Since late last year, when oil prices dropped fairly dramatically, transit ridership has fallen a bit – Sound Transit’s systemwide is off about 5,000 weekday riders from last summer’s 60,000. While ridership is still higher than the same time last year, I’ve certainly heard a few people say “hey, ridership’s down,” and through implication, “maybe these impending Metro service cuts won’t be that bad.” Today’s New York Times article (free registration required, sorry) has a fantastic, inflation-adjusted graph of fuel prices that should make it clear fuel prices aren’t staying down at all – the national average is up a dollar since December.
There’s more than one factor here, of course. The recession is increasing unemployment, meaning fewer people are commuting. If our economy continues to slide, we may see a continued decline, but with Washington’s average fuel price back up around $2.75 a gallon, I suspect those with jobs will be looking to leave the car at home once again.