Whenever gas prices go up, it gouges a bit more from Kennewick cab driver Jim Taylor's pocket.
He and other drivers at RAD Cab must pay for gas themselves. With cab rates set by the company, he can't just up the price to make up for gas costs.
"If gas hits $4.60 a gallon, I'm quitting," Taylor said. "I'm not going through that again."
While gas prices have dipped in the Tri-Cities in the past month, national gas analysts predict gas prices may peak near $4.57 per gallon this year.
The national average gas price at the beginning of 2012 was $3.26 per gallon, which is about 21 cents higher than the same time in 2011, according to GasBuddy.com, where consumers can post local gas prices.
A year's peak price has been between 93 cents to $1.31 a gallon higher than the average price at the year's beginning, said Gregg Laskoski, GasBuddy.com senior petroleum analyst, in a news release.
That could mean record high prices this year.
Thursday, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the Tri-Cities was $3.28. That's 33 cents less than the same time last month, but 6 cents more than last year, according to AAA.
The Benton County sheriff's office already is suffering from gas prices. Sheriff Steve Keane said the department has spent $331,000 of the $481,000 gas budget for 2011-12. That leaves $150,000 for 2012.
"I'm having the deputies park when they don't need to be driving," he said. "They don't idle their cars."
Keane has 57 deputies on the road. The average patrol deputy drives about 25,000 miles each year, he said.
Keane said he is being careful with every item in his budget so he can have funds to help without asking county commissioners for more money. And when the department considers new cars, fuel efficiency is important, he said.
Ben Franklin Transit also is a slave to gas prices. Kathy McMullen, the agency's service development manager, said it budgeted for $4 per gallon of gasoline in 2012.
In the past year, the agency has used 530,000 gallons of diesel and 434,000 gallons of gasoline, she said.
With diesel, Ben Franklin Transit has a contract, which saved the agency about $100,000 in the past two years, she said. However, it pays the price at the pump for gasoline.
Gas prices also affect other areas, such as costs of parts, McMullen said. Shipping also costs more when gas is higher, and that is reflected in many items.
McMullen said Ben Franklin Transit can't spend more money than it brings in. If fuel prices go up and devour the agency's budget, they would consider cutting services.
Tri-City Taxi and TC Transportation Services of Pasco likely will not lower service or change prices if gas spikes, said Ron Davis, chief operating officer. The companies operate Ben Franklin Transit's taxi feeder and night service, and offer transit services for cities and tribes in the Yakima Valley.
"Usually we just hold our breath and hope," he said.
Davis said his companies do see more use of the taxi feeder and night service when gas prices go up, as Tri-Citians leave cars in their driveways and take public transit instead.
"I can't believe I'm celebrating $3.15 gasoline," he said.
The city of Pasco's budget has used a higher fuel price in the budget this year because officials anticipate possible spikes with events in the Middle East, said finance manager Dunyele Mason. The budget assumes gas prices will climb to $4.30 a gallon.
The police department is the largest gas consumer among Pasco's departments, she said.
Area nonprofits also feel the hit when gas prices go up.
The Boys & Girls Club of Benton & Franklin Counties did not plan for prices to hit as high as $4.60 this coming year, said Greg Falk, the nonprofit's president.
"I don't know where we will get the money from," he said.
Each day, the organization transports children for its programs and stages field trips. Falk said the club has been choosing field trips with fewer miles when possible.
Volunteer drivers at Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels seem fairly happy with gas prices right now, said Marcee Woffinden, the nonprofit's nutrition services director. About 50 to 60 volunteers help get meals to seniors each day. About half of the 550 daily meals are delivered to private homes.
When gas hits $4 or more a gallon, some volunteers may decide they no longer can drive, Woffinden said. But the last time gas approached hit $4 per gallon, Meals on Wheels saw only a few volunteers stop driving.
And the agency could use more volunteers, not less, she said.
Last year, volunteers traveled more than 71,000 miles to deliver meals, she said. Some pay for their own gas. Others receive a small stipend to help with the cost.