Utah Transit Authority plans to implement another 25-cent surcharge due to rising fuel costs, John Inglish, UTA general manager, said Wednesday.

"Fuel prices continue to eat away at us and we intend to implement a second surcharge," Inglish said in a report to the UTA board of directors. "We hope to be able to lower costs again when conditions allow us to."

UTA has been hit with a double whammy in recent months, Inglish said. Rising fuel costs and a downturn in the economy have left them without other options after they began trimming their budgets in attempts to mitigate the first surcharge. The first surcharge went into effect the first of this month, raising the price of a one-way ticket from $1.75 to $2. The second surcharge will go into effect Oct. 1, raising the price of a ticket to $2.25.

As the rising cost of fuel has pushed motorists to look for alternative means of transportation, many have turned to public transportation. Inglish said that UTA has had more demand for their services than ever before and the increase is necessary to prevent cuts in service.

The increase will cover only half of UTA's costs associated with fuel, Inglish said. "If we wanted to solve the problem we'd be increasing by 50 cents."

According to the American Public Transportation Association, the average cost for an adult single-trip base fare on light-rail systems like TRAX is $1.55.

In May UTA's board of directors voted unanimously on an amendment to authorize the general manager to implement a temporary fuel cost response. It was their hope to gain approximately $200,000 in monthly funds through rider fares to help lower a $5 million deficit that UTA officials were predicting then.

"I think the increase is OK if fuel prices are up," said Anthony Higareda, Ogden, at the 900 East TRAX stop Wednesday. "UTA deserves the back and forth that comes with oil."

Higareda rides UTA buses and TRAX on a daily basis, he said, and currently has a bus pass that costs him $66.50 a month. While many people complain about the cost, he thinks it's well worth the price considering everywhere UTA gets him, he said.

Craig Hagberg, Salt Lake City, on a University train Wednesday, said the increase could only be expected given the current cost of fuel. He doesn't expect the increase will affect his commuting patterns because he mostly walks between work and home, adding he only ever uses UTA for convenience.

"An extra 25 cents to come downtown isn't a big deal for me," Hagberg said.


E-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com