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Ed Yeates ReportingIf you think it hurts filling up your car these days - trying filling up a bus. The high price of fuel alone will most likely place the Utah Transit Authority one million dollars over budget this year.
UTA's fleet of buses averages only about 3.75 to 4 miles per gallon. That's not much, especially when you have to pay more to fill them up
Ka Chink, Ka Chink, and more Ka chinks! As bus after bus pulls in at the Meadowbrook Center to fill up, UTA's budget allocated for fuel, rapidly dwindles away. And that's even getting the break Government gives to mass transit.
Justin Jones, Utah Transit Authority: "In our history we've always budgeted for about 91 cents a gallon. So this year, when we looked at 2005, we said, 'You know, fuel prices are going up so let's budget for an extravagant amount, $1.21 a gallon.' We averaged $1.90 a gallon. That's projecting us at just close to a million dollars over budget this year."
Trying to squeeze every efficient ounce of fuel they can, UTA has implemented a no idling policy where buses can idle for no more than ten minutes while operators wait in between runs. Low efficiency buses are being pulled off high stop and go runs, and replaced with smaller and more efficient ones. Buses are also getting finer fine-tuning, pushing the fuel lean button as far as it will go.
Meanwhile, it appears more people, fed up with gas prices, are parking their cars in already packed station lots and riding TRAX trains.
Justin Jones: "Our ridership is up twelve percent over this time last year, on TRAX alone."
Mark Arnold , Businessman, TRAX Rider: "You go to fill up your car now and $40, $50, $60. Yeah, we can do it a lot cheaper this way."
Jordan Rigby, Student, TRAX Rider: "My car, I drive a Jeep, so it's an SUV so it eats up a lot of gas."
Linda Blatt, Student, TRAX Rider: "I'm guessing I'm saving close to $150 a month in gas."
Facing the same budget crunch, some mass transit systems in other states have already cut back services and doubled fares. UTA says it's not that desperate yet.