Posted by: Peter Black | July 17, 2008

Gas Prices Up = 3 out of 4 Cities in the US Have Seen Increases in Public Transit

Well it looks like the President is right: people have figured out whether or not to drive more or less.

It looks like less.

Total Vehicle Miles Traveled, is down from last year and 2006. Gas purchases are down, and transit ridership is up, as our Living Cities Director Andy Darrell reported in a blog post earlier this month.

I wondered if this was a national phenomena or regional. Were there any spatial patterns?

Click on the map below to see an interactive map that shows the percent change in ridership for the time period of January to May of 2007 and the same stretch this year at public transit agencies all over the country.

You can scroll over the map to see the data for individual transit districts. Zoom in by creating a box on the map. Zoom back out by clicking the zoom out button that pops up.

The data for this comes the National Transit Database

Some interesting results are out there…and some need some explanations. For example, the only top 10 transit city (in terms of total number of trips) to see a decrease from last year was LA. Why? It turns out that the LA transit system saw a system wide fare increase a year ago.

Fully 75% of cities across the country saw gains in their transit ridership.

Here are the top ten cities in terms of transit growth (as a percentage over last year).
1 Jonesboro, AR: 101%
2 Sherman, TX: 90%
3 Columbia, MO: 72%
4 Lewiston, ME: 70%
5 Terre Haute, IN 65%
6 Gulfport-Biloxi, MS 50%
7 Leesburg-Eustis, FL 44%
8 Muskegon, MI: 43%
9 Lynchburg, VA: 42%
10 St. Augustine, FL: 41%

Here are the ten cities that saw their ridership drop the most.
1 McAllen, TX: -83%
2 Myrtle Beach, SC: -56%
3 York, PA: -42%
4 Turlock, CA: -35%
5 Dothan, AL: -32%
6 Youngstown, OH/PA: -28%
7 Springfield, MO: -26%
8 Monroe, LA: -20%
9 South Bend, IN: -20%
10 Florence, SC: -19%

Check out the oil price widget below:

What’s going on in your town? Comment and let us know!

Happy Commuting!



  1. It would be really interesting to know if there has been a net carbon emission reduction due to raising petrol prices and increased ridership.

    Peter Black: That’s a great question PBGF. One would have to assume with more Americans taking transit these days that overall GHG emissions would go down. But that depends upon a lot of things like the amount of vehicle miles traveled going down at the same time…which it appears to be. The VULCAN project has the most up to date US emissions data. Maybe we’ll see a drop in a few months once the data catches up?

  2. We live in the small city of Lafayette, CA (28,000). I see buses coming and going from BART, but they do not appear to be very full. The parking lots for BART are very full, however. But then, they always have been.
    Most people seem to continue driving their big SUV’s all by themselves. Or so it seems.
    I have no idea if driving has decreased here. Probably not, as the town almost requires a car to go anywhere unless one lives in the shopping disctrict.
    Ahhh, suburbia!!

  3. I’m surprised that DC ridership is only up 3%…the system’s good enough and traffic’s bad enough that I figured more people would switch!

    I wonder if the places that saw some of the bigger increases added more capacity to their systems.

    Peter Black: in a system as large as DC’s, 3% is actually a large number of people making the switch. Sure there could be more, but we should expect more people to drive in affluent areas.

  4. Transit villages on rise
    MediaNews editorial
    Article Launched: 07/17/2008 11:21:53 PM PDT

    THE $366 MILLION TRANSIT village at the Pleasant Hill BART station is the right project, in the right location at the right time. Such a positive view was not always the case.

    When a transit village was first proposed 28 years ago, there were few civic leaders who thought it was a good idea. Suburban sprawl was advancing as families moved into homes farther and farther from job centers.

    Gasoline prices hovered around $1 a gallon and a large suburban home in the far eastern stretches of the Bay Area was affordable for many buyers in the 1980s and 1990s.

