Categorized | Press Release

Fueling Americans’ Transportation Choices

HNTB Survey: Rising gas prices driving millions toward public transit

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — As the price of gasoline pushes toward $4 per gallon, many American motorists think those rising costs ultimately will limit their ability to drive.

In a sign of the times, a new America THINKS survey from HNTB Corporation shows 3 in 5 (63 percent) American drivers think that gas will get so pricey that they won’t be able to drive their car as often as they do now. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 (22 percent) are extremely confident this will happen.

With gas prices currently averaging $3.96 per gallon, a cut-off point may be quickly approaching when millions more Americans will fill up local buses and trains instead of their tanks. On average, a price of $4.90 per gallon would push Americans who say they are willing to use public transit to climb on board.

“Now is the time to elevate U.S. investments in public transportation,” said Liz Rao, chair public transit services. “Providing transit as part of a community’s mobility choices increases economic vitality and sustainability and enhances quality of life.”

Pumped to take public transit

Rising gas prices were cited as the No. 1 reason Americans with public transportation in the area would ride rather than drive (42 percent). This reason was much higher than other potentially motivating factors, including convenience (14 percent) and the environment (6 percent).

A recent study by the American Public Transportation Association revealed if regular gas prices reach $4 a gallon across the nation, an additional 670 million passenger trips could be expected to ride the nation’s transit systems. If pump prices rise to$5 a gallon an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips can be expected, totaling more than 11.6 billion trips per year. Many transit systems already are experiencing increased ridership.

Gaining additional access

Slightly more than half of Americans (51 percent) would like to have more access to public transit locally, and one-third (33 percent) would appreciate more rail options, including commuter, intercity and high-speed rail in their community.

For the most part, the local perspective aligns with Americans’ views of what’s needed nationally. More than half the nation thinks the U.S. needs greater access to public transit (56 percent) and rail (52 percent).

Rao said increasing access is just part of the solution. “While increased transit must be an essential part of the nation’s modern transportation network, the United States also needs to adopt a new vision of what that network looks like. It requires changing our traditional point of view that transportation modes – highways, aviation, mass transit, rail and others – are independent from each other. Rather, we must see – and plan for – them as one, integrated whole.”

That future hasn’t been realized, yet. In fact, nearly 3 in 5 (59 percent) of Americans say their area does not have a multimodal transportation system, which would allow for better access and transfers between transportation choices.

About the survey

HNTB’s America THINKS transit survey polled a random nationwide sample of 1,000 Americans March 23-31, 2011. It was conducted by Kelton Research, which used an e-mail invitation and online survey. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population ages 18 and over. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.

About HNTB

HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving federal, state, municipal, military and private clients. With nearly a century of service, HNTB has the insight to understand the life cycle of infrastructure and the perspective to solve the most complex technical, financial and operational challenges. Professionals nationwide provide award-winning planning, design, program management and construction management services. For more information, visit

EDITOR’S NOTE: Additional regional statistics:

  • On average, Northeasterners would use more public transit if gasoline prices rose to $5.60 a gallon, compared to those in other regions of the country who would use more public transit if gas was less than $5 a gallon.
  • Southerners are more likely to say high gas prices would motivate them to take public transportation (46 percent) than people throughout the rest of the country (39 percent).



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