Gas Prices Fuel C.O. Transit Ridership Surge

Americans Took 10.4 Billion Transit Trips Last Year

POSTED: 4:51 AM PDT April 2, 2012    UPDATED: 5:53 AM PDT April 2, 2012 
BEND, Ore. -

It's become a daily routine for Edward Berry -- getting on the bus.

"I just like riding Bend Transit because it gets me everywhere," Berry said Monday.

Berry rides it two or three times a day -- to work, to shop and even to just go out to lunch.

He's not alone.

Last year, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transportation, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association. That's the second-highest total since 1957.

According to the report, ridership in 2008, the last time gas rose to more than $4 a gallon, surpassed last years numbers.

But this year, "gas prices are crazy," Berry said.

So there could be even more riders.

Like Berry, Nelson Reyes also uses the bus regularly.

"Every other day, I see it packed -- people are standing up," Reyes said.

According to the association, ridership is up because higher gas prices are higher and people are going back to work.

"I'm sure half of these people have a car, but they are like, 'Gas prices are too much, lets take the bus, save some money and we will be on our way,'" Reyes said.

Cascades East Transit has seen a 23.4 percent jump in ridership over last year.

In January alone, it provided 77,862 rides all over Central Oregon.

"Probably the primary increase is due to gas prices, but I also think there is just some additional awareness of the services available," said Karen Friend, the manager of Cascades East Transit.

And Reyes isn't surprised with more and more people using public transportation.

"It was to be expected -- it definitely was," Reyes said.

According to the national report, the fastest pace of growth was in small communities like ours, with populations under 100,000.

But the high gas prices could impact Cascade East Transit too. Officials tell me they can't rule out having to raise rates to help pay for higher fuel costs.