High gas prices are bad news for consumers but good news for mass transit companies. The latest spike in gas prices has actually caused Americans to flock to their local mass transit systems. So many people have turned to this option that mass transit usage rates in 2011 were the second highest on record since 1957. The record-setting year was in 2008, when gas prices topped $4/gallon across the country.

According to the American Public Transit Association (APTA), Americans hopped on to a local transit system for a total of 10.4 billion trips in 2011. This represents an increase of 2.3 percent over 2010 ridership figures. The APTA also reported that vehicle miles of travel (VMT) dropped by 1.2 percent over the same time period.

While the increase in ridership rates is good news for mass transit companies, there is also a bit of good economic recovery news hidden in the APTA report.

APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy comments, “Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work. Since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increase in areas where the economy has improved.” Source: APTA

The trend is already continuing in early 2012. In Kansas City, Mo., January ridership rates were up 16.76 percent over January 2011 figures and February numbers are up 21.12 percent. Rates are also up significantly in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. The APTA reports that the area has posted a double digit increase every month since January 2011. Ridership rates in January 2012 were up 30.7 percent when compared to the same time period last year.

If you live in an area with a well-developed mass transit system, are you using it more often now that gas prices are on the rise again?

High gas prices are good for mass transit
Americans took 10.4 billion trips on mass transit systems in 2011.