NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Commuters Switching To Trains As Gas Prices Rise

March 28, 2000

Regional rail systems report that motorists are abandoning their cars and commuting to work on trains because of the high price of gasoline. Of course, of the hundreds of millions of passenger trips taken daily in the U.S., only a minuscule number are taken by rail. For example,

  • In Los Angeles, Metrolink reported patronage up 13 percent during the first 20 days of March -- to 31,137 passengers daily.
  • Metro-North Railroad, which serves commuters in Manhattan, New York and Connecticut experienced a 5.6 percent jump in customers -- to 110,000 a day.
  • And for the week ending March 17, northern California's Altamont Commuter Express carried 21 percent more workers than it did two weeks earlier -- a total of 6,100 riders.

The rail systems' new-found popularity may be short-lived, however: when gasoline prices eventually drop, L.A.'s Metrolink expects 60 percent of the new riders to return to their automobiles.

Source: Martin Kasindorf and Dina Temple-Raston, "Fuel Costs Push Riders to the Rails," and Martin Kasindorf, "L.A. Commuters Exit Freeways," both USA Today, March 28, 2000.

 

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