Americans love cars. The Great American Road Trip, the large American SUV, the classic American muscle car, Route 66 and the list goes on. It is commonly thought that Americans are married to their automobiles; however, a new study shows that it seems the only thing Americans love more than their cars in the money in their wallets. A new study by Bradley Lane of the University of Texas at El Paso has found a strong link between gas prices and shifts in American transit ridership.
Bradley Lane’s study concluded that for every 10% increase in the cost of fuel there was a 4% increase in bus ridership and an 8% increase in rail travel. These figures clearly show that when the price is too high to fill the tank of the car, Americans will drop using automobiles as a main means of transportation and seek alternatives.
These finding match other studies and reports that have been featured on this site in the past. One of the big issues that marry Americans to their cars is the fact that some parts of the United States are very rural and there is no alternative to travel other than using a car. Bradley Lane’s study took this into account and focused on what are deemed “seriously car-oriented communities”.
“Seriously car-oriented communities” like Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City, and Indianapolis showed large behavioral responses to gas price fluctuations. This is of interest because in these “seriously car-oriented communities” there is not much of an option for public transportation; thus the theory was that the population would just accept the increased fuel prices and continue to struggle forward. The behavioral response, as reported by the study, shows that if given the option to take public transportation the residents living in these “seriously car-oriented communities” would leave the car in the driveway.
The results are clear– as gas prices increase Americans drive less and do seek out alternative means of transportation. Now, does this mean that as gas prices decrease Americans will jump back into the driver’s seat? Or has using alternative means of transportation in the U.S. taken hold? Only time will tell.
Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison