More Commuters Opting for Mass Transit in Boston
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.
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.
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.