Mass transit braces for gas price fallout

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on March 1, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 1 at 6:46 PM

SEATTLE -- We saw it during the great gas price hike of 2008. When the going got tough, the tough got going on the bus.

Bus ridership is in Western Washington and the rest of the nation, along with carpooling and other conservation methods, helped drop the demand for gas back then. The price of gas followed. Americans had stuck it to the man.

However, in 2011, in the middle of a recession, the fight is more complicated. Carpooling and conservations are still options, but mass transit is hurting too.

"We spend about $35 million a year on diesel fuel so it's going to hit our pocket book really badly," explained King County Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. "This is coming at a time where we are suffering very badly from the recession and the impact on our major funding source, sales tax." 

Instead of rising up to meet the growing demand from gas price refugees, the mass transit folks are considering cuts to keep as many buses as they can on the road.

In addition, with Congress considering big federal cuts to mass transit, the budget belt is tightening on public transportation nationwide.

In Seattle the matter is complicated even further by the upcoming toll system to replace the SR 520 bridge.

Transit officials predict a large number of people will avoid the fee by jumping the bus. All this may mean saving at the pump may require a longer wait at the bus stop for the next ride.

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