June 2, 2008 / 3:56 PM / 9 years ago

Facing $4 gasoline, more Americans take mass transit

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<p>Commuters ride a Los Angeles Metro Gold Line train from Pasadena to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, May 14, 2008.Mary Milliken</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More Americans are leaving their cars at home and jumping on buses, trains, and trolleys as retail gasoline prices approach $4 per gallon, according to a report released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association.

American mass transit use increased 3.3 percent during the first quarter of 2008 while Americans drove 2.3 percent less during the same period, the report said.

The trend builds on last year's record increases when U.S. mass transit use reached a 50-year high as consumers tried to temper the impact of soaring gasoline prices.

"More and more people have decided that taking public transportation is the quickest way to beat the high gas prices," APTA president William W. Millar said in a press release.

<p>Commuters walk through Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, May 14, 2008.Mary Milliken</p>

"There's no doubt that the high gas prices are motivating people to change their travel behavior," he added.

Average retail gasoline prices have topped $4 per gallon in 13 states and are running about 25 percent higher than last year, according to travel auto group AAA.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Travel on light rails, which includes streetcars and trolleys, showed the highest increase with a 10.3 percent bump in ridership, according to APTA.

Commuter rails came in second with a 5.7 percent increase in usage during the first quarter in large metropolitan areas. Seattle's commuter rail system had the highest jump with nearly 28 percent more riders in the first quarter.

Buses had the least increase in ridership at 2 percent, although cities with populations under 100,000 saw a large increase -- 7.8 percent -- in bus ridership.

Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; editing by Jim Marshall

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