Biking, doing several errands in one trip and easing up
on the air conditioning
are ways to cope with rising fuel prices
Lisa Grace Lednicer
The (Portland) Oregonian
Longing for the days when gasoline cost less than $1.50 a
gallon? Transportation eggheads have three words for you:
Get. Over. It.
Assuming you don't want to take out a second mortgage to
gas up your Dodge Caravan or Ford Expedition, you could change
your driving habits.
That means doing things we've been told to do for years to
improve fuel economy: Don't speed. Avoid blasting the air
conditioning. Stop idling, revving the engine and slamming
on the brakes.
Cut down on all those short hops to the grocery store, the
dry cleaner and the gym. Bundling those jaunts into one trip
"People in the United States use their cars for things
they don't need to use them for, like going three blocks to
the grocery store when they could walk," said Julie Stockert,
a math teacher who recently bought a hybrid vehicle. "People
need to be aware of the fact that we have been privileged
so long, and we need to pay our share for what's going on
in the world."
The announcement last week that the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries would cut oil production -- combined with
a shortage of refinery capacity and clean-air rules requiring
different types of gasoline for different regions -- is expected
to send prices soaring in the next few weeks, well ahead of
the traditional spike during the heavy driving months of June,
July and August.
According to www.portlandgasprices.com, which relies on consumers
to track prices for regular gasoline in the Portland area,
a gallon of regular had reached $2.05 as of Friday evening
at a Union 76 station at Southeast Sunnyside Road and Interstate
That wasn't nearly as high as in California, where drivers
were shelling out as much as $2.22 a gallon in Santa Barbara,
a AAA spokesman said.
And prices have been higher: Using today's dollar, motorists
paid the equivalent of $2.90 a gallon in March 1981, the government
Elliott Eki, public affairs director for AAA Oregon, said
he heard from a recreational vehicle owner who canceled a
trip to the Grand Canyon because of escalating fuel prices.
He predicted, however, that families will skimp on hotels
and restaurants rather than skip trips.
"If you have kids, you don't want to disappoint them,"
he said. "There are going to be some tough choices people
will have to make."
Hybrid vehicles conserve fuel, but getting one can seem as
frustrating as standing in line for bread in the old Soviet
Union. Mansour Gdarah, fleet manager for Ron Tonkin Toyota,
said the Toyota Prius, which runs on a combination of gas
and electricity, takes at least three months to arrive. His
waiting list, he said, has grown to 75. He's even received
calls from Californians.
Although TriMet officials said they haven't noticed a pronounced
spike in ridership, the operations manager for South Metro
Area Rapid Transit, the free bus service in Wilsonville, expects
increases if the price of gasoline moves much past $2 a gallon.
That mark, Steve Allen said, is the psychological barrier
drivers must cross before they contemplate chucking their
cars for buses or car pools. Allen said he's downgraded from
premium gasoline to midgrade and will consider filling his
Subaru Outback with regular gasoline if the price continues
One of the easiest ways to cut down on drive time is to consolidate
errands. A 1994-95 Metro survey of 5,000 households in Multnomah,
Clackamas, Washington and Clark counties, the most recent
available, showed that in a single nonwork trip from home
and back, drivers made an average of 3.2 stops. The average
distance of those trips was 4.4 miles.
Short of that, there's biking, walking and telecommuting.
Or skateboarding, which in Portland is a legal way to commute.
"What you need," said Eki, the AAA spokesman, "is
a skateboard with a sail on it, and let the wind blow you
down the street."