Impact: $5 a Gallon Could Spur Up to 1.5 Billion Additional Passenger Trips on U.S. Public Transportation Systems image

A study released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) predicts that as gasoline prices continue increasing, Americans will turn to public transportation in record numbers.

The analysis reveals if regular gas prices reach $4 a gallon across the nation, as many experts have forecasted, an additional 670 million passenger trips could be expected, resulting in more than 10.8 billion trips per year.

If pump prices jump to $5 a gallon, the report predicts an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips can be expected, resulting in more than 11.6 billion trips per year. And if prices were to soar to $6 a gallon, expectations go as high as an additional 2.7 billion passenger trips, resulting in more than 12.9 billion trips per year.

“The volatility of the price at the pump is another wake up call for our nation to address the increasing demand for public transportation services,” said APTA President William Millar. “We must make significant, long-term investments in public transportation or we will leave our fellow Americans with limited travel options, or in many cases stranded without travel options. Public transit is the quickest way for people to beat high gas prices if it is available.”

Many of the public transit systems across the country are already seeing large ridership increases, some reaching double digits in the month of February as compared to the previous year. For instance; the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Pompano Beach, FL increased by 10.6 percent; Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority of Philadelphia, PA increased by 10 percent; and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority of Oakland, CA increased by 14 percent.

Japan earthquake: consequences

Japan will have to import more oil, fuel and natural gas for electricity generation to make up for the shortfall caused by the shutdown of nuclear power plants after the earthquake. This will put upward pressure on global prices in markets already concerned about the availability of energy supplies amid widespread unrest in the Middle East.

Oil prices were close to 2½-year highs before the earthquake, but fell $1.54, or $1.50, on Friday to $101.16 on the New York Mercantile Exchange as a quarter of Japan’s refinery capacity shut down automatically.