Possible increase in train use amid high gas prices in Valley

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- With seemingly no end in sight to skyrocketing gas prices, it might be time to explore some cost-friendly ways to travel.

"In the last month, I've come up twice and have seen a big increase in attendance on the train," says Bob Gonzalez.

Higher than average gas prices have boosted ridership on mass transit in other parts of the country -- but will the pain at the pump have the same effect here?

Amtrak officials say they've seen a 10% jump in passengers since January, but it's unclear if the resurgence is a direct result of rising gas prices or the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

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"What we do most often is connect families across the state, so grandmas go visit their grandkids, grandkids visit their grandmas, as well as students connecting to universities throughout the state," says David Lipari.

While most local riders are considered "leisure" passengers, it remains to be seen how record gas prices could change travel behavior for Valley residents.

"From Fresno to Hanford, to visit Superior Dairy, you're going to pay $7.50 for that trip," Lipari said. "If you're traveling to Oakland, you're probably going to pay somewhere around $34. Those are the base fares without any discounts added."

There are six daily trains from Fresno to Hanford at $15 round trip.

Considering a gallon of regular unleaded is averaging $5.41 in Fresno, according to AAA and your car gets 20 miles to the gallon, a drive from Downtown Fresno to Hanford and back will cost you over $20.

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"I think people themselves do their own calculations," Lipari said. "How much does it cost me to drive somewhere -- not only just the gas, but the wear and tear on my vehicle and how cheap can I get there on the San Joaquins. I think a lot of people recognize the value the train offers."

Officials say Amtrak offers a number of discounts for local residents and fares tend to be cheaper the earlier you book.
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