Gas prices could impact public transportation - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Gas prices could impact public transportation

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Story by Nick Austin
Storm Alert 3 Meteorologist

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- The rising cost of gas is taking its toll, not only on families and businesses, but on public transportation.

In and around the Chattanooga area, AAA reports, the average price for a gallon of regular Thursday night is $3.43.

That means the price didn't jump any here overnight.

But it was only a month ago the Tennessee Valley and North Georgia first hit the three-dollar mark, forcing many to change their driving habits.

Now, CARTA is considering scale backs, affecting the thousands who ride the bus each week.

The company may have to ask for more money.

With diesel fuel topping more than $3.75a gallon earlier this month, CARTA board members have already asked the city of Chattanooga to add $620,000 to their 2011-2012 budget, which begins in July.

And although fare hikes or route eliminations are not imminent, they are a possibility.

CARTA Executive Director Tom Dugan is not panicking at this point. With ridership climbing, he hopes the extra revenue will help.

"We may be able to go back and say we don't think it's going to be quite 620, and we do have a revenue offset," says Dugan.

But he still may need a substantial chunk of change.

"I told the board today, I think we'll ultimately get below a half a million," says Dugan.

Even if the board reaches that goal, something still may have to give and a fare hike may be the result.

Juanita Moore relies on CARTA regularly and hopes this doesn't happen.

"It would really hurt me because I cannot afford a vehicle, even though I have a license, and since this is my only mode of transportation it would really hurt me," says Moore.

Dugan says a list of options would be considered, including curtailing or canceling routes.

In the end, the commuters would have the final say.

"We'll put together more actions than are necessary," says Dugan. "Then we will go and have a public hearing and let our riders tell us what to do."

If fares do increase, Moore says she'll just have to bite the bullet.

"I would have to pay it; I have no other choice," says Moore.  "That's it."

Any action to raise fares or cancel routes is not imminent.

CARTA will present its budget to the city and county in May.

If changes are needed, a public hearing could happen as early as June and changes would be implemented in September.

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