control things to a degree through private decisions to consume or not. Without amending the constitution to rescind the tax on 'income' we will have both consumption and the other while the vote buying and social engineering schemes will reach nightmarish proportions.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 24, 2006 11:13 AM


Obviously we need a constitutional amendment to establish one tax regime and make it difficult for Congress to tamper with. That would be the single most important CFR in our history.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 11:18 AM

Commuters will soon tire of the inconvenience of mass transit and return to the comfort of their cars accepting the higher gas prices as just another fact of life.

Posted by: erp at April 24, 2006 11:43 AM


Which gives us leeway to keep hiking them until we're getting genuine income tax relief.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 11:48 AM


Higher gas taxes are a subsidy for the speculator. Just try to argue for them when the speculator craps out.

Posted by: Brad S at April 24, 2006 2:35 PM

oj. As long as you understand the danger of many people pushed beyond endurance who are driving thousands of pounds of heavy metal and know where you live.

Being serious for a moment, this afternoon, my accountant husband for the first time in his life announced that we would have to curtail our driving as a half tank of gas cost $33. Of course, he knows I have no intention of curtailing my driving, but he has hopes I'll feel guilty about it. I won't.

Posted by: erp at April 24, 2006 4:08 PM

Yes, you will.

Posted by: oj at April 24, 2006 4:11 PM

Trust me. I won't.

Posted by: erp at April 24, 2006 5:45 PM