Skyrocketing gas prices drive public transit demand

(NewsNation) — With prices at the pump hitting record highs nationwide, more people are looking to public transit to get them where they want to go.

As of Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was just north of $5, while bus and subway fares have by and large stayed the same. Nationwide, ridership is at 65% of pre-pandemic levels, a 40% increase from March 2020.

Some agencies, like the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, are even dropping the price to ride, reducing the price for an unlimited day pass from $12.75 to $11. If you work out the math, that makes the day pass a good deal if your commute burns more than 2 1/2 gallons of gas per day.

Cities like New York and Chicago, which rely on public transit heavily, are seeing some of the biggest increases in ridership. Los Angeles, where gas prices are some of the highest in the nation, has seen the ridership on its Metro transit system rise 13% so far this year.

There are still open seats to be had on most lines, though. The boom in remote working and recent highly publicized incidents of violence on transit have put a downward pressure on ridership.

Along with the price of gas, the price to fill up a grocery cart is on the rise. Inflation hasn’t been this high since the 1980s, resulting in the average family now laying out $411/month on groceries.

Prices overall are up more than 10%. While that’s paltry compared to the gas price jump, it hits a broader range of Americans no matter what their income level.

Thanks to the bird flu, we no longer need to debate which came first, because both chickens and eggs have jumped. Chicken’s up by roughly a dollar per pound, and you’ll shell out about an extra $1.20 for a dozen eggs.

The USDA forecasts there’s not much relief in sight. Grocery prices are expected to rise another 7 to 8% this year, and if you want to go out to eat you can expect just a slight smaller increase.

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