From USA Today:

Americans are driving less despite falling gas prices, reflecting the deepening recession and signaling a shift in lifestyles and driving habits that could outlast the current turmoil.

Tony Douglas is a good example. Douglas, 46, gave up driving the 26 miles from Gallatin, Tenn., to his office in Nashville in September, when gas prices were still high. He took a bus instead.

Driving cost him $8 to $10 a day while the bus was $6. Now that gas prices have dropped and the cost benefits are gone, he’s still on the bus.

“It’s much more relaxing: reclining seats, TVs … and it takes about an hour, too,” Douglas says. “I’m able to watch CNN in the morning.”

Amusingly, I saw this article a few hours after talking to someone about how I thought there were noticeably fewer cars on the road back in summer when gas prices were at their highest, and that I thought roads were looking more crowded again recently since gas prices have fallen. Am I crazy? What are your observations? Have you or anyone you know made any driving habit changes this past year? Share your stories in the comments.

11 Replies to “Americans still driving less despite lower gas prices, are you?”

  1. From my observations the past week or so, I’ve noticed significantly heavier traffic than usual (especially along 405). I drove north on 405 to Bellevue at 11:30am and it was still stop-and-go. KOMO 1000 said rush hour started at 1:30pm heading out of Bellevue today. 1 hour to go 15 miles!

    1. I never noticed a drop weekday traffic on that section of 405. That section of freeway has been slowly getting more and more congested since I moved to Newport Hills 7 years ago.

      Sooner or later it will become a permanent carpark like the M25.

  2. I don’t think that I’ve made many changes, but I’m still prefering online orders to going shopping.

    I’ve never noticed much traffic changes in Bellevue, but I would expect Bellevue to be more price insentive than most of the nation.

    I haven’t talked to anyone that thinks gas prices will stay low, and most people are very receptive to the suggestion that electic powered rail is a much safer long term bet.

  3. I think this article may be a bit misleading. Trips were down 4.4 percent year-to-year in September after gas prices had fallen 12 percent since July. If you look at gas prices year-to-year in September, they were still substantially higher than they were last year. It has only been since late October that gas prices have actually dropped below last year’s levels. It will be interesting, now that people are actually paying less at the pump, to see if this trend continues.

  4. Wait, buses with TVs? BUSES WITH TVS?!?!?

    This just might be the magic bullet to get people to give up their cars.

    1. Perhaps the one thing Americans like more than cars! TVs! :)

      A bit more on-topic…I had noticed a SLIGHT decrease in 405 traffic heading north from Renton/Tukwila, but nothing major. I personally haven’t changed my driving habits much at all. I get good mileage from my car, so even when it was $4.00/gallon it wasn’t all that bad. It was the equivalent of buying a latte every morning. I would love to take the bus, but the cost:benefit ratio for that still isn’t even close to what it is for driving.

  5. Back when I used to commute across 520, it always seemed like winter traffic was heavier than summer. Maybe a large number of teachers live in Seattle and teach in Bellevue.

  6. I think that traffic’s become a bit heavier over the last month or so. Its either that or the worse weather is just causing worse traffic backups.

    There’s always a big uptick in traffic on certain routes when school is in session due to a lot of parents dropping their kids off at school instead of putting them on the bus, or in the case of private schools, having no other option to get them there. I noticed this one summer when I would commute down Avondale Road in Redmond, all of a sudden after the Labor Day Weekend , the traffic backup was suddenly twice as long.

  7. My driving habits haven’t changed, despite the drop in gas prices. It’s just been nice to have a little extra cash in my budget. The last thing I’m going to do is blow it on more gas. :)

  8. Around here, a lot of people who bike/ bus/ or walk to work in the summer probably switch back to driving when the weather turns back to being Seattle-ish.

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