Impact of Gasoline Prices on Transit Ridership in Washington State

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - mass transit, ridership - demand, ridership - drivers, ridership - growth


high gasoline prices, changes in travel behaviour, record ridership


Gasoline prices in the United States have been extremely volatile in recent years and rose to record high levels during the summer of 2008. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. gasoline price for the year 2008 was $3.26 a gallon, which was the second highest yearly average in history when adjusted for inflation. Transportation agencies reported changes in travel behavior as a result of the price spike, with transit systems experiencing record ridership and state departments of transportation reporting reductions in traffic volumes. This study examined the impact of changing gasoline prices on transit ridership in Washington State by measuring the price elasticity of demand of ridership with respect to gasoline price. Ordinary least-squares regression was used to model transit ridership for transit agencies in 11 counties in Washington State during 2004 to 2008. The price of gasoline had a statistically significant effect on transit ridership for seven systems studied, with elasticities ranging from 0.09 to 0.47. A panel data model was estimated with data from all 11 agencies to measure the overall impact of gasoline prices on transit ridership in the state. The elasticity from the panel data model was 0.17. Results indicated that transit ridership increased as gasoline prices increased during the study period. The findings were consistent with those from previous studies on the topic.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.