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Low public transit costs may not last long

Low public transit costs may not last long

By Peter Samore | Posted - Mar. 13, 2012 at 11:39 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY - Drivers are trying to catch a break from rising gas prices by using public transportation, but they may not be so lucky for long.

The Utah Transit Authority reports that ridership on public transportation is getting closer to its all-time high in the summer of 2008, when gas prices last soared over $4 per gallon. UTA had 152,000 riders on TRAX, Frontrunner, buses and carpool programs in January

Spokesman Gerry Carpenter said that the bus and TRAX are cheaper to ride at this point, but UTA's fares may rise if passengers have to start paying for fuel surcharges.

"Every cent that diesel fuel goes up costs us an additional $60,000 a year. We're watching it very closely as it has the potential to impact our budget.," he said.

UTA buys six million gallons of diesel annually. Carpenter says fares automatically go up if gas retails for more than $4 per gallon for three straight months.

"If they were to go over $4 a gallon and remain consistently there, we would definitely see an impact on our budget, and need to consider options to address that issue."

Fare hikes on TRAX, FrontRunner and UTA buses are already set for this April and next April, but Carpenter estimates that people will still save money with public transportation, after figuring fuel, maintenance and insurance costs for their cars.

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Peter Samore


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