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Pay & pay at the pump

March 17, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - If gas prices continue to rise, Hagerstown cab company manager Rick Miller said he will be forced to raise fares, which have remained the same for more than 10 years.

"We've been hanging on for a while," said Miller, manager of Miller Transportation. "You look at (the fares) not just as a fare, but as a person and you think, 'They can't afford that.'"

Miller said cab drivers pay $55 to rent a cab for a day shift and, on a busy day, might put about $40 from their own pockets into the cabs' gas tanks. If rates are raised, Miller said a popular ride, such as from Potomac Towers to Washington County Hospital, which now costs $2.10, will be upped to about $2.50.

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"We watch the price per barrel on oil 'cause that'll end up at the gas pumps," he said. "It's really working on (drivers') pockets."

His wife, Denise Miller, said they would have to seek permission from the Maryland Public Service Commission to raise rates.

"We're hoping it don't come to that," she said.

Chuck Jackson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the average price for regular unleaded gas Tuesday was $2.04 a gallon in Hagerstown, up 9 cents from a month ago. The Maryland average price Tuesday also was $2.04 a gallon. A year ago, regular unleaded gas cost $1.69 a gallon, he said.

Robert May, 65, co-owner of May's Service Center on Sharpsburg Pike, said he's not making any more money on the rising prices. Regular unleaded gas at May's Tuesday cost $2.05.

"We try to keep competitive, we try to keep up with the other gas stations. You almost have to," he said.

According to the 2005 AAA Mid-Atlantic Annual Transportation Survey, despite the rising cost of gas, there is "little or no change in driving behavior and habits," Jackson said.

Papa John's Pizza delivery drivers are not changing their habits.

Cyndi Gibson, manager of Papa John's Pizza on Cleveland Avenue, said delivery drivers, who pay for their own gas and are paid an hourly rate, have not griped to her about prices.

"That's not to say that in a couple of weeks, it won't change," she said.

But Charles Hammersmith's work is already being affected. Hammersmith, a driver for BOC Gases out of Cumberland, Md., said he doesn't pay for gas on the job, but his company is not taking the price of gas lightly.

"They want us to start watching everything," Hammersmith, 58, said as he cleaned the windows of his tractor-trailer at AC&T on Sharpsburg Pike. "They don't want us to idle so much, watch our speed, stuff like that."

Ken Garnett, 40, of Hagerstown, said he doesn't like the price of gas. He usually dishes out about $45 for a full tank for his Ford F-150, which he said lasts him about 10 days.

"What can do you do, you've got to have it," he said as he filled up his tank.

Debbie Starr, 41, said she hasn't paid much attention to the prices.

"Any way you look at it, you need it," she said. "You've got to drive to work, you've got to have gas."

Staff writer Karen Hanna contributed to this story.

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