"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

The high cost of gas

Gas_5 Our family took a nice little road trip for the recent three-day weekend.  On our way home, when we stopped for gas, I was aghast to see what we were paying at the pump (in a town just north of Seattle, WA): $4.09 for regular unleaded.  It's happened  We’ve broken through another dollar point.  I thought to myself, “Are we the only family taking a road trip this weekend?  Are people staying home because of the high cost of gas?”

When we got home to a close-to-zero bank balance, it feels so urgent now: we are going to take the bus and bike more than ever!  It is time to reprogram Trimet’s transit tracker on my phone's speed dial and commit our favorite stop ID’s to memory. 

What about you?  With gas prices up around $4 per gallon, are you forced to make different transit arrangements?  Aside from biking, walking, or bussing, are there any other suggestions you have for being less car-reliant?  Do you have a way of connecting with other families at your school for carpool arrangements?  Have you given use of your personal car, opting for Zipcar or car rentals instead?


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We are fortunate to live in a neighborhood where almost everything we need is within walking or biking distance. As for work, I'm a fair weather bike commuter so last fall I invested in a scooter. I love it! It gets almost 75 mpg and I rode it all winter long with the exception of those few days where it was pouring rain or threatening snow/ice.

And the other moms on the block tell me I'm the "cool mom" because I pull up in front of the kids wearing a helmet and a motorcycle jacket, so it's good for the ego too! Of course, once they are all over the age of 5 and realize it's just a little scooter the cool factor may wear off, but for now it's great!

I will just say this: we have been a sometimes biking family for a long time, but our reasons for biking have been more fitness- or environmentally inspired in the past. Now, the first thing I think of when I'm tempted to drive is that biking instead will mean one more day before I have to go fill up the tank (and break the bank).

We made the transition to one car last year. I have to say that not having the option to drive makes you more creative in your trip planning.

We walk, bike, and use the bus more than ever before. We have been at it for a year now and are none the worse to wear - I am sure we have saved all sorts of cash as a result but I haven't taken the time to figure it out.

We are ZipCar members and use it about once a month or less - usually for a 90 minutes or two hour rental. If for some reason I'll be needing a car all day, I rent from Enterprise since they will pick you up and drop you off.

Most of the miles on our car are the result of road trips. So I think we could get ourselves down to no car (which was basically what I did in Boston for 8 years), and just rent a car for road trips...but I'm just not ready for that....yet.

BTW - scooters are way cool...

we've definitely started driving less. my heart skipped a beat this morning when i saw the $4.09 price at our local station.

we are on the hunt for an affordable bike trailer, and i would love to hear your recommendations (or if you have one for sale!).


I have one you can buy -- we used to have a burley but it got stolen so we bought another used one (it's quite well-worn) right about the time kids started boycotting it -- so... we've never used it. I'd probably sell it for around $50...

Give me a call if you're interested -- (503) 736-1160

as you all know I'm a huge fan of the biking :) but we fixed our car recently (on the road to selling it) and we drove it a bunch over a couple of weeks. and then... after the second $60 fillup... I swore I'd never use it again. I can bike for free! even tri-met seems expensive (and the prices are going up) when I can hop on the bike and get anywhere with a zero dollar expense. all the more for good coffee, I say!

I've gotten to where I even plan super-long trips on the bike and turn down things that are long distances in the evening (I don't want to be biking an hour or more each way when one of those legs will be in the dark). I'm wondering how long it will take me to bike to Brush Prairie, Washington on Saturday... I keep pushing my limits and the bonus is I feel super strong!

of course, the downside to all this is that I really have to plan ahead with food (both eating lots in the morning and taking some with me) or I'm sunk. it brings a whole 'nother take to the concept of 'fuel'...

Thanks, Kristin! Unfortunately Kristin's trailer will be too small for our family.

If anyone else has trailer recommendations OR a trailer for sale, please email me at megan@blackwagon.com

Thank you!

I have to drive 2-3 days for work. We moved to outer SE recently, I work downtown and my daughter goes to school in North Portland.

Basically, during the week I drive her to school somedays and she buses a couple of days a week. It's a 75 minutes bus ride so it takes a lot out of her. She buses to my office 2-3 days a week afterschool and rides home from there.

I coudln't drive last week due to an injury and so we bussed it the whole week. Which went mostly okay (I hate leaving the house an hour early, she leaves earlier)except for extracurricular activities days. Leaving the house at 7:30 am and returning 12 hours later, is NOT what's hot in the streets. Especially for our dog.

If Tri-Met had cross-town express lines that worked, I would bus every day because I could probably work it my work-related routes into it as well. My daughter sometimes at a my friend's house because it's closer to school, so if she has extras she just goes there afterwards. We may do more of that as well.

As a former non-driver, I have so much Catholic guilt about driving so much, that I can't complain a whole lot about gas prices. Even though it is a substantial part of our monthly budget. I think we will bus it more. And probably won't visit our friends in N/NE as much.

Hopefully we can find some carpooling options, too.

With gas prices as crazy as they are, maybe this will be an incentive for people to choose their neighborhood school instead of driving across town 2 times each day to transport!

so timely.

