Out of Control Policy Blog

Data chronicle how people adapt to higher gas prices

A survey of drivers in Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth and El Paso by the statistical analysis firm Nustats provides revealing evidence of how people are adopting to higher gas prices. Most are reducing vehicle miles traveled by combining trips and cutting out some trips altogether. Most are not giving up their cars.

Here is the summary provided by the folks at Nustats:

Travel Monitor Survey Results
*As a direct result of increasing gas prices – people are driving less (67%).

*They are doing this by trip chaining (combining trips) and eliminating some trips altogether. To a lesser extent by working from home.

*Reduction in VMT not caused by large decreases in driving by individuals but by large numbers of people making slight reductions in the amount they travel (44% driving <25% less; 90% driving <50% less).

*While a few people have begun to wean themselves off of vehicle travel and onto using alternative modes (walk, transit, bike), most are reacting to higher gas prices by switching their vehicles or carpooling – still preferring auto travel to alternative modes.

*One in five (18%) consider use of toll roads as a solution – the ability to drive quicker and faster with less stop-n-go.

*But if gas prices stay at current levels or increase further, we will see greater shifts to public transit.

Action Have Done Last 12 mths Will Do Total
Combine multiple trip into single trip 66% 8% 74%
Eliminate trips 39% 6% 45%
Downsize to more fuel efficient vehicle 21% 19% 40%
Trade gasoline vehicle for hybrid 3% 19% 21%
Work from home 12% 7% 19%
Use toll roads 12% 6% 18%
Start carpooling 9% 9% 18%
Use public transit instead of drive 4% 13% 17%
Walk instead of drive 9% 6% 15%
Bike instead of drive 4% 7% 11%
Note: Percentages are those that said "a lot".

Other actions mentioned in open end (rank order and smaller % than above): Use car with better gas mileage, cancel vacation, maintain car, drive slower, look around for lowest price gas, got rid of one vehicle, change spending habits.

Data based on telephone survey (RDD) of 500 households in Austin, Dallas / Ft. Worth, and El Paso the week of July 21, 2008.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow

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