GW pays high price at the pump

Along with consumers across the country, GW watched gas prices climb to more than $3 per gallon this past weekend. But University officials said they will just have to endure the increasing financial strains of topping off their tanks.

GW operates several vehicle systems, including University Police Department patrol cars, 4-RIDE vans and Facilities Management vehicles, as well as the Mount Vernon and Virginia campus shuttles, which it contracts out to International Limousine Services.

University officials said that higher gas prices are costing the school more, but could not provide an exact figure.

UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said the increased gas prices are negatively affecting the University’s budget. She explained that UPD has 30 patrol cars, and there are instances during which 20 of them are running at the same time.

Stafford said that UPD, which also controls the 4-RIDE van service, is not about to alter its gasoline consumption based on prices.

“We can’t really change how much we drive, as it is the nature of our business to patrol the campus, to respond to calls for service and to provide escorts via 4-RIDE,” Stafford wrote in an e-mail.

The University seems to have the same attitude toward the around-the-clock shuttle service that provides transportation to and from the Mount Vernon Campus. Matt Nehmer, assistant director of media relations, said that services will continue to be provided while the University pays a higher charge for fuel.

“The University is continuing to operate vehicles at current levels of service to meet the needs of students, faculty and staff,” he said.

Nehmer added that because of the rising gas prices, the University had to conduct negotiations with International Limousine about the cost of shuttle operations. In its contract with the University, International Limousine has the discretion to either raise or lower its charges to the University on a month-by-month basis if gas prices change significantly.

“While the current elevated nature of fuel costs has certainly impacted the pricing GW receives from International Limousine, this pricing has not translated into any decrease in service provided by The Vern Express,” Nehmer said, using the new nickname for the Mount Vernon bus service.

The recent increase in gas prices is linked to the effects of hurricane season. Last September, gas prices rose after Hurricane Ivan disrupted offshore drilling. Hurricane Katrina is having a similar, if not more devastating, effect this week, with prices jumping as much as 50 cents per gallon in Ohio and 40 cents per gallon in Georgia overnight, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S. Department of Energy this week rated the average gas price in the Lower Atlantic region of the United States at $2.57 per gallon, a 77-cent increase from prices this time last year.

Despite the rise in gas prices, the University insists that no vehicle operations will be altered. Nehmer said services will still run on regular frequency, with no extra charge incurred by students.

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