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Higher Gas Prices Change Commute Behavior

April saw a rise in car sales of small and fuel-efficient vehicles, the New York Times reports. Photo by Stephie189.

Last Tuesday, The New York Times featured an article on the role high gasoline prices play in altering consumer behavior. One example the article highlights is how employees are moving closer to work in order to avoid high gasoline prices.

“A customer relations manager in the Hudson Valley of New York, Ms. Greene spent the weekend packing up to move to a rental house much closer to work. At $4 a gallon, gas is too expensive to justify the 50-mile commute,” NYT reports.

In fact, according to research by MasterCard Advisors’ Spending Pulse, the gallons of gas pumped nationwide in the last month was 1 percent less than its amount a year ago, the NYT reports.

According to the article, gas prices have had a positive impact on public transit ridership. For example, “In the San Francisco Bay area, the daily number of cars driving across the Golden Gate Bridge has dropped while passengers on the buses and ferries have risen.”

The article adds that although gas prices might have lowered in recent weeks, they are still 30 percent more expensive than their prices last year. Furthermore, transportation is not the only sector that has seen altered consumer behavior. High oil prices have also “driven up prices of food, airfares and even taxi rides in some regions, diverting consumers from other purchases.”

Most importantly, employers have been encouraging employees to find alternative, fuel-efficient modes of travel to commute to work. As The New York Times says:

“Conserving miles has become a new business priority at Topical BioMedics, where Ms. Greene works in Rhinebeck, N.Y. Her boss, Lou Paradise, recently invested in cloud computing so employees could access documents and programs and work from home more. He hands out gas cards as bonuses and birthday gifts, and holds seminars on how to make a car more energy-efficient. And when employees have to drive somewhere on business, he urges them to use the company cars— a Volkswagen TDI, a clean-diesel car and a Ford Transit Connect van, which is relatively fuel-efficient.”

Paul Mitchell, a business based in Los Angeles, has been covering public transit costs of employees and offering 20 cents per mile for employees who choose to carpool. “More employees are taking the company up on the offers now,” NYT adds. “Even the chief financial officer [of Paul Mitchell], Rick Battaglini, has begun carpooling to work.”

The article also makes an interesting observation with car sales. According to NYT, April saw an 18 percent rise in car sales, especially with smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The article reports that hybrid or electric cars like the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Fiesta and Nissan Leaf have seen a rise in sales.

You can find the original article here.

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