More Riders, Pricier Fuel Stress Out Transit Agencies

Diesel expenses eat up shrinking budgets even as commuters abandon cars
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2008 4:29 PM CDT
New York City commuters negotiate for a taxi during the morning rush hour on the Upper West Side of Manhattan while others crowd a bus stop in this undated file photo.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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(Newser) – The same agencies that stand to benefit as commuters turn to public transit to escape high gas prices are finding themselves hamstrung by rising fuel costs, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ridership is up by as much as 35% for some bus lines, but the cost of diesel has doubled and economic woes are slowing sales-tax revenue, the main source of transit funding.

The result is that transit agencies are forced to cut service—nationwide, by 19% for buses and 21% for rail—just as demand is spiking. Officials worry bad experiences now could waste the opportunity to get more Americans riding: "There's only so many times a person can walk out to a bus stop and say, 'Oh, it's too crowded to ride, I'm driving,’" one said.