SAN FRANCISCO — How high is too high? That’s the question facing Americans as skyrocketing gasoline prices cut into their budgets. But now, there are signs that more drivers and businesses are making creative changes to ease their pain at the pump.
Karen Watkins drives to work but doesn’t own a car. She junked hers and now “car shares.” “I think it’s saving me a couple of thousand dollars a year,” Watkins says, adding, “I just knew the price of gas was gonna go up... and I got tired of it.”
Membership in San Francisco’s non-profit City CarShare has jumped 20 percent in recent months.
It’s all about alternatives for a growing number of Americans who are shocked by pain at the pump. Many others are also looking for cheaper ways to get from here to there.
In Los Angeles, that means what was once unthinkable to many: mass transit.
“The system increases on both the bus side and the rail side have been significant — 9 to 14 percent,” says Los Angeles mass transit administrator Roger Snoble. And that, he says, is due to increased gas prices.
Portland, Oregon uses bicycle envoys to spread the word about transportation options, offering you a “walking kit” and some transit info.
Maryanne Yoshikawa doesn’t need a bike or car. Like 24 million Americans, she telecommutes from home, tapping a keyboard instead of an accelerator. Yoshikawa says, as a consequence, “I fill up about once a month.”
Experts, like energy analyst Mark Routt, say it’s all beginning to add up. “People are finally making the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce the growth in our gasoline demand,” says Routt, “And frankly, I haven’t seen that in my 20 years in the business.”
From longer lines of casual carpoolers filled with perfect strangers in search of a free ride, to Georgia’s Floyd County school district mixing chicken fat with diesel fuel for its buses — the rising price of oil is fueling new ways to save.
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