Gas prices have jumped above four dollars a gallon for regular in some parts of the country, and everyone is feeling the pinch. Driven by the pain of a $40 or $50 fill-up at the pump, many Americans are finding ways to save, and the Department of Transportation is working hard to make sure you have even more options.
One sure sign of a rise in gas prices is increased transit ridership, and the North County Transit District in North San Diego County, CA, has just reported such a spike. NCTD's Breeze bus system recorded 157,336 boardings from March 27 through April 2, a 14 percent rise over the 137,694 boardings during the same week in 2010. In March, ridership on their Coaster commuter train was also nearly 14 percent above the March 2010 number.
Demand has risen so high on the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System's express route, the MTS has added extra trips to boost existing service. Both transit agencies have benefited from Federal Transit Administration grants in recent years to help expand service and maintain a state of good repair.
In Alaska's Mat-Su Valley, daily commutes to Anchorage can cost drivers upward of $400 a month in gas alone. In families with two commuters driving separately, we're talking about $800 a month. So Palmer and Wasilla commuters are rediscovering the buses and vanpools offered by area transit programs like Valley Mover, Share-A-Ride and Mat-Su Community Transit. Wasilla resident Michael Gilbert uses the Share-A-Ride vanpool and saves more than $400 a month.
That savings is one reason the Obama Administration has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to support dozens of projects in communities like Wasilla and Palmer around the country. For example,in Utah we're using our New Starts program to support the Weber County to Salt Lake City Commuter Rail project. For drivers who travel the length of this 44-mile corridor each way in their daily commmutes, the fuel bill alone can easily top $500 each month, and transit offers families a way to put some of that money back into their wallets.
Amtrak is also reporting increased ridership. Nationwide, ridership has grown nearly six percent in the past six months, but some routes have experienced double-digit growth over the same period last year, with Chicago-St. Louis ridership up nearly 12 percent and Chicago-Carbondale up nearly 15 percent.
That shows that travelers are reponding to our efforts to support rail projects that reduce trip times and provide a greener alternative to driving or flying.
One factor behind the rising numbers of transit riders is job growth. With the economy heating up, more and more commuters are heading to work. And for those who choose to drive, these investments will reduce congestion on our roads and make us less susceptible to spikes in demand for oil.
We're also working to make sure drivers have alternatives to the increasingly expensive gasoline pump. DOT grants have helped develop Electric Vehicle technology to make these new cars go farther between charges with less expensive batteries. Our support of charging stations will help solve one of the most difficult challenges of this new technology--making sure drivers have a place to recharge. And we're fostering hydrogen fuel-cell technologies to help that promising approach take root.
All of our partners, whether transit agencies or battery-makers, can help Americans beat the pain they've been feeling at the pump lately. And the Obama Administration is looking forward to continuing these efforts so people have the options they need.