The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 15, 2013

Rising gas prices affect businesses, services

Patrick Buchnowski

JOHNSTOWN — Rising gas prices are hitting local businesses and organizations in the pocket book.

Cambria County Meals on Wheels cut its food delivery to the elderly several months ago from four days a week to three.

Several years ago, meals were delivered five days a week.

“One of the main reasons we have cut back is the price of gas,” said M. Veil Griffith, administrator of the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging.

Drivers deliver 800 meals in Cambria County on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Cambria County contracts the Nutrition Group, an Irwin-based company, to prepare food for the Meals on Wheels program.

The company employs drivers to deliver meals in Greater Johnstown. They receive mileage reimbushment because they use their own vehicles, Griffith said. County employees deliver meals to the rest of the county, Griffith said.

“It’s so important for the drivers to make personal contact with the elderly, who don’t have anyone else,” she said.  

If more cost-cutting is necessary, Griffith hopes it will prevent reducing delivery days further.

“I wouldn’t want it to come to that,” she said.

Pump prices

The price of regular gas on Friday averaged $3.64 per gallon. A year ago, the price was $3.52 per gallon, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Since mid-January, the national price at the pump has been propelled higher by somewhat pricier crude oil, said AAA’s Michael Green.

Regional refinery issues and the approaching switch to summer-blend gasoline are other culprits, he said.

Rising prices are squeezing cab companies.

“It’s killing us,” said Terry Christy, owner of T Christy’s Auto and Yellow Cab in Johns­town.

Drivers buy their own gas when driving Christy’s cabs

“It’s putting a crunch on the drivers and on us,” he said.

At this point there is no plan to increase cab fares.

Diesel also is on the rise.

The price of a gallon of diesel fuel on Friday stood at $4.09 per gallon. That’s up from $3.93 a year ago.

The increase affects local firefighters.

When fire trucks in Richland Township are called out during winter months, they must idle to keep water from freezing.

That’s costly.

“We run some of the heaviest iron in the county,” said Robert Heffelfinger, battalion chief for the fire department and township supervisor.

“We may go to a non-fire event – carbon monoxide alarm – and those units have to be kept idling to keep the pumps circulating.”

Regardless of fuel prices, firefighters still respond when lives are at risk.

“We still have to operate business as usual,” Heffelfigner said. “We can’t change the way we do business.”

Public transportation

Generally, high gas prices are good for public transportation as people drive less and ride the bus more, said Josh Yoder, CamTran’s director of marketing and planning.

CamTran’s urban ridership for January spiked in 2012 to 88,728 compared with 81,250 in 2011.

Urban ridership for January 2013 is down slightly to 86,143, which could be because of inclement weather.

“We’re showing strong ridership,” Yoder said.

Even with increased fuel costs, CamTran plans no fare increase, he said.

Routes are not being affected either.

“We do business the same regardless of gas prices,” he said. “Folks are depending on us to take them where they need to go. That’s why we’re here.”

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