Thanks to cafemamas post on extracycles we recently bought one (and LOVE IT) so I am trying to be car free on the weekends. So far mixed luck with getting caught out in the rain/thunder/lightening last Sat pm. And going gocery shopping where I wanted to go to 3 stores not just 1. So room for improvement.

During the week I drive 30 miles r/t trip to work in Vancouver. Come September (when I wont also be driving to daycare) I am looking into carpooling with other employees who live in PDX but work in Vancouver.

It even makes me consider looking for work in PDX to avoid the commute issue.

An upcoming roadtrip out of town is also starting to feel kind of iffy.

It will be interesting to see what changes folks can or have to make after a few months of $4/gallon.

Ouch! You try moving an 8th grader out of her school halfway through the school year because the only house you can afford as a single mama is not in N/NE. And don't even get me started about the lack of cultural competency in many PPS schools which limits our options even further.

That said I think folks should choose neighborhood school. Our school Ockley Green (GO DRAGONS!)was our neighborhood school until we moved in Feburary and it was so AWESOME we wouldn't change. I get teary every time I think of leaving MY school and our staff. Most folks are not driving across town for schools like ours, filled to the gills with low-income children and children of color. And the most responsive group of educators we have encountered in PPS. It would be awesome if they did.

economics, racism, classism, marital status, extended familial support all affect what choices many families can make.

now back to our regularly scheduled gas prices thread.

Gah. It's getting tough. I have to admit that I never really factored the price of gas into things before. If I wanted to go somewhere that required a drive, I went. Since having children I've been biking, bussing, and walking more in general, so changes in that area aren't going to make that much of a difference for me. We've already made the move to one car. My husband bikes to work. Groceries, park, library, school (the daily essentials), all are within walking distance. I've also been much braver about the distance I'll haul the 65+ pounds of children in the trailer. But the big things, driving to visit grandma 60 miles away, a trip to the coast, those kinds of things, we just did, and I didn't factor in the cost of gas. Now, I find that I can't afford to do those things the way I did before, and if I step foot in the car ever I'm calculating the cost in my head. It makes me really sad given all the other financial compromises we've made to keep us at one income. Being able to take a little trip now and then and treats from the grocery store were the only splurges left!

I keep reminding myself that other countries have been paying these prices forever, and I believe in paying what things really cost, but I just can't help feeling angry about it because I think someone is profitting/benefitting somewhere over this at all of our expense.

I just spent $4.37 here in CA...

California is pretty "drivey," depending on where you live. The cost of gas is so harsh on our fam right now. We are all, not just in hip, awesome pub trans Portland going to have to start getting creative about transportation. It's painful, but unavoidable.

... I drive around less. No superfluous trips to Target, etc.

My partner took a job one mile from our home seven years ago but was transfered to Lake Oswego two years ago (12 miles each way and really must be driven). We bought a second car which was a hard shift for us. Earlier this year she got a promotion and moved back within a mile of our home! Now she walks or uses her bus pass that she gets through work for $25 a year. About the time our 6 year old was 2 we were biking all over town - weeks would go by without driving. Then our now 2 year old came along and we were back in the car. I finally have a good way to bike with both which is wonderful for so many reasons. So, we are not feeling it at the pump as much since we are driving around a third or less of the miles that we were in January. We have camping trips this summer and I expect sticker shock when we do the drive but I am preparing for it.

What I have really noticed lately is the higher prices for food. Milk (which my 2 year old is addicted to) has gone up 10 to 20% for organic. I am seeing the same with veggies and other items. I assume at least some of it is directly related to fuel charges. My guess is that we will see increases in other goods and services also which can be hard to avoid. Of course my secret hope is that buying locally made and produced products will become more cost effective since it does not have to travel as far.

What about a diesel car? I mean, biking/public transport is best, but if you need a car....

We moved to Europe a year ago and bought my first (my German husband always had one of these...) diesel car. It simply gets INCREDIBLE gas mileage! It is a Volksvagen Passat Wagon, and it gets about 40-50 mpg.

When we bought a used Passat wagon several years ago we really wanted a diesel. If you are buying used they are hard to find in the US unless you are willing to pay a lot more - in our case instead of $8000 for a car we would have paid closer to $12000 if not $16000. Given the limited amount we drive we could not justify the added cost. We also cannot justify (nor do we want to) buying a brand new car.

There are a lot of diesel models in Europe that you cannot find in the US. I have read that some carmakers are working on bringing their European diesels to the US but the big barrier is that most do not meet the California emission guidelines - which are strict but I believe necessary. Anyone that lives within 5 miles of I-5 in Portland should be asking for stricter guidelines.

Diesel's are great, less pollution, can haul trailers with a compact car.. we've had one car and been using Biodiesel in our Jetta since we got it in 2004. The other day at the fuel station 99% Biodiesel was $5.12 - normal Diesel is 4.85 or so.... Diesels are more fuel efficient but cost-wise its a wash...

A tidbit first: Diesels emit more particulate emissions--bad for folks with asthma.

