As the gas soars, others take the bus

RACINE – Recent record high gas prices are driving a double-digit increase in ridership for Racine Transit (RYDE Racine).

Racine Transit manager Trevor Jung said Wednesday the system recorded 42,212 individual rides in May, a 14% increase from May 2021. In the first half of June, RYDE Racine made 19 616 individual journeys, up 11% compared to the same period last year.

“It’s most definitely related to gasoline prices,” he said. “People have contacted to inquire about the system in general and specific routes.”

On Monday, AAA reported that the nation’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline hit $5.01 — an all-time high since the association began collecting price data in 2000.

The average gasoline price in Wisconsin was $4.91/gallon, AAA reported Wednesday, up from $2.91/gallon this time last year. Wednesday’s average price in Racine County was $5.16.

The price of regular unleaded gasoline was $5.19 on June 14, 2022 in Racine, Wisconsin – Credit: Paul Holly

Will drivers be deterred?

Travel analysts — and transit officials like Jung — have watched whether record prices at the pumps could reduce overall driving and encourage some drivers to consider transit options.

“Based on the demand we’re seeing, it appears the high prices haven’t really deterred drivers,” AAA spokesman Andrew Gross said in a statement. “If prices stay at $5 or above, we might see people start to change their daily driving habits or their lifestyle, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Citing data from the Energy Information Administration, AAA noted that U.S. gasoline inventories fell last week as demand for gasoline increased as drivers continued to fill up for the driving season. summer.

Compare costs

RYDE Racine’s nine fixed bus routes cover the town of Racine and adjacent communities, including Mount Pleasant, Caledonia and Sturtevant.

A bus ride is considerably cheaper than a gallon of gasoline today. A single fare (anyone aged 6 and over) is $2. Seniors, people with disabilities, and Medicare beneficiaries can ride for $1. Multi-ride passes start at $4.

The Racine Transit system carried 1,041,115 riders in 2019, but ridership dipped to 681,778 in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses and schools to close. Ridership remained stable last year.

Previous gasoline price spikes

Public transit systems, including that of the town of Racine, benefited from the world oil price spikes of the 1970s. These situations caused temporary gasoline shortages and significantly higher prices.

Ridership of the Racine public transit system grew from approximately 829,000 users in 1975 to over 3 million users in 1980.

National Gasoline Price Year-by-Year Comparison – Source: AAA

“It was interesting,” Jung said. “A crisis can mean a drop in traffic and another, an increase.”

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