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Gas prices driving people to find new ways to travel

As gas prices soar, more people are opting for the TECO streetcar or ride-sharing programs.

TAMPA, Fla. — Gas prices seem to be rising every day. According to AAA the average price for a gallon of gas in Florida was $4.76 on Monday. They project that $5.00 per gallon isn’t a matter of if, but a matter of when.

The skyrocketing prices have many people looking for other ways to get around.

“It’s more cheap for me to ride the bus than it is to drive in my own car!” Lionel Spooner who decided to ride the bus for the first time Monday said.

He’s not alone — across the Bay Area people are ditching their cars in droves.

“We do know the transit ridership is up in both Hillsborough and Pinellas county over the last month so that’s good news,” Communications Director for TBARTA Chris Jadick said. “In addition, TBARTA has a Vanpool program, and we saw record increase in the number of Vanpool participants in May.”

People aren’t just turning to buses, trains, and ride-sharing to get around. In downtown Tampa, the TECO line also broke ridership records this year. It’s now the second busiest streetcar in the entire country. Only the Kansas City streetcar had more passengers per year.

But with major transportation issues in the past in the Bay Area, money remains a problem.

"We do know that compared to other parts of the country, that public transport in the Bay Area both locally and regionally, we’re just not funded in the same degree that other regions in the country are funding transit," Jadick said. "So, there are a lot of needs, our local transit providers need support."

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For those who travel between counties every day, driving a car is really the only option right now.

“Our research shows we have tens of thousands of people that are crossing county lines every day we don’t have that current public transport to do so,” Jadick added.

According to the Pinellas Sunset Transit Authority, fixed ridership went up by about 33,000 people from April to May alone.

As gas prices continue to make a dent in wallets across the state, people like Lionel Spooner are now trying to get more bang for their buck.

“If I pay four bucks, I have bus fare all day, if I put four bucks in my gas tank that’s like half a gallon now," Spooner said. "What is that, enough for a lawnmower? I use my car for emergencies, I take the city bus to get where I need to go.”

RELATED: Up to Speed: Alternative transit options becoming more popular in Tampa Bay

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