As gas prices rise, drivers turn to alternate transportation

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Kennewick bike shop owner Jerry Markee said as prices at the gas pump go up, he’s reminded of the 2008 recession.

Back then, he said his business, Markee’s Cycling Center experienced a frenzy of bike buying, so this time around, he’s prepared for the same thing.

“There’s a lot of money on the table to save by commuting bicycles,” the life-long cyclist said.

Jerry said in 2022, it’s never been easier to ride a bike around town or commute to work.

“The Tri-Cities is easy to get around, our infrastructure has improved drastically with the bike path system, bike lanes in place. When you’re looking at five dollars a gallon for gas, it’s not going to take long for a $800 bike to pay for itself as well as the health benefits for your heart and lungs and everything else,” he said.

Markee’s, which is located off of Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick, has also seen an increased demand for electric bikes.

Even among pandemic shortages, Jerry said they have plenty of stock for anyone who’s ready to trade in their car keys for a helmet.

“We have some electric bikes that’ll go 140 miles on a charge,” he said.

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Another option?

Public transit.

Lisa Larson with Ben Franklin Transit said it’s hard to pin point if gas prices is increasing ridership.

“That has been a really tough thing for us to gauge because we did have reduced ridership during the pandemic, we’ve seen ridership grow steadily, we’re still at about 65% of our pre-COVID capacity,” she said.

Larson added they’re encouraging people to take advantage of the many programs BFT offers like Connect, Metro Routes and Sunday service.

“BFT connect is our rideshare program that is folks live too far away from a bus stop or the bus stop isn’t close to their destination they get on their app and they order it just like they would an Uber or a Lyft. You can go an buy an unlimited 25 dollar pass for an adult or only 14 dollars for kiddos,” she explained.

BFT Connect allows riders to get a ride to the nearest bus stop if there isn’t one near their house, or if the bus stop they’re going to isn’t close to their final destination, they can order a ride to get there without having to walk. There are specific zones throughout the Tri-Cities that BFT Connect services. It costs the same as bus fares, or $1.50 per ride.

They too are hoping gas prices go down.

“Fifty gallons is the average of what they go through a day, their capacity is about a 100 gallons so they’re filling up every other day, every three days or so. If prices actually stayed at this level we would probably be exceeding our budget by about 26 percent,” she said.

Masks are still required on BFT property and buses. You can purchase a bus pass in-person or online here.