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High gas prices steer daily commuters to public transportation

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Posted at 7:27 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 20:27:26-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo — High gas prices are steering more and more commuters to rely on mass transit.

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority reports a 74% increase in ridership on weekdays, and the Kansas City Street Car Authority is operating almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

Daily commuters like Dale Dunnam have no choice but to adjust their daily routines amid record-breaking gas prices.

He often relies on ride share apps like Uber and Z-Trip, but even those companies have increased their rates. He estimates paying 25% more on a weekly and monthly basis.

“We all have to take our share of the increase in prices and inflation, we all have to do it,” Dunnam said.

And for Jack Crisman, who travels 25 minutes to work in Lee’s Summit everyday, he is paying double what he used to at the pump.

“I’m spending close to 400 dollars a month on gas on top of my rent here, so its definitely affected my budget quite a bit,” Crisman said.

Crisman has been cutting back on on daily luxuries like eating out and going to bars with friends.

Donna Mandelbaum, with the Kansas City Street Car Authority, says they have seen a 72% recovery rate since the pandemic began. Ridership started bouncing back starting in March.

With more summer activities downtown and higher gas prices, the weekends are especially busy, averaging 10,000 trips on Saturdays.

“We actually have increased our service on Fridays and Saturdays from three streetcars, to four streetcars on the route, because we’re seeing higher ridership on those days,” Mandelbaum said.

KCATA says it is seeing a similar trend in ridership as well. It saw a 15% increase in ridership in May compared to same time last year.

Both streetcars and buses are encouraging commuters to take advantage of their zero fare rides.

KCATA has been publicizing the service on billboards and on social media to let commuters know there are alternative options.

“Zero Fare policy for streetcar and buses is great cause now, you can save that money and maybe put it back into your gas tank when you do need to use your car,” Mandelbaum said.

Mandelbaum says streetcars have not been necessarily affected by gas prices because it is electric fleet. Now more than ever, they are relieved to be able to offer options to its customers.

KCATA says its diesel contracts are locked in do not fluctuate with gas prices, so it is also a win-win situation for them and commuters as well.

The agency is waiting, however, on federal funding to add three more electric vehicles to their routes to help reduce harmful emissions.

According to a 2018 study by the American Public Transportation Association, people who rise mass transit instead of driving their own cars will save, on average, more than $850 per month.

“I prefer to take public transportation either way, even with the gas prices when they were lower, but especially now that I’m spending so much on gas, it’s definitely helped out a lot,” Crisman said.