When gas hit $4 a gallon, Shaun Ripani still drove his Honda Accord to work.
But when his tank hit empty during Charlotte's gas shortage, Ripani began taking the 48x bus to work each day, from his uptown home to an office park near the Northlake Mall.
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Now he has gas again. But he's still taking the bus.
“I have gas now, and it's tough to justify still taking the bus,” said Ripani, a sales engineer. “But it saves me a couple of bucks, it saves more than a gallon a day. It's comforting.”
Ripani is part of what the Charlotte Area Transit System believes is a second gas-driven ridership bump since the start of the summer.
In the first week of September, weekday ridership on the Lynx Blue Line was 15,558. In the last week of September, it had jumped to 16,560, and on Monday and Tuesday it was 17,825.
CATS officials say they are hearing stories about higher bus ridership as well.
“One rider saw a new face on the bus and asked them why they were riding. He said he had driven around looking for gas and couldn't find any,” said Olaf Kinard, a CATS marketing official.
Kinard said he expects some to stick with public transportation, even after they've filled up.
In past gas price jumps, CATS has done surveys and found that 67 percent of the customers who used transit continued to use transit. It's unlikely the system's retention rate will be that high after this gas shortage subsides. But CATS has at least one new customer.
“I have already petitioned CATS for a new stop closer to work,” said Ripani. Steve Harrison