Janesville65.1°

New habits die hard: Lower gas prices don’t equal more driving

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Catherine W. Idzerda
November 30, 2008
— Phil Walker, Beloit, has a unique way of dealing with fluctuating gas prices.

“I put $20 in the gas tank each week and that’s as far as I drive,” Walker said. “That’s it.”


Walker drives a 1994 Olds 98, and recently that $20 has taken the Olds a long way.


But just a few short months ago, when gas was teetering around $4 a gallon, that $20 would have hardly made a splash in the bottom of the tank.


Between July 17 and Saturday, a gallon of regular in the Janesville-Beloit area went from a record price of $4.06 to $1.75, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. A year ago, the price of gas was $3.16


Even with lower gas prices, AAA reported Thanksgiving travel was down slightly for the first time since 2002. More than 33.2 million Americans, or 81 percent of all holiday travelers, were expected to travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 33.6 million people a year ago.


On Saturday, local residents filling up at the Lions Quick Mart on Milton Avenue said their habits had not changed: those who had cut back on driving when gas was expensive, still drive less.


Others who took the $4 gas in painful stride aren’t driving any more either.


“I’ve just gotten into the habit of driving less,” said Coralee Anderson. “For a while, the only place I went was work and home.”


Recently, her work eliminated a shift and she is working less, so the lower prices have helped her overall financial situation.


Her family owns a small farm in Dane County, and they have made permanent changes, too.


“They used to have three cars, now they’re using one,” Anderson said.


Doug Reinke, also of Janesville, was filling up his GMC Sierra.


“It’s nice,” Reinke said. “Instead of $100, it’s more like $50,” he said.


His habits did not change when prices went up—he still had to get places, after all.


Walker has seen the impact of gas prices both at home and on the Interstate.


He’s a truck driver who frequents the Chicago and Milwaukee routes.


“There’s a lot fewer people on the road,” Walker said. “Other truckers have said it, too.”


Sure, a lot of that has to do with gas prices, but Walker thinks there are other reasons, too: in a down economy, job losses mean fewer commuters on the Interstate.



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