Steadily rising gas prices have taken their toll on students who drive their cars on campus. Students might take heart, then, in the plight of buses operated by the University. The big blue behemoths that connect the campuses and chew up the sidewalks as they round tight turns get an average of five miles to the gallon and take 120 gallons to fill. And the diesel budgets that the University has drawn up to feed them are buckling in the face of rising fuel costs.

Angela Cesere
University employee T.J. Awrey refuels a bus yesterday. (TOMMASO GOMEZ/Daily)

Although half a million dollars this year was allocated for the fueling of University buses, that amount had to be supplemented by another $100,000 over the summer, according to Dave Miller, director of Parking and Transportation Services.

The price for a barrel of crude oil has climbed upwards of $60 and peaked at over $70 since this year’s University budget was formulated. The devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina and its aftereffects on the U.S. Gulf Coast refineries further destabilized oil prices, requiring the intervention of the government in order to deflect a major shortage of oil. However, this release of national strategic reserves would only act as a stopgap measure.

Now even the revised amount of $600,000 will no longer be enough.

“Even if prices stabilize, we’re probably going to overshoot it by $88,000,” Miller said.

People up and down the chain of transportation are doing their part to conserve.

While the numbers on a University diesel pump flicked upward in a busyard near the stadium, fueler Phil Hitchinghan explained his method for getting the most out of the pump.

In order to minimize the amount of fuel sitting in idle buses, “we try to put the same bus on more runs, so it doesn’t get refueled needlessly,” Hitchinghan said.

Drivers are advised to minimize idling and turn their engines off during breaks. But there are limits to what the drivers can do.

“Regardless of how high the fuel costs are, we still have to run the buses,” Taseanda Palm, a student driver, said.

And to a bus with a 120-gallon tank, the diesel is good to the very last drop.

This is the first in a two-part series on campus transportation in the midst of rising energy costs.

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