A volatile relationship: The effect of changing gasoline prices on public support for mass transit

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - mass transit, mode - car, economics - benefits, economics - pricing, economics - willingness to pay, ridership - attitudes


Gasoline prices, Price volatility, Mass transportation, Public opinion


The determinants of public opinion toward public transit is a little-researched topic, though a better understanding of what makes consumers willing to support transit may reveal which attributes of transit consumers value most. One determinant of people’s willingness to support investments in mass transit may be the price of fuel for transit’s principal competition, the private automobile. In this paper, I examine the relationship between the cost of gasoline and stated willingness to invest public money in mass transit improvements. I hypothesize that fuel price volatility—in addition to price itself—is a determinant of support for more mass transit funding, controlling for other factors. As the price of gasoline becomes more uncertain, the public should, all else equal, support investment in mass transportation, a form of transportation that may provide some measure of protection from the price of fuel. Results suggest a strong effect of price volatility on consumers’ willingness to support transit expenditures.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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