Train ridership levels have set records in 7 of the last 8 years, in times of high gas prices, low gas prices, and middle range gas prices. Gas price is the holy grail for Boomers, the lingua franca, the gold standard on prices, etc.
So gas prices will continue to be used as a symbol of the transition. But 100 years ago the price of hay had nothing to do with the demise of the buggy and carriage.
I'm in vacationland, northern Wisconsin, right now. When gas prices are high, people tend to drive up here less frequently, so it's bad for the tourism business. When gas prices are low, it means that the economy is doing poorly, so people tend to drive up here less frequently.
Gas prices play absolutely no role in Generation Y driving. I have actually never heard a train riding young person say anything about gas prices. Willie has had a car for two years now. He has never mentioned the price of gas. He does take the train from Portland to Seattle, and he mentions the stress, parking hassle, and risk of being killed as reasons not the drive. He also knows that cars are destroying the earth.
Between 2008 and 2010, high gas prices helped sell federal government spending on trains. But now Boomer aged Americans, having rejected further train building for the forseable future, are stuck with their cars. High gas prices willl underscore the Boomer dilemna, but won't impact public policy moving forward.
Photo: Me celebrating the last high gas prices in 2008.