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Gas price spike encouraging people to use mass transit

October 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Gas prices in Southern California hit another record high overnight.

According to Tuesday's AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report, in Los Angeles and Long Beach, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $4.71, which is 51 cents more than last week. Drivers in Orange County, the Inland Empire and Ventura County are paying on average $4.69 a gallon. California drivers are paying the highest price in the nation.

The increasing cost of gas has forced many to take a bus or train. Metrolink says Southern Californians are packing mass transit lines. They have reported a definite increase in ridership, even posting a record of nearly 23,000 riders this weekend.

Regular passengers at Union Station said they have noticed new faces and fewer seats for their morning commute.

"I would say it was a little more crowded than normal," said Homa Hashemi of Buena Park. "You can tell on the days where the gas prices are higher, people start taking the train more often."

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Aaron Roemisch said he skated three miles to the Metrolink station in Ventura to catch the train headed to Buena Park.

"I'm celebrating my fifth-year anniversary with my girlfriend," Roemisch said. "I couldn't afford to make the journey in the car and the train is cheap."

Analysts say refinery disruptions and corrosion problems in a pipeline are to blame for the spike in prices at the pump in California. Gas companies cite the laws of supply and demand. Refineries were in the middle of switching from winter blend gasoline to summer blend gasoline, then a power outage occurred last week at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance.

Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are calling for a federal investigation to look into the price spike in California. In the meantime, state leaders have approved the early release of winter blend fuel to help bolster supplies and lower prices. Winter-blend gas typically isn't sold until Oct. 31.

MTA spokesman Luis Inzunza encourages first-time commuters to plan their trip to work or school by using Metro's online trip planner.

"They could enter their starting point and their destination," Inzunza said."It'll plan their trip for them, tell them what lines or rail to take. It's very easy to use."

Long-time commuters on Metrolink and Metro say that public transportation is a more affordable option.

"I take the Metrolink from San Bernardino to Downtown Los Angeles," said Ed Pineda of Victorville. "I save about $20 a day."

Inzunza assures the public that Metro is the solution to save money during the surge of high gas prices.

"A gallon of gas is almost $5. Somebody could pay a $1.50 base for one week, $3 roundtrip, and if you plan on riding around town all day, you could purchase the all-day pass for $5, which is also the price of a gallon of gas," he said.

But even if prices do fall, many public transit riders say they have no intentions of getting behind the wheel for their commutes.

"I spend $200 for a monthly pass from Fullerton to Downtown L.A," said Martin Castillo of Fullerton. "My truck spends $200 a week."


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