There’s at least one sector of the economy that’s benefiting from high gasoline prices. Use of public transit is up.
“Bus and trolley ridership has shown an upward trend in the last few weeks. Ridership is up about 8 percent and appears to be climbing,” said Nancy Irwin, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Transit Development Board.
That translates into an additional 80,000 riders during the month of February, compared to the same time last year. Figures for February 2000 were 1,141,427 bus trips, up from 1,058,538 the year before, she said.
Similarly, the number of bus trips for a randomly selected weekday in March , March 21 , showed a 5 percent increase in ridership over January. The trolley posted similar gains, she said.
The Coaster also posted a 5 percent increase in ridership , although that has leveled off since parking for the Coaster is maxed out, said Pete Aadland, marketing manager for the North County Transit District.
Irwin is not surprised. She pointed to statistics in other districts revealing that for every 25-cent increase in the price of gasoline, ridership on public transit increases by 3 percent.
And now, the MTDB is pushing its advantage with drivers frustrated by high gas prices. The board kicked off an ad campaign last week called “Way to Save,” which touts public transit as an economical alternative.
The “Way to Save” campaign includes radio ads and “traffic tags” , announcements during rush-hour traffic updates. The campaign is also touting the transit system’s Web site (www.sdcommute. com) or the phone line, (800) COMMUTE, which makes trip planning easier for people who are new to public transit, Irwin said.
“This is an opportune time for people to discover the benefits of our transit system,” said Tom Larwin, general manager of the MTDB. “It’s an economical, safe and comfortable alternative to today’s increased cost of driving.”