Study: Public transit riders save $9K on gas
But latest increase in Metrorail ridership likely due to festival, weather
Metro has seen a spike in ridership as gasoline prices rise, but many of the riders may be searching for pink blossoms instead of a bit more green in their wallets.
"What is having an impact is the picture-perfect weather. I don't remember ever seeing so many tourists in Washington as we have had in the past few days," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson.
Metrorail experienced its second-busiest day in the system's 34-year history Friday, with 891,240 trips recorded, but that was probably due to the spectacular weather bringing in tourists for the Cherry Blossom Festival, as well as sporting events involving the Washington Wizards professional basketball team, the Nationals baseball team and D.C. United soccer, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said.
A new study showed public transit riders in the Washington, D.C., area save $9,087 annually compared with motorists because of high gas prices.
The study, released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association, calculated the savings based on current gasoline and parking prices in the Washington, D.C., region.
With analysts predicting gas prices will top $3 per gallon by early summer, more motorists are expected to find alternative ways to work, Anderson said. Past gas spikes led to record monthly ridership levels for Metrobus and Metrorail, he noted.
But it is too soon to know whether the recent rise in gas prices will impact monthly ridership for the Metro system, Taubenkibel said.
The busiest day in the system's history was Jan. 20, 2009, President Barack Obama's Inauguration Day, when 1.12 million trips were taken on the Metrorail system.
The third-busiest day in the system's history occurred April 1, in part due to the cherry blossoms, Taubenkibel said. "So the system is extremely busy right now."
It is hard to know how much ridership is increasing due to more people taking public transit because of high gas prices, Taubenkibel said.
But increased ridership does not necessarily solve Metro's looming budget problems.
"It's a trade-off," Taubenkibel said. "The high ridership does bring in more revenue, but of course it does increase operating expenses."