More Commuters Opting for Mass Transit in Boston

Motivated by high gas prices, a record number of Boston-area commuters are deciding to "dump the pump" and take the train to work.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Here some prices for a regular unleaded today: in Boston $3.60, in Miami $3.70 and in Los Angeles, $3.90. And with your stories now from those three cities about how commuters are adapting to the price of filling up their tanks. A lot of them are opting for mass transit.

We begin in Boston, where NPR's Tovia Smith reports the subway system known as the T is having what maybe its busiest year ever.

(Soundbite of train)

Unidentified Man: Next stop, (unintelligible).

TOVIA SMITH: I'm riding a crowded Greenline train into Boston during rush hour, and I'm surrounded by a lot of new converts to the T. For example, right next to me here is...

Ms. MARTHA CAROL(ph): Martha Carol.

SMITH: And how long have you been running in the subway?

Ms. CAROL: Two months.

SMITH: Because?

Ms. CAROL: I'm just fed up. I think, you know, when you do your bills at the end of the month and you go, oh - I spend that on driving to work? It was just a ridiculous way to spend my money.

SMITH: Carol said gas was costing her some $250 a month, about five times what she now pays for a monthly T pass. Caesar Bethara(ph) says he was dipping into savings to pay for gas, until one day at the pump, he had had it.

Mr. CAESAR BETHARA: Normally, it starts around 54, 55, and it just kept going - $62. I said, you know, there's got to be a different way.

(Soundbite of beep)

SMITH: Transit officials say the number of subway riders is up about 10 percent from last year.

Excuse me.

And long time commuters in Boston are feeling the squeeze.

Mr. MICHAEL POTHIER(ph): Without a doubt. Absolutely. Forget about getting a seat unless you're on the first stop.

SMITH: Commuter Michael Pothier says the trains have also been slower.

Mr. POTHIER: There's a lot of folks that really don't know where they're going, what stop, you know.

SMITH: Because they're all new.

Mr. POTHIER: Absolutely. Yeah.

SMITH: The roads still different, too. With more folks taking the T, there's less traffic clogging major arteries. Good news for those who can still afford to drive. But those who've left their cushy air-condition cars for the subway, like Martha Carol, are not so sanguine.

Mr. CAROL: I wouldn't say that I love it. Stinky, crowded - it's not exactly the ideal commute.

SMITH: T officials acknowledged commuters' pain. It is a tight squeeze on some trains, says the T's General Manager Dan Grabauskas, but the T is dealing with its own financial crisis that's exacerbated by soaring fuel costs. We can't just snap our fingers and get more trains, Grabauskas says. But if the new converts to the T stick around, increased ridership means increased revenues, and eventually, he says, the T might be able to afford to buy more trains.

Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.