Gas prices change Bay Area driving

August 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
High gas prices have forced people to make dramatic changes in driving habits.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove 12.2 billion fewer miles in June than last year. That is a difference of five percent, the largest monthly drop-off in driving in recent history.

"The cost of gasoline has an extreme effect on our ability to make ends meet," says Laura Britto, a retired bridge toll collector.

Britto spends a lot of her time clipping coupons and checking sales. The double whammy of rising gasoline prices and food has changed her life dramatically.

"We've cut back a lot on the things we used to do as extras. We used to go out to eat once in a while. We don't do that nearly as often anymore. It's a lot different. Things have changed," says Britto.

Britto is not alone. Thirty-six percent of those who participated in the ABC7 Listens Poll said gas prices have had a great deal of impact and 50 percent acknowledge some impact. Combined, that is nearly nine out of every 10 people.

The poll indicates gasoline remains the biggest burden for Bay Area residents. However, the cost of food has taken a big jump as a drain on budgets, jumping 18 percent from 42 percent in January to 60 percent today. That is having a spillover effect.

The owners of Antioch's Spring Yard Nursery and Florist say sales have really cooled down. Business was off 30 percent for Mother's Day which is traditionally the biggest time of year, and it has not recovered.

"When people are trying to keep up a house payment and feed their children, they're not likely to buy gifts for friends and relatives, or even special occasions," says Elizabeth Rimbault, a nursery and floral shop owner.

Antioch, of course, has already been hammered by subprime foreclosures and a depressed housing market. So what are people doing to reduce their gas consumption?

Our poll indicates 29 percent have switched to walking and bicycling, 27percent are working more at home and 21 percent are carpooling.

And homes like Britto's are making chili beans a budget stretcher.

"I don't know what the answer is. I know that it is not going to come tomorrow," said Rimbault.

For more on our ABC7 Listens Poll, readThe Back Story.

ABC7 Listens poll results

  • Poll results
  • Summary of key findings
  • Comments on the cost of gas
  • Comments on the economy

    To participate in one of our polls, visit the ABC7 Listens Polling Center


  • Load Comments