TRAVERSE CITY — A stretch of cheap gasoline didn't lead to fewer Bay Area Transportation Authority riders, even as drivers saw plummeting prices at the pump.
It instead saved BATA money. The transportation organization saved $47,000 in four months, compared to what it spent on fuel the year before.
"Prices have fallen 15 percent for fuel," said Dianne Leshinski, BATA director of finance.
The average January unleaded gas price was $2.023 per gallon in Traverse City in January, according to AAA Michigan. Last year's average late February price was $3.659.
Cheap gasoline helped push down the Consumer Price Index in January, which shows a slight decrease in overall prices of goods, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Midwest CPI dropped 0.3 percent from January 2014 to January 2015, and is 0.6 percent lower from December 2014. January marked the fourth consecutive month of price decline, thanks to cheaper fuel.
The price of motor fuel declined by 19.8 percent from December to January, and 38.8 percent in the last year.
Networks Northwest Information Systems Manager Lisa Schut said low transportation prices put more money in consumers' pockets, and allowed them to spend more on other things. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the average U.S. household to spend about $750 less for gasoline in 2015 compared with last year because of lower prices.
Schut is doubtful cheap fuel will reduce the price of goods, even if companies save on shipping costs.
"The companies who make the goods are very unlikely to lower their prices just because gas is going down," she said.
Gasoline marked below $2 or $3 per-gallon isn't likely to stay. Leshinski follows short term energy outlooks and said price increases are forecast. Traverse City prices already ticked up since January — AAA Michigan reported average prices at $2.476 per gallon in late February.
Costs of other items rose slightly in the last year, according to the CPI report. Prices of food and beverages increased 3.1 percent from January 2014 to January 2015, with food away from home increasing the most at 3.9 percent. Housing increased 1.9 percent in the last year, with the rent of primary residence category increasing the most, 2.4 percent. Fuels and utilities costs rose 2.5 percent, with electricity costs jumping the highest, 5.6 percent. Medical care costs rose 3.4 percent from January 2014 to January 2015.
The CPI for Midwest states was 221.545 in January, which means goods that would have cost $100 in 1982-1984 cost $221.55 in January this year. The Midwest CPI includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.