    But things have changed dramatically in the past few years. Home prices skyrocketed, with easy short-term financing leading to a flood of foreclosures. Gas prices are well above $4 a gallon and mortgage money is more difficult to obtain.

    As a result, the rental market is looking good, especially in areas closer to jobs and public transportation. That’s why the Contra Costa Centre Transit Village at the Pleasant Hill BART station has become so attractive.

    The first phase of the project, a 1,547-space parking garage, opened last month. On Thursday, ground was broken on the second phase of the project.

    Construction is under way on 422 upscale apartments and 35,590 square feet of retail space, with a completion date in late 2010. Work on the 100 condominiums in phase two will be delayed for two years because of the housing slump.

    third phase of the transit village will include 270,000 square feet of office space and a 19,400-square-foot conference center.

    The combination of residential, retail and office space near mass transit has a bright future as oil prices rise and people make greater efforts to conserve energy by driving less.

    If more people are able to live, work and shop in one location as well as have easy access to mass transportation, transit villages are likely to sprout up in many other locations.

    Transit villages already have been established successfully at the Richmond, El Cerrito Del Norte and Fruitvale BART stations.

    Pittsburg is paving the way for a similar village of retail, office and residential development at what will become an e-BART station near the intersection of Highway 4 and Railroad Avenue.

    Walnut Creek also is considering such a development, and Dublin plans to build a retail hotel complex near its station.

    Transit villages not only provide a more energy-efficient and convenient lifestyle, they can give downtown areas new economic and cultural vitality, and help compensate for the sharp downturn in single-family home construction.

  5. I’ve been working on smart growth as part of my job since 1999
    (mostly concentrated on the NYC metro area…NJ highlands and NY highlands). We, as a society, are considering smart growth much more seriously than we had in the past, and EDF is on the case:

    -Michael Replogle, our crack transportation staffer is quoted in a blog post in yesterday’s Treehugger:

    -Jim Tripp contines his work on smart growth in the NY Metro:

    -Jerilyn Lopez Mendoza is on the LA Harbor Commission and has been fighting for smart growth and cleaner air in LA for a long time:

    -Andy Darrell is the head of our Living Cities program and has been working on some very progressive and innovative programs like congestion pricing in New York City:

    From NYC Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco regarding Andy’s appointment to the congestion pricing commission:

    “Andy Darrell’s track record on environmental and health-related issues is second to none,” said Assembly Republican Leader Jim Tedisco. “His input and ideas will be invaluable as we look for answers to New York City’s traffic congestion problems. I am honored to appoint him to this crucial commission.”

    -Kathryn Phillips,
    ,has been working on smart growth issues in California’s Central Valley.

  6. I am duly impressed with EDF’s work and apparently the work of Contra Costa County!

  7. […] Gas Tax Holiday Goes Nowhere in Congress (AP)Transit Ridership Up in 75 Percent of U.S. Cities (Climate Atlas)Hit-and-Run Driver Leaves Brooklyn Girl in Coma, Curses at Her Before Speeding Away (News)Street […]

  8. This is outstanding work, and I will link it in my own blog on these subjects. Say hi to Michael for me!

    Kaid Benfield
    Director, Smart Growth Program

  9. […] Climate Atlas – 3 out of 4 Cities in the US Have Seen Increases in Public Transit Gas purchases are down, and transit ridership is up. A map to prove it. […]

  10. […] But in many other cities across the country, service cuts due to budget shortfalls are unavoidable. Ironically, communities are cutting services just when use of public transit is at a 50-year high due to skyrocketing gasoline prices (see map). […]

  11. In a large metropolitan area like Miami-Dade, you would think that our public transportation would comply with the needs of its people….IT DOES NOT. To own a vehicle in Miami-Dade is very costly, not only because of the fuel prices but the insurance is sky-high. My son had to live on campus throughout college even though his home is in Miami because neither he nor I could afford a vehicle and public transportation was not adequate for him to commute from home and back. This is ludicrous! The only measures seem to be for the tourist areas, not for residential areas where it is needed most.

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