A recent NBC poll found a whopping 69 percent say that high gas prices have affected them either “a great deal” or “quite a bit.” That was significantly higher than any other economic concern on the list– higher than rising food prices, foreclosures, or even unemployment.
When Smart Growth America asked for stories about the impact of high gas prices, a number of people told us about lifestyle choices they made so they wouldn’t be dependent on driving or severely affected by gas prices. Several people told us they chose to live in a place where walking, biking and public transportation were viable options because they wanted that kind of freedom for getting around. Here are some of their stories:
Seven years ago, when Patricia moved from “car-country California” to coastal North Carolina, gas prices were $1.38. But she said, regardless of the cost of filling up her tank, they wanted to live where they could walk or bike for most of their daily errands. Now gas prices have tripled. While she’s glad she’s not reliant on a car for most daily needs, her family is still carefully considering (and cancelling some) long-distance car trips. Patricia also noted that since gas prices started climbing she’s seen more people of all shapes and sizes out on their bikes– a trend she thinks is a good thing.
Steve from Kansas City told us “three years ago when my wife and I were considering buying a new house, availability of mass transit was a high priority and living in a ‘walkable neighborhood.’ We now live a half block from a bus stop and within 4 miles of my wife’s work. We regularly walk for errands or ride our bicycles.” Steve logged 3,500 miles on his bike last year (that means savings on gas and a gym membership!) and frequently rides the bus. He mentioned that now that gas prices have gone up he’s noticed many more bus riders, and he’s relieved that he and his wife don’t have to worry about gas prices too much.
When Gretchen moved to Boston last year, she got rid of her car. Gretchen pointed out that in addition to gas, she didn’t want to be beholden to maintenance, repairs and parking expenses too. It can be challenging to visit her family in New Hampshire where public transportation options are limited, but with some flexibility, carpooling, and building in extra travel time she’s been able to make due car-free and is happy with her decision.
As gas prices remain high, more and more Americans are looking to drive shorter distances or increase their transportation choices. The NBC poll is a reminder that even though gas prices have recently dropped 30 or 40 cents from their high earlier this year, this significant expense is still hurting household budgets across the country – and people are starting to make big changes in reaction to that. Part of Smart Growth America’s work is helping great communities have more low cost options for getting around, but we need to hear from you to do it. Read other stories about how people are dealing with the high cost of gas here and here, and click here to tell us your story.