Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Gasoline Conundrum

For every one of these stories...

When does the price of gasoline get so painful that drivers park their cars and look for the nearest bus stop or rail station? Many in North Texas say that time has arrived. And a new study of driver attitudes – plus increasingly crowded buses, trains and station parking lots – suggests they may be right.

There is one of these...
High gas prices are pushing more people onto buses and subways, straining transit agencies trying to meet the demand.

Like other consumers, the agencies are also paying more for fuel — 44% more this year than last, according to a survey of 96 transit agencies to be released Friday by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).That double hit means bus and train operators are raising fares, cutting services and delaying improvements. Almost half of bus operators and more than two-thirds of rail operators have increased fares. About a fifth are cutting service.

These aren't choices we should have to make and its unfortunate that our the majority of our transportation system is tied up in oil. It'll be interesting to see how resources shift as prices go up. Will fund transit with higher fares as some have already started to or will it come out of a budget for new roads. The paradigms are shifting, but perhaps not that much.

For the future, when the grid starts to get changed into alternative energy like solar, part of the capital program for smaller cities might include provisions for electrification of heavier ridership bus lines. Now that oil and diesel prices are so high, it's possible to pay off some of the capital cost over time of this incremental improvement. Since this would include some smaller cities, it would be a great opportunity to include more areas into capital funding programs. It certainly would make more lawmakers happy that they are serving their constituents and make available funding from a carbon economy.

4 comments:

j said...

CATS is definatly seeing the crunch. They just sent out a press release saying that ridership was up 28.5% for April. Fares will also be going up .20 to 1.50 in October pending public hearings. Keith Parker recently commented on the cost efficiency of the light rail- the cost per passenger is 4.50 (operations and construction costs) the cost for a bus passenger trip is 4.30 (not counting the cost of the bus). He went on to say that the efficency of electric transit would hopefully speed the process of getting the central corridor streetcar up and running since it would replace two of the busiest bus routes. I also inferred from that comment that he is favoring light rail over brt on the Independece (southeast) corridor becasue of operations and fuel costs.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think that now folks will be more willing to make the investment in rail and electric transit because of gas prices. I don't think they'll ever be low enough again to justify BRT. Hopefully it's just a phase and with things the way they are now people will see through the bs.

CATS is moving in the right direction

arcady said...

Higher gas prices do mean that electric transit is more likely to be built, at least if the planners assume the high prices will continue. Electric does not imply rail, however. I suspect BRT will live on in the form of trolleybuses, or dual-mode buses like in Seattle and Boston. I suspect that another big change that is coming is more electrified commuter rail. After Caltrain electrifies their line, and Denver builds one of theirs electric from the start, I can see other operators deciding to switch to electric too.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think you're right Arcady. I've been thinking that many smaller cities are going to be able to electrify their heaviest bus routes if programs are created to allow them to do it. If prices keep rising, it should pay for itself in the long run. After Katrina, Skoda offered to electrify New Orleans bus system. I'm not sure what came of it but it looks like a missed opportunity now.