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Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

How falling gas prices dented MARTA ridership

Low gas prices brought MARTA ridership below projections last fiscal year, but the transit agency still carried more passengers than it had the year before.

MARTA had 136 million passenger boardings for the fiscal year that ended June 30, up from 129 million boardings the previous year.

Between July and October 2014, MARTA was gaining roughly a million more passenger trips per month.

Bob Thomas, MARTA's Transit Analysis manager, told the transit agency board on Thursday that "we would have been able to maintain that, but then that’s when gas prices went down."

Across the country, historically high gas prices in recent years helped boost transit ridership to levels not seen in nearly 50 years.

But with the swift drop in fuel prices that began late last year, more people started driving again. "So instead of gaining 10.8 million trips, we probably lost about 5.25 million trips due to the reduced gas prices," Thomas said.

Those losses were partially offset by the addition of bus service in Clayton County in late March, which helped attract between 85,000 and 110,000 more passengers during the last quarter. (Four new Clayton bus routes also were added last month, and several more route additions are planned for December).

The number of MARTA trips taken last year was 921,765 fewer than initially projected for fiscal year 2015, a variance of seven-tenths of a percent.

However, actual ridership increased by about 5 percent, and the transit agency closed out the year with $34.8 million in revenues.

"So overall, good news," said MARTA CEO Keith Parker.


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