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Business up for buses, pawn shops with gas hikes

Business up for buses, pawn shops with gas hikes

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BLOOMINGTON - Some people are finding alternate modes of transportation because of fuel costs, while others are pawning their valuables to afford a few more gallons.

Kathy Pierce, owner of Monster Pawn, said she is definitely busier when gas prices increase. She said she did not have figures on how many more people have come in, but she knows business has increased.

"I know that the everyday person is busting trying to, you know, come up with an extra $30 every week that they don't have," Pierce said. "And it's stressful, and it's affecting all of us."

Marc Magliari, spokesman for Amtrak's Chicago office, said it's unclear how much impact fuel costs have on the number of people riding his company's trains. But he said spikes in costs in August coincided with jumps in traffic to the Amtrak.com Web site and calls to the company's toll-free line, (800) USA-RAIL.

"When prices spike like this, or pass $3, we find a lot of people begin looking for alternatives," Magliari said. "And certainly in Bloomington-Normal, we're a great alternative north and south."

The number of passengers on Amtrak trains has risen each of the last three fiscal years, Magliari said, and it's difficult to tell why more people are taking trains.

But Melissa Traum of Normal said she planned to take a train to visit a friend in Chicago this weekend because of the cost of fuel, and she more often drives.

Marc Wood of Bloomington waited outside the Normal Amtrak station Thursday afternoon to pick up Heather Morris, who he said took the train because of fuel costs. He and Morris are from St. Louis, he said, and they take the train when visiting family members and friends.

Melanie Overend, marketing director for the Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System, said the bus system also has no way of telling why more people are riding buses.

But she said the number of fare-paying, fixed route riders in March was up 13 percent from one year earlier.

"Compared to the months of the past year, every month has been up this year," Overend said of the number of riders. "And I'm sure gas prices definitely have an effect on that, but to what extent I don't know."

Aaron Halliday, owner of Checker Cab Co., said business has not increased with gas prices, but the cost of business has increased by about $470 every week. He said his taxis use about 650 gallons every week.

And Halliday said he is pushing for an increase in the surcharge for fares, which he said has not increased in years.

"If you go to a restaurant when gas is higher, you know, the restaurant adds a surcharge because of the fuel expense for the delivery company," Halliday said. "They're all raising their rates, so it's only fair that the cab companies also raise their rates."

Halliday said he and others at Checker Cab are now dispatching taxis by the area where they are located, instead of the former "first in, first out" method.

"We're probably doing more strategic dispatching of drivers so that we don't have to have one car drive clear across town for a $4 call," Halliday said.

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