Special Report: Riding to Save

WSFA 12 News Reporter Mark Bullock talks to MATS General Manager Kelvin Miller.
WSFA 12 News Reporter Mark Bullock talks to MATS General Manager Kelvin Miller.

By Mark Bullock - bio | email

Montgomery, AL (WSFA) - Gas prices went down slightly over the weekend, but only by an eighth of a cent. So if you're still feeling the pain at the pump, maybe it's time to look into some alternatives.

Some people are turning to mass transit. But is it worth it?

In larger cities, mass transit is a way of life. New York, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta all have subway systems. Montgomery may not have a subway, but it does have plenty of bus stops -- 600 of them citywide.

"We cover a large portion of the city," explained Montgomery Area Transit System General Manager Kelvin Miller.

Miller says MATS ridership is up 14% in the past year.

He points to the increasing number of riders filling the city's new bus transfer center, located next to the train station downtown. You can get on a bus and go pretty much anywhere in the city.

Courtney Dorsey rides the bus to class at Alabama State University. She admits, it's not always the fastest way to travel.

"It does take longer," she said. "It's not as convenient as getting in the car and just going."

But you can't beat the price.

"Considering that the price of gas is about $3.84 now and it only costs a dollar to ride a bus one way, to me that's a good deal," Miller said.

"It's also pretty easy to take the bus. Just call the phone number you see at the bus stop and tell the operator where you want to go.

You can also log on to www.montgomerytransit.com and click on the trip planner.

"A person can put in the destination they're looking for and it sends an email to our customer service folks. They will respond and tell them where to catch the bus," Miller explained.

If you're wondering how much cheaper a bus ride can be, WSFA 12 News did the math. If you have a 10-mile commute, driving would cost you around $20 every week. Riding the bus at $1/trip would cost you just $10.

MATS has refrained from increasing bus fares, despite the rising cost of fuel. Miller says the system is operating at a loss for the first time history. He blames the cost of diesel. The city and federal governments are expected to make up the difference.