Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Save Fuel, Take the Bus

It’s one of the axioms of economics that you can find an alternative to anything. This is the main reason we expect people to turn away from a product when its price goes up. The alternatives will start to look more attractive by comparison.

It’s no surprise, then, that the sharply higher fuel prices this year have led U.S. drivers to drive less, even though that never happened before. We knew people were staying home more often. That’s a complaint of concert promoters and retailers, who have been seeing fewer customers.

Now an AP story tells us that more people are riding the bus. In an American Public Transportation Association report out today, mass transit ridership is up 5.2 percent. Transit agencies are having to adjust to the increased demand. New York is experimenting with subway cars with no seats so they can carry more passengers. Already in rush hour, most New York subway riders are standing, so it’s not as big an adjustment as it might seem to have everyone stand in some cars.