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Monday, June 16, 2008

How has $4 gas impacted your life?

I am a firm believer that we've finally reached a tipping point now that $4 gas is here. Here in Pittsburgh, a region that hates things like car pooling and public transportation, more people are more willing to sacrifice the comfort of their vehicles and morning radio shows for a ride on the bus or light rail. More people think twice about making a trip across town - and making a 2 to 3 hour trip to visit friends or family requires one to consider the fuel implications of doing so.

How have you changed your driving behavior now that gas is $4 a gallon? Below are my observations and some of the things we are doing at the Schultz household.

1. The T station lots in the South Hills are booked to capacity. Finding an open space at 8am is near impossible. When its not too hot out I try to walk to a nearby T station, which is almost 3/4 a mile from my doorstep. The lot there is tiny and its impossible to find a space there after 7:30am so when I can't walk I drive about a mile to the Castle Shannon station which has a much larger surface lot.

2. Do you still fill up while at the tank? Since filling up once a week now eats up about half of my monthly disposable income I only pump enough gas to get me around to where I need to go, so I'm now only putting in $20 to $25 in the gas tank each week. Since the mpg of my car sucks that means I can drive about 100 to 120 miles a week, and hopefully I can stretch that into the next week but when I have to drive to and from the airport each week that's not likely.

3. I am considering buying a bike instead of a car when my lease is up. My wife just took a job in downtown Pittsburgh so during the week she won't need to drive. When I work in town I take the T, but often I work either out of town or somewhere that is not accessible by the T (most of Pittsburgh unfortunately!). We need at least one car, but owning two is now a waste. A bike will allow me to take short trips around town when my wife needs the car on weekends. Again - this will force us to drive less and it will save us a ton of money.

4. When will we start to see real plans for a comprehensive rail system in the Pittsburgh region? I am lucky to live in the South Hills and be within 1 mile from two T stops, but all Pittsburghers - those to the north, east, west, should have access to the T along with those of us who live south of Pittsburgh.


emily @ brighterplanet said...

I have definitely re-thought my summer road-trips to visit family and friends, but its actually such a blessing. Its prompting everyone around me to see what's in a bike-able radius. Our newspaper is providing more and more resources for events, hikes, and swimming holes in our county as opposed to out-of-state getaways. My friends have small garden plots and we end up hanging out there in the evenings, picking the weeds and growing veggies for the later summer months!

Schultz said...

Sounds awesome! Your comment reminds me of something else - we now get most of our food and produce from either a CSA or a local farmers market.

The Pittsburgh Rare | Mt. Lebanon Real Estate said...

I assumed that many of us were rethinking summer trips. But someone who recently went to Rehoboth Beach said you wouldn't have thought anyone there was worried about the price of gas or the economy--it was extremely crowded and you could see lots of out-of-state cars. At least that's a beach where you can bike almost everywhere once you get there...

EdHeath said...

Freakonomics on the NYTimes had a post about how gas prices affect people. Except for people at a particular level, at a particular margin of paycheck to paycheck, many people are not that affected. I drive more than I should, a 4 mile commute to work, but I am still only paying about ten dollars more every two weeks, or twenty more a month. Of course, other prices are starting to rise, affected by the price of transporting goods. And my mileage (averaging 30 mpg combined) is pretty good, and my fuel tank smallish. Your mileage and cost at the pump may vary.

I bought an electric bike online through Walmart ($350), but after going through two batteries I took it back. The good news is that I have rehabbed my old bike, so I am going to try riding that in (not today, gotta pick up my wife after work). I am going to try (again) taking the folding bike on the bus too. With the Schenley kids done for the summer (and forever), the buses may be emptier earlier in the morning.