How soaring gas prices is affecting South Florida community
Gas prices have soared in Florida since March, just like it has across the United States, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. South Florida was no exception, experiencing some of the highest gas prices in the state. According to data from the American Automobile Association, seven of the 14 counties with the highest gas prices in the state are in South Florida.
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price for a gallon of gas in the country was $4.22 in March. That’s significantly higher than the national average of $2.81 in March of last year. In Florida, gas prices rose from $2.79 in March of 2021 to $4.10 in March of this year.
Melissa Murray, the public relations director for the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, said that their community profiles show that the average commute in Palm Beach County is 26.2 minutes, or 13.2 miles.
In some cases, people have looked for transportation alternatives, such as taking the Brightline or Tri-Rail to save money. One rider on the Brightline said that while he has previously taken the high-speed rail service, he continues to do so because of high gas prices and traffic.
“We do think that the increase in gas prices is impacting our ridership,” said Vanessa Alfonso, the director of media relations for Brightline.
People turning to public transportation could also be an indication of why March was such a strong month for Brightline. Alfonso said that Brightline has seen its passes rise by 300% and its numbers for the month of March were 107,069.
Similarly, Tri-Rail saw its numbers increase during March. Just like Brightline, it can likely be attributed to more commuters using the train services considering the volume of riders during the week.
“March was the first time Tri-Rail weekday ridership surpassed 11,000 riders in the past two years,” said Victor Garcia, director of public affairs for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.
While Garcia said that ridership isn’t back to pre-pandemic levels just yet, it’s a step in the right direction. While high gas prices have a positive effect on Brightline and Tri-Rail, it has the opposite effect for school districts.
“The increased fuel cost will definitely impact the school district (of Palm Beach County) if it continues through the next fiscal year,” said Claudia Shea, director of communications for the school district.
Shea said the gas prices don’t have a significant impact on the budget right now due to fewer bus routes, which is a byproduct of a staffing shortage. But there’s still a concern about the impact it could have in the future if gas prices remain high.
By Aaron Heckmann