Monday, April 21, 2008

Higher gas prices spark shifts in driving habits

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 10:20 AM

A gallon of regular gas in Charlotte is (at press time) about $3.34. For driver Tim Burgess, that’s too much.

He stopped at Sam’s Mart on Central Avenue and filled his mini-van for $60.

“This is ridiculous,” he laments.

Burgess says that since gas prices have jumped up, he’s changed his driving habits and vacation plans.

“We’re going to stay around Charlotte and take advantage of Discovery Place,” he says of his now thwarted vacation plans.

In hopes of saving gas, Burgess says that he tries to consolidate trips. He does his shopping, dropping-off and picking-up his daughter from school at the same time.

“It saves a little but not much,” the east Charlotte resident says. “My wife and I don’t know how we’re going to budget the rising gas costs. I’m still thinking about times when I was in high school and I could put $10 in and go all week. Now I put $10 in, and I’m lucky if I can get to work on it.”

Nate Beam, who drives a Honda and not a Cadillac, which is more of his style, says that he’s been in the house for two days because his tank has been on “E.”

“It’s killing me,” he says of the gas prices. “It’s hard times right now. And [motor] oil is high right now. It used to be $2 for the cheap oil, and now it’s $3.”

Beam says even though times are hard, he’s not going to take public transportation.

Riding the bus is also not an option for Johnson & Wales student Lindsey Silliman.

Silliman is originally from the Outer Banks and won’t be going home this summer, she says. “I’ve cancelled a couple of trips because of the gas prices,” she says while she pumped gas at the Circle K off Graham Street.

Cancelling leisure trips is one thing, but she still has to get to the Johnson & Wales campus.

“We’ve been car pooling,” says Silliman. She says taking public transportation to Uptown would take forever.

AAA of the Carolinas spokeswoman Carol Gifford says that gas prices in the Charlotte area aren’t expected to rise to $4 a gallon. But they will be close.

“Gas prices could be reaching $3.50 to $3.60 a gallon before Memorial Day,” she says.

But Gifford believes that as gas prices climb, the demand will go down and in turn, so will the prices.

Burgess says that his next step in the war of rising oil costs is taking public transportation — and voting.

“My wife and I are paying attention to the upcoming election to see who we’re going to support,” he says.

While a new government is one long-term solution to high gas prices, Gifford says that motorists can save gas by simply slowing down.

“You cut your gas mileage by 10 percent for every extra five miles you go over 65 miles per hour,” she says.

Gifford says that it’s also a good idea to shop around to see who has the cheapest gas in your zip code. By logging on to www.aaacarolinas.com, people can compare gas prices.

But high gas prices can’t stop people from living. It just takes a little more planning to have a good time.

Gifford says that when it comes to vacations, people aren’t canceling them, but like Burgess, they’re changing the destination.

“People who may have been planning to go around the eastern seaboard may just decide to stay in the Carolinas,” she says.

And instead of driving or flying to a vacation getaway, more people are hopping aboard Amtrak.

The rail line has seen an increase in ridership over the past few years, according to spokeswoman Karina Romero.

Want to find cheap gas? Log on to www.charlottegasprices.com. Users of this site can also share the address of station where they’ve found cheap gas.

AndsSome gas stations with car washes offer drivers a discount if they purchase a car wash. You can get your car cleaned and save 10 cents a gallon.

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