Sunday, September 25, 2005

Higher gas prices lead to less driving 

About 2 percent less, to be exact. This New York Times article says that, at previous prices, analysts would have expected Americans to buy about 9.0 million barrels a gas a day. Instead, they bought 8.8 million barrels a day. "It's a big decline," the Times quotes an analyst saying. But is less than 2.3 percent really that big?

The Times notes that the main way people are cutting back on driving today is by making fewer trips to visit friends and relatives. While transit agencies are reporting increased ridership, a transit system that carries less than 1 percent of travel can have a huge ridership gain without having any significant impact on driving.

The Times also notes that Americans who used to drive 5.1 miles per shopping trip in 1990 increased this to 7.0 miles per shopping trip by 2001. "Blame urban sprawl," comments the writer. Yet urban sprawl was not significantly greater in 2001 than it was in 1990 (most "sprawl" took place between 1945 and 1990). The reasons for the increase length in shopping trips are the increased diversity of shopping opportunities fed by the declining cost of driving.

If previous gas shortages are any indication, changes in people's travel habits due to high gas prices will be short lived. If prices don't go back down, people will buy more fuel efficient cars and then go back to driving as much as before. In 1983, Americans drove 26 percent more than in 1973, yet used only 5 percent more fuel. From 1973 to 2003, fuel economy has increased by 42 percent and there is obviously room to increase it further if we are motivated to do so by high gas prices.

Comments:
>>>>>If previous gas shortages are any indication, changes in people's travel habits due to high gas prices will be short lived. >>>>>

The situation regarding today's gas shortages are different than prior years. China, India and European nations are effecting the price of oil unlike the shortages expereinced in 1973. The days of buying gas at $1.50 a gallon are gone forever as the world becomes dependant on the middle east for their fuel. Next summer, we'll see gas hit $4.50 per gallon or more even if there are no natural disaster to affect the price. High gas prices are here to stay and will send this country into a recession by the time it's hits $5.00 dollars a gallon.


>>>>In 1983, Americans drove 26 percent more than in 1973, yet used only 5 percent more fuel. From 1973 to 2003, fuel economy has increased by 42 percent and there is obviously room to increase it further if we are motivated to do so by high gas prices.>>>>>

The above statement is based on the assumption that consumers will sell their SUV's and drive Volkwagon Jettas. In addition, with fuel prices doubling each year, motoring will be expensive in any vehicle regardless to the fuel economy.

As the article pointed out, public transportation is experiencing record growth as motorcar transport becomes unaffordable. We need to subsidize bus and lightrail or consumers will spend most of their descretionary income on gasoline sending the entire economy into a deep recession.
 
If automobiles are going to become unaffordable, and bus and lightrail are going to be practical alternative, why do but and lightrail need to be subsidized? Subsidies should only be needed if they aren't really competitive.
 
>>>>>If automobiles are going to become unaffordable, and bus and lightrail are going to be practical alternative, why do but and lightrail need to be subsidized? Subsidies should only be needed if they aren't really competitive.<<<<<<

If automobiles become unaffordable, you better hope your city and state start subsidizing public transportation or tens of thousands will spend 30-50 percent of their income on transportation sending your community into a freefall.

The government subsidzes highways and road construction 15 times greater than public transportation but we expect railroads to pay for themselves through the fare box. This is folly.

The days of rail lines making a profit died 70 years ago. Today, ALL rail lines in Europe and North America have to be subsidized to the benefit of the people just like our highways.
 
"ALL rail lines have to be subsidized"? I think anonymous will agree that Europe has provided many times as many subsidies to rail than the U.S. Yet between 1980 and 2000 intercity rail's market share in Europe declined from 8.2 to 6.3 percent, while urban rail's share declined from 1.4 to 1.1 percent.

If rail transit doesn't work in Europe, with its higher density populations, all of its subsidies, and high taxes on gasoline, how can it work here?
 
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