Thursday, November 20, 2008

Are train riders returning to the highways?

Rising gasoline prices helped produce huge ridership gains for Amtrak, commuter railroads and transit lines around the country this year. But with gas prices now falling, it seems, in tandem with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, there is evidence to suggest commuters are heading back to their cars.

The Los Angeles Times reports today this to be the case in Southern California. It says ridership for bus, subway and light rail lines operated by Los Angeles County's Metropolitan Transportation Authority was 1 1/2 percent lower in October than July, when gas prices peaked. Metrolink ridership fell from 50,142 weekday riders to 48,629 in October.

There is little that operating authorities can do about falling gas prices. There is a lot, however, they can do, to keep the seats of their trains filled with fannies. Among them, provide adequate capacity to avoid overcrowding; maintain clean, comfortable equipment, take timekeeping seriously, keep fares reasonable and always remember - SAFETY FIRST, SAFETY ALWAYS.

The industry has made good headway toward capturing a larger share of travel. Here's hoping it doesn't backslide.

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