Home > Complete Streets, Crank, Cultural Movement, Economics, Editorial, Public Transit, Transportation Education, Walking > Quit crying about high gas prices–change or pay

Quit crying about high gas prices–change or pay

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Surveying the crowd

Trip chaining (DLSM) and less driving seem to be the primary changes in our driving behavior as gas prices have increased, according to a recent AAA survey sourced in an article titled “How high do gas prices have to get to trigger behavior change?“(Grist).  In an additional poll, from Gallup, the article reports a per gallon price would have to hit $5.30 before Americans would  “cut back on spending in other areas or make significant changes in the way they live their lives.”

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In another Grist article from yesterday, David Roberts drew heavily from Senator Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat from New Mexico, about the myths surrounding the cost at the pump (Grist). Mainly, oil is a global commodity with costs linked to events beyond any one country’s control. Increasing domestic production in the U.S., which has occurred (Graphic), isn’t going to ease the cost at the pump unless the government nationalizes socializes the industry and starts delivering barrels of oil to every household (or, something equal to $190-billion/year subsidy-(Atlantic)).

Hard to believe this is even a consideration considering we already subsidize an oil addiction and pay the least per gallon among the world’s rich nations–see graphic

Finding solutions

What’s slowly becoming clear, is that the one sure way to reduce the national, and any one individual’s, vulnerability to rising gas prices is to be less dependent on the need–thus changing behavior and priorities. As Sen. Bingaman summarized to his colleagues in Washington:

But what can Congress do to help ease the burden of high prices for U.S. consumers, when oil prices are determined mostly outside our borders? I think a realistic, responsible answer has to be focused on becoming less vulnerable to oil price changes over the medium and long-term. And we become less vulnerable by using less oil.

For most of us, the only real solutions within our immediate control are personal choices like all of the above changes in the AAA survey, in addition to walking further, biking more, and taking transit as much as possible. A couple of weeks ago, a guest contributor explained how she lives 30-miles from the City, but when she comes-in for work, meetings, and errands, she parks her car once and walks most of the rest of the day (MW). Or, as she discovered, she can find ways to ride the bus. That’s an example of an easy behavioral change that saves fuel, money, and opens someone up to new adventures.

Behavioral change is also the most prudent, conservative, and self-reliant adaptation. Way more effective than crying for government and industry to bail us out of our addiction to the refined black gold, which, to be honest, is getting a little old.


Are you noticing the rise in pump prices? What are your behavioral changes? 






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* Post updated for clarity and typos at 10am. __


  1. mikecgrant
    March 14, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Nice post Gary and all informative links. While I agree with you that in the short-term more walking/biking/transit are the way to go, I would add that for a lot if not most people in the TC area these will probably have little effect on their gas budgets because they live too far from work/school/shopping that they could reasonably walk/bike/bus to. As well as the places that they need to go for work/school/shopping are, likewise, relatively dispersed from one another, making it difficult to impossible to simply go to one destination and then walk/bike/transit to another in a reasonable amount of time. Apparently, your guest contributor is an exception.

    In the long-term, more dense and mixed-use development in the TC area would obviously make it easier for folks to rely less exclusively on their cars. Within the City itself, such land use is already expressly permitted by zoning in alot of areas. Most of the commercial corridors (e.g. 8th Street) allow for multi-story, mixed-use buildings. Also, there are other areas in the City where up-zonings consistent with the City’s master plan would allow more density and mixed-use. For example, had the property that is now the CVS already been up-zoned to the C-4 zoning that it is effectively designated in the City’s master plan prior to the CVS proposal coming in, private parking would have been only allowed by right, I don’t think the drive-through would have permitted at all (not sure on that), and a much bigger structure would have been allowed.

    My point is that to make walking/transit/biking more effective in the TC area will take more, in the long-term, then simply people making choices to walk/bike/bus more. It will take building more densely and more mixed-use, in order for people to be able to get more done by having to travel shorter distances. And while some of that dense/mixed-use development is already legal via zoning, alot of it is not. As well as while places where the density is legal (like the 8th Street corridor between Boardman and Woodmere), the City may be contemplating projects (like building the BLA) which will only discourage the development of mixed-use in those areas.

  2. March 14, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Thank you, Mike. Yes, if there was to be a part II to this post, you’re nailing it.

    Obviously, for anyone who follows MyWHaT regularly, how we invest in our public spaces and how we allow private investment to influence those public spaces is an on going and critical piece to individual choices. We need more intentional planning that doesn’t handicap future generations and leave them with unwise and unsustainable legacy costs, both financially and socially.

  3. realworldpeople
    March 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Now you claim the need for “more density” to make all of your ramblings work… Sheesh! Good god man, make up your mind what type of community you want everyone to live in. You flip flop your musings at the drop of a hat! More density only appeals to those that.. want to live tight like sardines in a can. For those that move to TC from such pagan places like New York, Atlanta, LA and even Portland, it must seem like nirvana to them to be able to see grass and breath!
    However, by making more dense the area that is already crowded in TC with more such crowded structures, only flies in the face of the spousings you wail when pleading about the type of town you want here. Sheesh! So you suggest more high rises, more concrete, more buildings on the sidewalks with no set backs from such (gee thanks mr. city planer for creating canyons in this town!). Odd request indeed.

    No I think you will run into a barrage of non-conformers, non grand visionites in your latest need to huddle the masses. Ahh gotta love those that want to socially engineer everyone else, but then want their green space and open areas too.

  4. March 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    MikeCGrant in my opinion it is reasonable for individuals to bike / walking / transit and reduce their gas consumption, even if they don’t live in town.

    I crossed paths with a woman in a car three times as I made my way from the Civic Center area into town on my bike today. It wasn’t any faster for her in the car to get downtown. I have a huge advantage when it comes to parking and getting to an establishment. In my daily trips from the hospital area to downtown, it is consistently quicker for me to get to my destination by bike. I regularly beat people in automobiles running errands between business establishments in greater downtown TC (Burrit’s to Tom’s market, Aroma’s coffee to the Hospital, the Mall to Lowe’s, the Library to the Post Office, etc.)

    Yes, it requires a mindset change to do this. We have a perception that things are faster using an automobile in town. In my experience it isn’t the case.

    My lunchtime errand run was around 9 miles, pedaling easily. It was beautiful, and I wasn’t stressed out about traffic congestion.

  5. mikecgrant
    March 15, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Not clear with what you mean here by “social engineering” by “mr. city planner”. At least in the City there are a variety of land uses that are lawful in a variety of places. In the surrounding townships by and large there’s only one legal land use, that is, a single-family home on a large lot. To me, in that sense, there’s alot more of your “social engineering” going on outside of the City then there is inside of it.

    In regard to your point about wanting green space and open areas, one way to keep more of both in a growing area like TC is to allow higher density in areas where the market demands it. And given that since 2008 the price of houses in the townships has largely fallen while the price of houses in the City have largely stayed flat or gone up, I’d say that people want more of the denser living that the City’s got to offer. And what I’m calling for here is to suggest that the City not take actions (like building the BLA) that would be contrary to the vision of the City’s Master Plan that corridors like 8th Street be built denser and with more mixed-use than they are now. As well as I’m suggesting that the City consider pro-actively up-zoning those areas already identified in the Master Plan as being appropriate for denser development. I’m asking that the City try and take actions consistent with its citizen-drafted Master Plan, which I believe happen to also be consistent with consumer demand.

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