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Fuel costs plunging Kitsap Transit into debt

Steadily rising fuel costs could mean potential surcharges or cuts in routes in the future, although no decisions have been made. - Photo by Paul Balcerak
Steadily rising fuel costs could mean potential surcharges or cuts in routes in the future, although no decisions have been made.
— image credit: Photo by Paul Balcerak

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Riding the bus may be an attractive alternative to those in Kitsap County looking to combat increasing gas prices. But it may soon become a little more expensive or a little less available.

In the face of steadily increasing diesel fuel prices, Kitsap Transit is facing a deficit already in the hundreds of thousands and is beginning to consider options for bringing itself out of the red.

Two that have surfaced already: eliminate routes or introduce a fuel surcharge fee to current rates.

“We have a severe deficit that we need to close due to these gas prices,” Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown said.

Brown is this year’s chairperson for Kitsap Transit’s board of commissioners. He and the board are currently looking at ways to modify the county’s 2008-2013 transportation plan.

Brown isn’t sure when any decisions will be made or if any changes will go into effect.

“I have no idea at this point,” Brown said. “We don’t have a target yet for cuts to our five-year transportation plan.”

Kitsap Transit had attempted to plan for a hike in gas prices when they set the 2008 budget, but their projected miles-per-gallon rate is still falling short of current prices.

Kitsap Transit planned for a rate of $2.70 a gallon in the 2008 budget — 20 cents more than what was budgeted in 2007.

That projection was “actually higher than anybody else we could find, in terms of what people set the bar at,” Kitsap Transit Director Richard Hayes said. “And we’re still in trouble.”

There’s no telling how much a fuel surcharge could end up costing riders, if it went into effect, or how many routes would have to be cut. But the deficit is looking pretty large at this point.

“If (fuel prices) stay at this same level, we expect to be at least 300,000 (dollars) over budget in the fuel arena and it could be actually closer to four (hundred thousand dollars) the way things are going,” Hayes said.

“What I tell folks is, I understand very well the burdens our seniors are faced with, the burdens our families are faced with ... and those are the same problems our county is facing,” Brown said.

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