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Dallasites Change Habits To Cope With Gas Prices

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter

Dallas, TX –

Catherine Cuellar, 90.1 Reporter: Oil company reps won't comment. Scholars are stumped. And AAA spokeswoman Rose Rougeau can only speculate as to why the price at the pump is higher in Dallas than in surrounding communities or other parts of Texas.

Rose Rougeau, spokesperson for AAA Texas: It could be because property values in Dallas compared to places such as San Antonio are higher. Also what comes into play when you look at gas prices you have to factor in the cost of transportation, the cost of crude, as well as the state and federal taxes.

Cuellar: If the cost is higher in Dallas, it's a price the market will bear. For Dallas Area Rapid Transit those increases translate to a higher cost of doing business according to Vice President Doug Allen.

Doug Allen, Executive Vice President for program development at DART: Fuel cost is a component of our cost structure, just like any other transportation business or any other business that has delivery of things, we deliver people, and our fuel costs have gone up so our operating costs have gone up. So far, we've been able to manage that. Over the past couple years we've had a fuel hedge program where we've locked in a price for fuel.

Cuellar: The end of the fuel hedge earlier this year led to an operating cost increase. At the same time, DART faces greater demand for its services.

Allen: The last couple years we've seen some increases in fuel costs and the sense we get is fuel costs have now gone up so high and stayed up there so high, now people are starting to change their habits, saying we have to do something else.' I think they were willing to ride out the spikes but I think we're starting to see some real trends of people trying DART, using DART.

Cuellar: DART ridership usually increases 3% annually. This summer bus use is up 2%, light rail 7%, and HOV lane use up 5 to 6% compared to the same time last year.

Allen: It'll be interesting if the prices of fuel stays where some predict it will stay, I think people will make long-term decisions. Once they experience the system they'll stick with it. I think a large percentage of them will.

Cuellar: Jeff Rurick, who used to drive a pickup truck to work near Love Field, switched three weeks ago to a combination of light rail from Plano and bus service from CityPlace for his commute.

Jeff Rurick, new DART passenger: I usually spend about $10 a day on my truck, and I'm spending $2.50 a day on DART, so it's quite a savings.

Cuellar: Scott Kleinfelter of Wylie opted to ride DART for the first time yesterday to the VA hospital in south Dallas, taking light rail from Mockingbird Station.

Scott Kleinfelter: It doesn't make any fiscal sense for me to drive 45 minutes when I can sit on here, read a magazine or a book and get off in front of it.

Cuellar: Jim Partridge of Irving, who was driving most of the summer, now rides the Trinity Railway Express to Union Station, where he transfers to the light rail to get to work.

Jim Partridge: I just can't afford the gas. It's gotten ridiculous. And then parking is a joke in itself.

Cuellar: If the gas price were to come down to a certain price, would you get back into your car?

Partridge: No, it's more fun to ride the train. Less stress. Too many agitators out on the Dallas roads.

Cuellar: Mary Seeble, who works near the St. Paul light rail stop in downtown Dallas, planned to use DART when she relocated from Denver last year.

Mary Seeble: I saw the DART about a block from where I was going to work and I just followed the rail up and down the line until I found a place to live. If I parked downtown it'd be at least $5.50 a day. And if I buy a monthly pass it's only $40 a month, so a lot of savings.

Cuellar: Like many others, Seeble still balances cost savings with comfort. She drives four miles past the downtown Plano stop closest to her home for a shaded parking space at the Bush Turnpike station.
For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.

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