Work Commutes: A View From the Bus


As major U.S. cities struggle to combat budget shortfalls, workers in some of the nation’s most congested areas are starting to notice changes in their rush hour commute. asked public transportation-taking people in five cities—Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.—whether the recession has affected their daily commute.

What these rush hour riders have to say may surprise you. 

Public transportation system: MARTA
Base fare: $1.75
Most recent fare increase: 16% (January 2001)

One commuter's take:
"I usually take MARTA to the airport for business trips, so I don’t know whether or not it’s due to the recession, but ridership has definitely increased. If I were driving, it would take me an hour to an hour-and-a-half to get to the airport. It takes me 45 minutes on the MARTA."
—Todd Yates, Atlanta, Ga.

Public transportation system: MBTA
Base fare: $1.25
Most recent fare increase: 25% (January 2004)

One commuter's take:
"I used to always get a seat. The train was empty.  Now it’s standing room only. There has been a slight drop in ridership since gas prices came down but, even in the morning, there are at least a few people on my train."
—Zack Halloran, Braintree, Mass.

Public transportation system: CTA
Base fare: $2.25
Most recent fare increase: 12.5% (January 2009)

One commuter's take:
"You can use your debit card to get on the train now. You can still buy the old school cards and put money on them but, if you use your debit card, you get 25 cents off of every ride. All you have to do is sign up online and when you get down to your last $2, it automatically reloads the amount that you put on the card."
—Kayla McCormick, Chicago, Il.

New York
Public transportation system: MTA
Base fare: $2.00
Most recent fare increase: 33% (March 2003)

One commuter's take:
"There are just too many people on the train and there’s not enough service. The trains are filthy. Nobody moves. I’ve had to wait as long as 20 minutes on a train and now they’re talking about raising the price…As a commuter paying $2 each way, is it really fair to us to raise prices to $3?

I’d bike across the Triborough Bridge but I’d look and smell horrible by the time I got to work. Cabs are just too expensive and it’s too far to walk. So the MTA has a monopoly."
—Karen Santiago, New York, N.Y.

Washington, D.C.
Public transportation system: D.C. Metro
Base fare: $1.65 to $4.50
Most recent fare increase: 22% (January 2007)

One commuter's take:
"High gas prices definitely made people think differently about taking the Metro. I commute from Charlottesville, Va., into the city three times a week.

I’m happy taking the bus from Charlottesville to D.C., since I can get work done on the way. I could take Amtrak, but it’s really expensive, especially when a bus ride is only going to run you $23 each way.
—Geoff Luck, Charlottesville, Va.

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