If gas cost $9 a gallon, would you take the bus?

By Eliot Brown

What's bad for SUV dealers is good for the light rail... and visa versa. High gas prices earlier this fall brought Metro Transit a welcome boost in popularity as more metro-area residents were leaving their cars parked at home and hopping on the bus or light rail. In September, the month with the highest fuel prices to date, the transit system saw a boost of 450,000 rides over the same month in 2004: a 7.5 percent increase.

But today, with gas prices at somewhat more reasonable levels, transit ridership has followed the numbers at the pumps. October registered a 5 percent increase over 2004 and November saw a modest 4.2 percent increase over the previous year. While these numbers still spell out generally good news for Metro Transit--the system managed to bring in new riders despite a fare increase over last year--thousands of riders turned back to their cars... or SUVs.

If gas cost $9 a gallon, would you take the bus?

SUV sales may be back on the rise after a significant decline. In late August and September, with gas near $3.00 a gallon, the going was tough for truck and SUV dealers. "It was really, really quiet," says Steve Monk, sales manager at Apple Valley Ford.

But today, with gas closer to $2.00, Monk says sales seem to be picking up again. Ford's mega-midsize pickup, the F-150, is selling well, as is the Explorer, the company's midsize SUV. Both vehicles register 15 miles per gallon in the city.

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