Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With gas prices jumping nearly daily, consumers are making some dramatic choices — and not driving.
Right now, Minnesota is averaging $3.72 for a gallon of regular gasoline — that’s up 3 cents from yesterday. And, in Wisconsin, the average is hovering at $3.99, right below the $4 mark.
New figures from Metro Transit show that this year could set a record for the most riders ever. Right now, ridership is topping the record year of 2008 when Twin Cities gas prices reached their highest ever average price of $3.97 a gallon.
The pain a the pump has Minnesotans like Robert Haston switching to Metro Transit.
“The price of fuel is outrageous and this is the best,” Haston said. “You can go downtown, you can go to the airport, you can go just about anywhere on mass transit.”
Metro Transit reports 300,000 more rides than at this time last year — leading the increase an 8 percent jump in the longer suburban bus line rides and 7 percent increase in Hiawatha line light rail rides.
“We certainly know that gas prices is a leading indicator for our ridership,” John Siqveland of Metro Transit said. “A lot more people will be inclined to try transit if they are paying more at the pump.”
But it’s not just Mass Transit that is benefiting. At Erik’s Bike Shops, which has 14 metro area stores, demand for commuter bikes is up 40 percent from last year.
“We are seeing interest in the things like bags, helmets, the bikes themselves are up big percentages,” founder and owner Erik Saltvold said.
Saltvold says the warm weather is making it easier for those tempted to give bike commuting a try. And he says once riders try commuting by bike they often don’t go back.
“We get people who say, ‘Hey this is really great’ and then they keep doing it regardless of the gas prices because they feel better when they do it,” Saltvold said.
Joel Miller is a good example. At 22, he has no car or driver’s license and plans to keep it that way.
“The cost of driving is even more expensive now so I have had more incentive to just stay with the bike,” Miller said.
Erik’s Bike Shops says this is their best March ever, as for Metro Transit they say they can handle the extra load. Every three months they re-evaluate their routes and add extra capacity where needed.