Gas Prices Changing Your Plans?
Here's a sampler of what pops up in a search of the phrase "rising gas prices" in The Post's archive:
-- "In Washington, Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman acknowledged that rising gas prices have become a crisis. But he suggested that finding short-term fixes to soothe consumers angered by pump prices topping $3 per gallon might be difficult." May 1, 2006
-- "The election is on. How can we tell? Because at the Sept. 20 meeting of the D.C. Council, topic number one was voter anger over rising gas prices." Sept. 29, 2005
-- "In some ways, rising gas prices can be a good thing. They're a wake-up call to all of us to drive more slowly and conserve energy." June 24, 2004
-- "There is no relief just yet for area motorists being driven to distraction by rising gas prices." Feb. 28, 2003
You know we could go on. You probably remember TV and newspaper reports in which you learned that people were planning to drive less, take transit more and modify holiday plans in response to their outrage over rising gasoline prices. Know many people who actually did those things?
It's a good time to take the long view, as the price of gas nationwide, now at $3.218 per gallon, approaches a historic inflation-adjusted high.
The high was set in 1981, a quarter of a century ago. We have a history of complaining, not of modifying our behavior.
Changes in gas prices -- at least in the ranges that most American adults have seen -- just aren't something that travelers respond to in decisive ways. As in years past, there will be plenty of talk around here about the price of fuel. Yet we live in a congested region where people engage in some of the nation's longest commutes, mostly driving by themselves. Metrorail ridership isn't increasing as much as in previous years. VRE ridership has been declining since 2005.
We're part of a wealthy region, where many people are blessed with incomes that can cushion them against at least a few price shocks. Plus, our traveling lives are complicated. People change jobs, sometimes picking a better position in an office farther away from home. In two-worker famliies, one may have a short train ride to work, while the other drives 30 miles.
What determines your travel patterns? Is gas price among the top five factors? Or am I underrating the role fuel prices play, and you're monitoring sites like WashingtonDCgas prices.com and GasBuddy.com to find the cheapest place to fill up?
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