Regional and Modal Variability in Effects of Gasoline Prices on U.S. Transit Ridership

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - bus, technology - alternative fuels, ridership - drivers


gasoline prices, relationship, public transportation use, transit systems, bus patronage, ethanol


Previous research has shown a relationship between gasoline price and public transportation use. Although the magnitude, direction, and volatility of this relationship vary by mode, location, and system size, there can be no doubt that recent fuel price growth and fluctuation have affected most U.S. transit systems. The research presented here explores the relationship between transit ridership and fuel price, among other operational and external factors. This investigation found that after seasonal effects were removed from the ridership data series for 254 transit systems, the effect of gasoline price on bus patronage varies regionally, with the North Central and Midwest sections of the nation displaying trends that oppose conventional wisdom and differ from the rest of the country. Plausible reasons underlying these trends, including the regional effect of alternative fuels such as E85, are hypothesized and elaborated on by using federal data on ethanol availability and consumption.


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