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Fuel Costs

The Takeaway

Goodbye Prius, Hello Gas Guzzler?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Is it true that as soon as gas prices drop people stop riding the subway and start buy new gas guzzlers? A transportation expert explains what really happens.

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The Takeaway

Surprising Twist: GOP May Raise Gas Tax

Friday, January 09, 2015

A few powerful GOP senators are signaling that they're open to the idea—even House Speaker John Boehner, who personally opposes raising the gas tax, hasn't ruled it out.

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The Takeaway

America: Kicking an Addiction to Mid East Oil?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Wednesday, the price of a barrel of oil fell to a five year low. For the first time in years, gas prices across the country are below $3.00 a gallon.

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Transportation Nation

Consumer Reports: High Fuel Costs Reduce Car Sales

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Just after we get news of the new fuel economy sticker for cars, this comes in from Consumer Reports, saying they've surveyed drivers and found higher fuel costs in recent years have led to a drop in car sales.

From Consumer Reports:

"The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted 1,764 random, nationwide telephone interviews of adult car owners from April 28-May 2, 2011."

"The economy has caused a significant drop in annual car sales over recent years, and the age of the average car driven by respondents has increased to eight years. This trend was consistent across most demographics, though household income was a key factor. In households earning $50,000 or more a year, the average age of their cars was six years, whereas lower-income households drove 10-year-old vehicles on average. A significant 23 percent of surveyed motorists are driving cars from the 1990s, many of which must be at the tail end of their reliable service life and certainly well behind current safety standards."

Read more at Consumer Reports.

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Transportation Nation

Business Travelers Using Fewer Short-Haul Flights

Monday, April 04, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The number of short haul flights has declined 25 percent in the past five years due in part to higher fuel prices and increasing airport fees, leaving business travelers with fewer options. These frequent fliers are turning to other modes of transportation for trips shorter than 500 miles.

(Listen to the radio version of this story on Marketplace)

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Neil Shah used to fly eight to 15 times a month as a management consultant, but he started to feel it wasn't the best use of his time. "Getting to the airport, waiting in the security lines, the potential for delay," he said, all add up to make flying less convenient on shorter trips. From Boston to New York in particular, Shah said, he started to take the train more often because of amenities like on-board WiFi, and hassle-free last minute ticketing.

"If all things were equal, my preference would be to fly." He said he likes the affinity programs offered by airlines including frequent flier miles. "However, all of the other things have accumulated that make other means of travel just more convenient," he said.

For one, business travelers need flexibility more than other fliers. They want to be able to show up at the airport at the last minute at get right on a plane, according to Scott Gibson of ICF Skyworks, an airline advisory firm. If a meeting is canceled, or runs late, business travelers want to be able to head to the airport as soon as they can and find a flight on their timetable, not the airline's.

"So what we now find is: choice, which is really important for business travelers, is gone. So you end up sitting at airports where you used to be able to have a flight literally every hour in a lot of markets," said Gibson.

There are just fewer flights available on these short haul markets. The trend has been happening for decades, Gibson says, though a Transportation Nation analysis of Department of Transportation data show it has grown especially acute in the last half-decade. (See charts above.)

One factor is cost-per-flight. "A lot of the fuel burn is in takeoff and landing," Gibson explained. "The airplane is really efficient when it's up high in the air. And so as fuel costs have gone up, it actually impacts short-haul flights as a percent of the airfare more than it impacts long-haul flying." He added that per-passenger fees charged by airports are also increasing, often to pay for swanky redesigned terminals. So if it costs an airline an extra $25 per person per flight, that might not matter that much on a transatlantic flight, but for a trip from Phoenix to Las Vegas that could be a big percentage of the ticket cost.

In response to these cost trends, airlines have cut back on the number of flights they operate each day on short-hop routes. In some cases though, carriers are compensating by using bigger airplanes, so the net number of seats could remain the same, or even increase on some routes, while the scheduling options are curtailed.

More people are flying, but business traveler just are not flying last minute short distances as often as they used to, data show and experts like Gibson confirm.

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Transportation Nation

Average Fuel Spending Drops, but We Still Use a Lot of It

Thursday, November 04, 2010

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Drivers across the country spent a lower percentage of their income on gasoline in 2009 than in 2008, according to an analysis out today from the Natural Resources Defense Council. That shouldn't be a surprise, considering the spike in oil prices in 2008.

But there are still several states where gas purchases eat up more than five percent of household income on average. And NRDC says that in two states--Mississippi and Montana--gasoline consumption accounted for more than six percent. In Montana the average household spent $2,066.58 on gas in 2009, the nation's highest dollar figure. Typical Mississippians spent $1,910.75 but led the nation in terms of income percentage spent on gasoline. Chalk up the difference to low mean incomes in Mississippi, which ranks among the poorest states in the nation.

Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Kentucky round out the list of states where gas consumption took up more than 5% of average household income in 2009. Meanwhile the higher-income states of the Northeast were at the bottom of the list. Drivers in New York spent a national low of $1,229.16 on gas, though Connecticut had the lowest household income share at just 2.56%.

You won't be surprised to read that NRDC, a leading environmental group takes these results as a clarion call for less dependence on fossil fuels. The group points out that only three states--California, Massachusetts, and Oregon--have their own low-carbon fuel standards. The twelve states with renewable fuel standards are primarily those with functioning ethanol industries. Only 19 states have growth management, or "smart growth" laws designed to manage transportation and land use in growing suburbs, according to NRDC.

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