Lower gas prices caused SunRail ridership to drop 12 percent in January, as more commuters opt for driving over taking the train.
According to LobbyTools, SunRail’s rare ridership decline, when compared to the same time last year, comes as the region plans on expanding the rail line to the Miami-Dade area. SunRail now stretches from south Orlando to DeBary.
Gas prices are currently less than half what they were just four years ago when the original rail line was being planned.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Orlando Transportation Project Manager Claudia Korobkoff told the Orlando Sentinel. Korobkoff serves as technical committee chair for the Central Florida Rail Commission.
“With I-4 construction right now, there’s a lot of congestion,” she added. “The low gas prices make people drive more, but because they’re driving more, there’s more traffic.”
Although overall ridership is up to an average of 3,318 passengers daily, last month’s dip follows a month with an only slight increase of one percent.
Summer months were also down slightly, LobbyTools notes, from the system’s debut a year earlier.
However, it may be jumping the gun to project a trend. A wave of first-year leisure riders could skew any comparison, said Florida Department of Transportation regional spokesperson Steve Olson.
Miami-Dade County Transit also experienced a 7 percent drop in ridership during October, compared to the previous year.