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UTA fuel surcharge increases fares by up to 16 percent

By Laura Hancock, Deseret News | Posted - Aug. 1, 2010 at 9:47 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Beginning Sunday, bus and train fares along the Wasatch Front are increasing by as much as 16 percent.

The Utah Transit Authority is implementing a fuel surcharge through Oct. 31, citing the high cost of diesel fuel.

Last quarter, from April 1 through June 30, the average price of a gallon of diesel was $3.08. When the price hits $3 a gallon, UTA trustees allow General Manager Mike Allegra to add a fuel surcharge of 25 cents for an adult fare on buses and TRAX.

The surcharge varies. For student and minor passes, the increase is 16 percent. There is no surcharge for the group pass for four or more people and the pass purchased with the state benefits Horizon Card.

UTA decided against adding the fuel surcharge to low-income people who are part of the Horizon program, said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.

"The group pass is a promotional pass and we already have a big marketing campaign (for it)," Carpenter said. "Rather than confuse the public, we felt it was appropriate to not add the surcharge on (the group pass)."

Friday evening, people contemplated the surcharge while going home.

Sandy Hartman of Layton receives a free paratransit pass but worried about her disabled friends who do not get free passes and do not have a lot of money.

Derek St. Clair of Kearns said that his employer splits the cost of a transit pass, so a fuel surcharge doesn't affect him much.

Dixie Thacker of Clearfield also will likely be unaffected. As a student at Weber State University, she receives a pass for $15 a year.

"I have a friend who rides TRAX and FrontRunner all the time. He skips the fare," she said, explaining he was unable to afford it. "I think it's going to affect him."

All regular-priced passes, including the adult monthly pass and student pass, will increase by $8, Carpenter said.

UTA uses U.S. Department of Energy fuel prices for data, Carpenter said. If the price of diesel decreases during the third quarter, the fuel surcharge will be removed. If the average price continues to hover in the $3 range, the fuel surcharge will remain tacked onto fares for another three months, Carpenter said.

If the cost goes above $3.99 per gallon, UTA's fuel surcharge can double. If the average price were to top $4.99, the surcharge could triple.

With each surcharge, UTA can garner $500,000, Carpenter said.

UTA purchases about 6 million gallons of diesel fuel a year and has projected it will be about $1 million over budget in 2010 for fuel.

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com

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Laura Hancock

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