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Mass Transit Companies Moving to Hybrid Buses as Fuel Costs Soar

Bus companies in the United States are reporting an increase in ridership as high fuel costs motivate more Americans to leave their cars at home. As Mil Arcega reports, fuel costs are also encouraging transit operators to explore alternative fuel sources and new technologies.

In Washington DC, commuters say the Metro stations appear more crowded than usual. One rider says, "It's usually empty about this time but the Metro train was packed today."

And with gasoline prices reaching new highs, some Americans say they're driving less. Another person says he is changing his driving habits as a result of the high cost of gas, "I mean the price is outrageous. It's definitely having an impact on my driving habits, no question."

Across the United States, transit companies are reporting increased ridership, as much as 20 percent in one midwestern state.

Jack Requa, the chief operating officer at the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority says there is an obvious increase in ridership.

It's too soon to say if the increase is due to high gasoline prices but he says oil prices, now hovering above $71 a barrel, are having an impact on everyone.

"If it went to $70 dollars, it can go to $80; the dependency, the supply are all in question. Costs are huge and getting bigger. I think people need to look at alternatives not only in fuels but also in modes of transportation."

That's one of the reasons why the Washington mass transit system has begun testing new hybrid buses. Running on a combination of electricity and diesel, the new buses cost about $200,000 more but offer greater fuel economy and dramatically lower emissions than conventional buses.

Mr. Requa says, "It does cost more, but we are committed to trying to reduce emissions, reduce fuel costs. Reduce dependency on foreign oil, and it seems to be the technology of the day to do that.