Higher Gas Prices Leading to More Carpooling or Mass Transit?

As the price of gasoline climbed over the last 12 months, many economists and transportation pundits were expecting a mini-boom in the number of drivers – especially commuters – taking part in carpooling programs and/or using mass transportation more frequently.

With gas prices spending a significant amount of time above the $4 mark, many of us were starting to feel financial pain every time we went to fill up our cars.  And since the easiest way to save on gas is to simply not drive as much, it would certainly make sense if there was a jump in the number of people carpooling and using public transportation.

Unfortunately, common sense didn’t win out this time.

According to a recent poll on GasBuddy.com, the recent bout of high gas prices has done very little to push drivers to carpool or use public transportation.

Here’s how nearly 22,000 people responded when asked, “Are you using public transportation and/or carpooling more due to high fuel prices?”:

  • 6% are carpooling and/or using public transportation A LOT MORE
  • 7% are carpooling and/or using public transportation A LITTLE MORE
  • 47% are carpooling and/or using public transportation ABOUT THE SAME
  • 4% are carpooling and/or using public transportation LESS
  • 36% are unable carpool and/or use public transportation as it is UNAVAILABLE to them

So basically, just over 10% of drivers are carpooling and/or using public transportation more frequently.  Even after stripping out the respondents who don’t have these options readily available to them, the percentage of drivers carpooling or using mass transportation more frequently only jumps to 20%.

In speaking from my own personal experience, there seem to be two distinct reasons why more people haven’t tried to

  1. Despite higher gas prices, it’s still far more convenient to drive yourself.  You don’t have to wait to get picked up at home or drive all over the place picking up your friends/coworkers; you don’t have to figure out a bus schedule; and you don’t have to cram yourself onto a subway car.
  2. It’s not as if carpooling and public transportation are free.  When you’re in a carpool, chances are you’re going to have to take your turn picking people up, many times driving out of your way (i.e. wasting gas) to do so.  And, obviously, when you use public transportation you’re going to have to pay some sort of fare.  In many instances these fees cost more than it would to simply use your own gasoline.

In terms of availability of these programs, since most “good” public transportation systems are centered in urban areas and their immediate suburbs, it makes sense that a lot of people (36% counts as a lot) don’t have access to buses and subways.

That being said, it seems to me that as long as you have friends and coworkers who drive, you should be able to put together some sort of carpool program, even if it’s an informal sort of thing.

Comments

  1. Fallacy of selection. People that use GasBuddy have already selected their strategy. I’m sure if you did a poll on eRideShare.com you’d find the opposite.

  2. I believe that car pooling and public transportation are imperative for the reducing of natural resources

  3. People should carpool more. I’m doing it for two years now and I saved a lot of money. Also met nice people. 🙂

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