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NFTA expects more riders as gas prices reach record high

There still may not be as many new riders as experienced during the previous record surge in gas prices in 2008.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Western New Yorkers are now paying the highest prices for a gallon of gas in history.

AAA reports the average price per gallon in the region on Monday rose another 9-cents from the previous day to $4.30 per gallon.

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority believes this will drive more motorists to avail themselves of its Metro Bus and Metro Rail Services.

The NFTA cites research done by the Transportation Research Record during the runup to when the previous record price was reached in 2008, which indicates that for every 10% rise in gas prices, public transit ridership increases by 1.2%

According to AAA gas prices have risen 22% in the past month in the Buffalo area.

"We've been hearing from people expressing interest in taking public transit so I do think there is going to be an increase," said Helen Tederous, the NFTA's Director of Public Affairs.

But Tederous said predicting the amount of increase would be tricky and said she does not, despite the record price for gas, see ridership levels approaching the numbers that they did after the previous gas price record set in 2008.

"We're still 50% below what we were (in ridership) prior to the pandemic," noted Tederous, adding the lingering effects from the now waning pandemic will still have an impact. 

There are many downtown workers who were sent home at the start of the pandemic who continue to work from home if not full time, then for at least a few days.

"We are still experiencing and still operating in a totally different environment than we did two years ago," she said.

The absence of those workers, according to Tederous, has also made it more convenient for those who do work downtown to take their cars --despite the increased prices at the pump. 

"The commuting patterns have changed," said Tederous, who said that with fewer drivers coming downtown, the time of their commute has been reduced and that once they get there, parking is plentiful...taking away another factor that once drove people to take public transit.

Even if there was a sudden and huge demand to take public transit, the NFTA recently had to cut routes due to a shortage of drivers for their busses which it is still trying to fill.

Once down more than 60 drivers, Tederous says 25 new recruits are due to soon finish their training and head out on the street.

"So things are looking up. We are hiring drivers faster than ever before and so there is some light at the end of the tunnel here," she said.






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