High Cost Of Filling Up Impacting Mass Transit

Sunday, June 18th 2006, 12:34 pm
By: News On 6

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ Rising gas prices are causing a surge in bus riders in cities across the nation, including at least one in Oklahoma.

Transportation officials say that besides fuel costs, expanded hours and routes, fleet upgrades and jobs created by improving local economies also have helped fill once-empty seats.

Still, they say it's likely no coincidence that ridership jumped last fall after Gulf Coast hurricanes tightened gasoline supplies and again as prices soared about 60 cents a gallon since March and stayed there.

Bill Cartwright is the general manager of the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority and says high-tech and other well-paid workers are already riding his buses in the middle of Oklahoma's oil country.

Cartwright says that ridership is up 28 percent on regular routes through May, while a park-and-ride service for commuters has surged 50 percent.

He says that once people take the first ride, they realize that public transit in their city is better than they might have thought.

Nationally, bus ridership rose less than half a percent last year, though some transit systems posted bigger gains, including a 14.5 percent increase in Minneapolis and a 7.4 percent increase in Dallas.