Gas Prices Send Central Texans to the Bus

Capital Metro awash in new riders

Gas Prices Send Central Texans to the Bus
photo by John Anderson

It looks like Capital Metro’s “Dump the Pump” campaign is now bearing fruit as Austinites seek relief from high gas prices. The transit agency reported today that, comparing this June to numbers from a year ago, ridership on its express routes increased 55%, riders made 9,300 more trips per day on local fixed routes, city of Austin employees’ ridership went up 24%, and UT students and faculty ridership went up 18%. Cap Metro says it has purchased another 45-foot bus to add to its express routes, and is looking to buy more buses for routes that are currently at or near capacity.

“These are challenging economic times for the Austin community, and Capital Metro is poised and prepared to assist, by offering extremely affordable transportation options,” said Capital Metro President and CEO Fred Gilliam in a press release. “With 134 bus routes and on-time arrivals at 90 percent, Capital Metro is also convenient and worry-free.”

But could increased ridership be too much of a good thing? As Todd Hemingson, CapMetro’s vice president of planning development recently noted: “That's both a blessing and a curse for transit. As you add riders, you lose more money, because you're subsidizing every trip.” Hmm … perhaps that’s a plug in favor of the proposed fare increases?

Just how much can you save riding the bus? My car, I’m embarrassed to admit, is a big gas-hogging 1995 Ford Explorer. I humbly apologize for that – I’m looking into replacing it with something better as soon as I can afford to, but in the meantime, I ride my bike or bus it as often as possible.

The old tank gets a pathetic 13 miles to the gallon in the city. Since I live about four miles from the Chronicle office, based on today’s gas prices, that means a round trip costs me about $2.43. And that’s only considering the gasoline cost. Google Maps calculates, factoring in the many other costs associated with driving, that the round-trip cost is closer to $5.

On Capital Metro, a 24-hour day pass, good for unlimited rides, currently costs me $1. And an adult monthly pass is $10 – meaning, if I had ridden into the office and back every workday in June, each round-trip would have cost me about 48 cents. Even if Cap Metro gets its requested fare increases, the bus will still be cheaper than driving.

If you're new to the bus, Cap Metro recommends checking out their How to Ride Guide.

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Capital Metro, Dump the Pump

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