City Utilities not seeing large increase in bus riders as gas prices rise

Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 9:27 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Gas prices across the nation are reaching an average just shy of $5 a gallon.

According AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular fuel is $4.98. Gas prices in Missouri average around $4.57 a gallon.

Many drivers are getting worn out from the fluctuating prices. Prices jumped 10 cents or more at many Springfield gas stations in less than 24 hours from Thursday to Friday.

Local economists say there are a multitude of reasons why gas prices are so high. Certain fossil fuel policies and the war in Ukraine are just a few of the reasons.

”You’ve got the pandemic, where people are saying the pandemic is done and want to go travel,” MSU Economics Professor Dr. David Mitchell said. “They’re high now, because it’s just a summer driving season. It’s kind of all four of these things kind of coming together at the same time to make kind of like this perfect storm.”

But why a sudden hike each day?

”It’s really a reflection of supply and demand,” Mitchell said. “People are going to drive for their trips and things of that nature, and you’re not seeing a large increase in the amount that’s coming into the market.”

Mitchell said some people are cutting back how often they drive across town, but he said many are not changing how they get around.

”In Springfield, there’s not a lot of options, right? I mean, you’ve got the bus, and you have driving,” he described. “It’s really not safe to walk around the town. There’s not a lot of sidewalks, taking the bus, it can take you two hours to get from one side of town to the other.”

City Utilities says it has not seen a big spike in ridership.

”Right now we’re about 70% to 80% of ridership that we saw pre-pandemic,” City Utilities spokesperson Joel Alexander said. “We’re slowly seeing things make a gradual increase on ridership. But it’s still not back at the 100% ridership level we are seeing before the pandemic actually hit.”

Alexander said new riders can easily get started. The first step is checking CU’s trip planner.

”It’ll help guide you through the process of where to pick up, routes closest to where your starting point is,” Alexander described. “It’ll tell you what you need to have, the proper fare and everything.”

He said CU and the city are preparing to make improvements to the bus system, which could hopefully boost ridership.

”We’re actually in the beginning phases of actually doing what I would call a very broad transit study,” Alexander said. “So we’ll be looking at that to see what offerings there might be.”

Alexander said there is no timeline just yet for when we could expect those changes. That study kicks off next week. In the meantime, economists say we could likely see a $6 national gas average by the end of summer, but they expect it to dip back down shortly after.

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