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Soaring fuel prices driving up costs for Santa Maria buses, but city also expecting a ridership increase

santa maria area transit bus smat smrt changes
Dave Alley/KEYT

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The skyrocketing price of fuel is driving up costs across all walks of life, including public transportation.

"I think most people would agree that any fuel or cost increases are difficult for the pocketbook," said Gamaliel Anguiano, Santa Maria Transit Services Manager. "Obviously, these are promulgated by larger world events, and there are certainly other people feeling the pinch much harder and in different ways."

Anguiano noted that while it is costing a lot more to fuel up the more than three dozen city buses, right now, Santa Maria is able to absorb the price spike.

"From the last lessons learned back in 2007 and 2008, most transit agencies know to insulate their fuel line-item costs in order to weather volatility," said Anguiano. "Although this is a bit unprecedented, we're able to weather these cost increases."

Like other public agencies, Anguiano pointed out the City of Santa Maria is able to purchase fuel at rate government rates, which is less expensive than gas stations prices since it does not include certain taxes.

He added increased fuel costs should be offset by an expected rise in the number of people who use public transportation.

"Too early to report on numbers, but historically there has been a strong correlation between increased fuel prices and increased ridership," said Anguiano. "The more expensive it gets, the more people are looking for alternative forms of mobility, and public transit is there to receive them."

The current rise in fuel prices coincides at the same time Santa Maria public transportation is beginning a significant change in services.

Within the past two months, the bus system has been rebranded SMRT (Santa Maria Regional Transit), as well as the addition of other upgrades and enhancements.

"That came with new routes that were more efficient and effective, the introduction of a new all-day pass. For $3 you get unlimited rides in our city's public transit system, and the introduction of new mobile apps. The smart pay allows you to buy digital bus passes on your phone and the tripshot app allows you to find real time information for trip planning needs."

For more information on Santa Maria Regional Transit, click here.

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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