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Study: Rise In Gas Prices Could Double Bus Ridership By 2035

Numbers from Ball State University show the state's bus ridership could more than double in the next 20 years.

Bloomington Transit buses at administration building garage on Grimes.

Photo: Shameka Y. Neely

Bloomington Transit buses sit at the administration building garage.

A Ball State University report indicates rising fuel prices could double demand for public transportation in Indiana in the next two decades.

Using a moderate price forecast, Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research shows the state can expect more than 60 million riders by 2035. A lower estimate shows ridership increasing 50 percent to 44 million, and a high estimate that puts gas prices at $5 per gallon shows ridership at 90 million.

Bloomington Transit General Manager Lewis May says typically when the gas price exceeds $4 a gallon, the needs for public transportation goes up. He says about 30 years ago, they had about 350,000 passenger trips a year.

“If you fast forward to the year we just completed 2012, we set an all time record for ridership on Bloomington Transit at 3.4 million passenger trips.” May says.

Ball State economics professor Michael Hicks was one of the researchers on the report. He says the state has not increased funding public transportation in several years so local bus systems need to consider other options.

“Maybe the biggest issue we addressed is what would be options that communities might be given by the legislature to expand systems, if they felt they were warranted a local optioning commercial tax, or some other flexible funding plan.” Hicks says.

Hicks says that money could then be used to hire more drivers or buy more buses in order to meet demand.

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