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Motorists have not yet turned to using public transportation even though Orange County gas prices have already passed $4 a gallon.

A spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority said, “At this point we haven’t seen any increase (in bus ridership) directly related to the gas prices.”

The OCTA experienced incremental amounts of riders in the summer of 2008, when the O.C. experienced the highest gas prices of $4.59 in June. However, the increased ridership did not start until three months after the record price increase.

In September 2008, there were 240,000 boardings recorded. By comparison, there were 180,000 recorded riders in September of last year.

Bus transfer routes on Metrolink were also up by 25 percent during the highest gas prices in 2008.

This is the first year that gas has gone over $4 a gallon so early in the year, according to OCTA authorities. On average gas prices this year are about 55 cents more than last month and 45 cents more than last year at this same time. On Thursday, the gas price dropped by one cent to $4.35.

OCTA officials indicated that in preparation for a barrage of new riders they would possibly operate more high-speed alternatives such as Metrolink rail and express bus services.

Express route service on OCTA buses usually runs about $4.50 and regular service is about $1.50. There are also weekly and monthly passes available for riders who wish to use the services more frequently.

So, if you use OCTA how much money will you really be saving?

According to a February savings report by the American Public Transportation Association, people who took public transportation instead of their cars saved an average of $826 a month. That is about $9,912 a year.

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By Paul Lee

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