Transit Ridership and Gas Prices: Evidence from U.S., Australia
As gas prices rise, people tend to shift from driving personal vehicles to using public transit. However, the extent of this change and the interplay between fuel price spikes and transit usage are not precisely known.
In 2008 the Transportation Research Record released a study of data through 2007, “Understanding Links Between Transit Ridership and Gasoline Prices: Evidence from the United States and Australia.” The research used gasoline consumption records and public transit records to study the potential correlations between the two.
The study’s findings include:
- For every 10% increase in gas prices, U.S. transit demand has increased on average by 1.2%; demand for light rail rises by approximately 3%, compared with buses at only 0.4%.
- In Australia, the impact of gas prices on ridership has been larger, with a 2.2% raise per 10% increase in global gas prices. This is likely due to higher gas prices (20% to 30% higher than U.S. prices).
- In general, increased gas prices had a much larger effect on increasing demand for public transit for longer — rather than shorter-distance — trips.
A related study, “Potential Impact of Gasoline Price Increases on U.S. Public Transportation Ridership, 2011-2012″ (PDF), looks at how future gasoline price increases might affect transit usage in the United States.
Tags: cars, consumer affairs, fossil fuels, mass transit, municipal
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Transportation Research Record study " Understanding Links Between Transit Ridership and Gasoline Prices: Evidence from the United States and Australia ".
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article "In Consumer Behavior, Signs of Gas Price Pinch."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.