I noticed an earlier post about xtracycles. I am seeing so many of those lately and now . . . I can join the club! We bought a used one today. It'll take some tinkering before I can ride it around, but I'm so ready. We've been biking A LOT lately. The gas prices definitely have affected that, but isn't it nice that the weather's improved, too? That sure helped me and my son stick with the bike-to-school routine in the mornings this month.

I know people are writing in about how hard it is to bike when you live here, work there, and have to drop kids at school in yet another place. I'm not going to propose that everyone become a homebody, but it is definitely worth considering distance when you choose a home, a place of employment, or a school. Maybe not everyone has a choice, or has a choice about all three of those areas, but lots of us do. My husband has been a bike commuter for years now. That means when he's looked for new jobs, he has only considered those that are reasonably close to our neighborhood (that includes most of inner PDX, since we live in close-in NE). So yeah, there are jobs he doesn't apply for. But then again, we have been a one-car family since we moved to Portland, and now we can easily transition to the bikes. Yay bikes!

One last thing: my husband put a cyclocomputer on my bike so I can keep track of how many miles I ride. It's very motivating to see that number increase and know that I saved all that gas money.

Oops! Should have read everybody's posts in detail before I wrote my own (but I was so excited to say that I had an xtracycle!).

ProtestMama--I really am not trying to give you a hard time about having to get your daughter across town. That sounds like a tough situation. And no, of course you won't move her to a local school in the middle of eighth grade. Gah! Middle school is tough enough without starting over again. Just thinking about middle school is enough to make me break out in a cold sweat. Will you be able to find a high school that's good for her that's closer so that at least you only have to deal with it for the rest of this school year?

My point isn't that everyone can easily be local or ride bikes or walk everywhere. Some people face big obstacles. It's just that so many of us could make those changes, but find excuses not to. All winter, I was a baby about the rain. The rain! And I grew up in Portland. I should know better.

During the week, it's a bit easier to be mindful of not driving since both and my husband are used to commuting and transporting the kids to their respective schools via transit, walking, or biking. It's the weekends that's much tougher. We enjoy camping, hiking, and exploring places that require driving. We also do most of our errands on the weekends which typically happen by car since we try to fit in so much.

We have a couple of trips planned this summer, and are even taking the train rather than flying for one. It's my mini-protest against the airlines. The cost of flying is driving me crazy with airlines charging for baggage(!) and adding on extra fees for everything.

no offense taken.

Single parent, not much money, no family kicking down the ducats, you're going to be living further out. I love my neighborhood. Lents represent! On the weekends we have really cut back on driving.

That's why some folks are so heated about gentrifying neighborhoods across the country. As it becomes more desirable to live in close-in neighborhoods than the 'burbs, the community that traditionally lived in those areas are displaced to cheaper outlying areas which may not offer the community support, which creates longer commutes, etc. to stay connected. Outer SE is much more ethnically diverse than it was when I moved to Portland 7+ years ago. But the social infrastructure hasn't quite caught up.

Also being from the Bay Area, it's quite common to have longer commutes. Those were mainly by public transit for us. The MAX is coming out our way next year.

My obligation to my daughter since i've decided to stay in Portland, to offer her an education opportunity in a school that supports her academically and respects her culturally. These opportunities are few and far between. And now requires some creative commuting. And sleepover at friends once a week for her.

Do I wish that I could afford to live close-in? yes. Do I dearly hope for express bus lines? yes. Because many families face struggles very similar to ours.

One thing we are starting to do, in part because of both fuel and food costs, is order groceries from Azure Standard and change how we eat. I've been "cooking from the pantry" for a while, but placed my first order with Azure this week. If you order $400 or more, they'll deliver whole, organic food and other grocery items to your door. With a $40 order, you can join another nearby "drop-point". This is saving me from driving several miles to New Seasons, plus Azure's prices are far lower for exactly the same or similar products.

When we first moved to Portland, we tried carpool match to find ways to share rides. It got too complicated to think of our varied pick-up/drop-off schedules and carseat situations. But, it's a great idea and it has grown so much over the past five years: http://www.carpoolmatchnw.org/

In the East Bay and San Francisco, there is a casual carpool system in place and we have friends who swear by it: http://www.ridenow.org/carpool/

Another slight aside: The green MAX line opens to service outer eastside next year and the Planning and Transportation departments are collecting community input to improve service/safety at six station areas: 60th Avenue, 82nd Avenue, Parkrose/Sumner, 122nd Avenue, 148th Avenue, and 162nd Avenue. Want to offer your insight? http://www.portlandonline.com/planning/index.cfm?c=45454

Since the beginning of the year, our school has maintained a carpool connections board. For one family, finding a way to school with another family was essential to staying at the school.

As MollyH mentions above, our previous impetus of biking to work/school was for health of self or health of earth. Now, we are thinking about the bucks it takes to fill the tank. It was challenging to do and we are privileged that we could coordinate it, but this summer will be very local/home-based. Both our kids will go to camps within 3 miles of home and I will try to work from home primarily. Not only are we looking forward to reduced commuting costs (both in time & money), but we are also looking forward to connecting with our neighbors and other community members more.

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