Texans Driving Less After Feeling The Fuel Price Pinch

By: Nicole Morten Email
By: Nicole Morten Email

Altering driving habits to cope with record-high gas prices is nothing new to motorists here in the Lone Star State.

Alternative transit routes are becoming a new trend In many Texas Cities, where transit and other commuter options are readily available.

In a study conducted by Associate Research Scientist , David Ellis of Texas A&M's-Texas Transportation Institution, evidence shows gas consumption for the month of April has dropped an estimated 3.4 percent.

"It's the largest decline since September 2007," says Ellis. "When there was a 3.4 percent decrease in per-capita consumption from the previous Semptember. At the time, gasoline averaged $2.80 per gallon, up 8.4 percent from the previous year."

Ellis is studying raw consumption data, adjusting the figures for population growth and other factors, in order to get an accurate idea of emerging trends.

"At $4.00 a gallon now, it could be that April's figure was the beginning of a trend of declining per-capita gasoline consumption in Texas, given the dramatic rise in price," Ellis speculates. "However, we simply don't know . This is all unfolding in real time. We've never had gasoline this high and we simply don't know if this is a blip or the beginning of something else."

With combined efforts from individual transit agencies, and the American Public Transportation Association, TTI's evidence proves that San Antonio has the highest increase in bus ridership among the large transit systems in America; a 10.6 percent increase during the first quarter of 2008.

Although Houston's HOV, or High Occupancy Vehicle Lane, only experienced a 3.3 percent increase from March 2007 to March 2008; The HOV lane in Dallas is up to 35 percent between January and March 2008 (Since three new HOV facilities opened up in December 2007, eperts don't know if the increase in HOV use was because of availability and/or high fuel costs.)

Evidence from the study shows that in both quarters of 2008, Waco experienced a 12.7 percent increase in fixed-route bus ridership and Corpus Christi's bus ridership grew 10.8 percent during the first quarter of 2008, compared to the same period last year.

"Long term, there are two big unknowns-the price of fuel in the future and how Teans will respond to that in terms of consumption," Ellis says. "We'll leave the first of those unknowns to others. We're trying to get a better handle on the second."

Gasoline consumption figures for the month of May will be available in July.

According to Ellis, if people are changing their driving behaviors, gasoline consumption during the summer months should reflect a per-capita decrease because of the high level of discretionary driving that traditionally takes place for summer vacations.

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