09/21/05 — Gateway back to normal for now

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Gateway back to normal for now

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 21, 2005 1:56 PM

Jack Miller's jet-black Mustang convertible hasn't seen much action over the past few weeks. It has been stabled while he takes the bus.

Miller, 19, a student at Wayne County Community College, has avoided driving whenever possible since gas prices went up, and he hasn't felt the wind blow through his hair in days.

His college student's budget is why the city's Gateway bus system is so important to him.

"There's no reason to pay for gas when I can ride the bus," he said. "But I do miss driving around five times a day."

Gateway Director Stephen Wright said the system is seeing higher ridership levels since the gas price crunch brought on by Hurricane Katrina.

The bus system cut many services earlier in the month because of spiking gas cost and limited availability of unleaded gasoline from the city. Fares also increased for riders while prices remained above $3 a gallon at the pump.

Wright announced Monday that services are back to where they were before Hurricane Katrina put a squeeze on drivers' checkbooks. While gas prices are still a major concern throughout the country, recent price-drops have given Wayne County residents something to smile about, for now. Gateway officials met to discuss various issues, most notably how gas prices have affected business over the past month.

Wright cautioned however that although fares and services are looking better for passengers this week, all that could change if an unexpected event causes gasoline prices to soar again.

For now, that event could be Hurricane Rita's attack on the Gulf coast.

"We have the new sliding scale in place in the event of another increase in gas prices," Wright said.

Gateway officials approved the sliding scale at their Sept. 6 meeting. When gasoline costs are between $3 and $3.50 a gallon, the flat rate for all in-county trips will increase from $8 to $8.50 each way. Out-of-county trips will increase to $40 each way.

Should gas prices reach $3.50 to $4 a gallon, the flat rate will be increased to $9 each way for in-county trips, and $45 each way for out-of-county trips.

If gas should go above $4 a gallon, rates for in-county riders will increase to $10 each way. For those traveling out of the county, the price per trip will increase to $50.

Gateway officials also noted that ridership increased by 2,079 passengers from July to August. Wright attributes this increase to many factors including higher gas prices.

As a result of increased passenger count, revenue also increased significantly for the bus system. Gateway pulled in close to $16,000 more in August than July.