Taking its toll
September 12, 2005
As we are all well aware ... gas prices have steadily been going up. When we moved to Sarasota, Florida $20 would fill my tank ... now we are pushing $30-35. A year ago Melissa and I were paying $1.90 per US Gallon - the price was up to $2.60 by spring and now sits at $2.99 at the pumps (this is for regular unleaded). I have been complaining about the prices for what seems like forever, trying once ... then twice, to cut down on my gas usage. However, I have always returned to the convenience of the car (there are a million excuses). But it is again on my mind! Melissa recently put forward a question ... "At what price point will you stop driving to Ultimate up in Bradenton?" (it is about a 65 km round trip). Fair enough question ... and I could not give an answer, a reasonable one anyways. It is hard to put a price tag on your recreational activities ... it is so dependent on the day. The question prompted several conversations with Krishen on when people will stop driving ... when will society start demanding more public transportation and infrastructure ... when will I put on my walking shoes? Well ... to help I pulled out our booklet of gas expenses we have been recording since last summer and took a look. (Krishen did an analysis of the fuel prices vs world events a while back ... interesting)
Questions to you
How are the higher prices changing your driving patterns? And what is your price point?
Average price per US Gallon each month
Total gas expenses each month
Total distance travelled each month
What we see
We have trended down over the last several months on driving. Our trip to Nashville was the only reason that August took a large jump up. Now, other factors ... Joseph did not handle the heat very well when he was younger ... so we did not travel as much in our non-A/C vehicle. Mileage is very different between city driving and highway driving (which we don't see here). And not enough time has passed to effectively see any trends. Though we have seen dips in out driving to no escape of the expenditure.
So ... where does that leave us. "At what price will you stop driving for recreation activities?" My answer ... is there isn't one. I have already started 'skipping' long drives for some things ... but the reality is that it will be more non-recreational driving where we will start to see the difference. Plus, the culture down here is such that dependancy on a personal vehicle has trapped us to some degree. I don't believe there will be a big push to improve the infrastructure quickly. A Florida based high-speed train has been suggested, but been all but killed due to costs. I have seen more bikes and pedestrians on the streets lately, related? Likely. What will likely happen is nothing .. people will still drive, the costs will "relax" though never return to previous levels ... why? Because people have shown they will still pay these rates. Debt will increase because driving, even in our life, is often seen as a necessity (work, school, groceries, etc) ... but eventually, the cost of living will increase - pushing wages up, inflation up, and sending us into another recession. Ouch! Thats negative eh?
Back in school my cut-off point was $0.70 / Liter for driving to school ... after that it was the bus. Now, Krishen and I are back to car pooling our 2 miles into work - and if a sidewalk extended just a 'bit' farther I would rollerblade - but a little more and I might walk. Melissa and I have been walking more to Starbucks instead of driving ... more for fun than to save money - but it is a start right? We are tending not to "go out" as frequently just to pass time - we stay in.
These are the times that push technology to find solutions for us. Hybrids are gaining popularity - even if they are debated as really providing the efficiency the market. (They are designed for stop-and-go, perfect for couriers and/or heavy traffic commutes). The '70s started our public push of alternative energy sources ... maybe today we will see the end of research and the beginning of a new age.