Saturday, 2:15 PM
Pike driver numbers dip, T rider numbers climb
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff
With gas prices rising over $4 a gallon, the evidence is mounting that more people are leaving their car keys on the table and hopping on the MBTA.
The number of people riding on the Massachusetts Turnpike dipped in May, while the number of people riding the buses, subways, and commuter trains of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rose, officials reported today.
The Turnpike system saw a 3.5 percent decline in the number of tollbooth transactions. Tolls were paid about 17 million times, or about 600,000 less than during the same month a year before.
Turnpike officials have said they are keeping a close eye on the number of drivers using their system, which also includes the Boston harbor tunnels, because of concerns about the impact of declining ridership on the authority's revenues. Revenues remained up overall due to toll increases that began in January.
Art Kinsman, director of government affairs for AAA Southern New England, said he wasn't surprised by the decline in the number of Pike drivers.
"Obviously, it's the gas prices and all the stuff that goes with it, the uncertainty in the economy that's accompanying that. I think for the first time gas prices really are making a difference," he said.
Kinsman said AAA is also predicting a decline in traffic nationally of about 1.3 percent during the Fourth of July weekend.
Also today, the MBTA announced that average weekday ridership in May was 1.3 million, or about 5.3 percent higher than during the same period a year ago. It was the fifth monthly increase in a row.
Average weekday bus ridership crested over 400,000, only the fifth time in the past 101 months it had reached that level.
AAA said Monday that the state average for self-serve, regular unleaded was about $4.07 per gallon, the same price as the last two weeks. A year ago at this time the average price in Massachusetts was about $2.93.
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