A Los Feliz resident walks to the nearby post office four blocks away from her home instead of driving to keep from paying the continually increasing cost of gas.
“I’m walking around my neighborhood a lot more now,” Jennifer Abbott said. “I actually get to stop and talk to my neighbors while they walk their dogs. It’s fun and relaxing.”
In April 2008, Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles than a year earlier. Greenhouse gas emissions fell by approximately 9 million metric tons during the same period, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Web site shows.
In March 2008, the Federal Highway Administration’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report indicated a 4.3 percent decline in the number of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads as compared with March 2007.
Ashwani Vasishth, an assistant professor of urban studies and planning, said that if gas prices continue to increase, commuting costs would become a critical factor in where people choose to live and work.
“It is forcing us to re-evaluate our transportation choices,” Vasishth said. “Our commuting times are changing. The way we live our lives is changing.”
“Smaller is better” is the new American motto as the SUV-era comes to an end.
With much reluctance, many consumers across the nation are trading in their gas-guzzlers for more fuel-efficient cars and scooters.
SUV sales were down 38 percent in May 2008 compared to sales in 2007. Smaller car sales increased to 57 percent during the same period, indicating that more Americans are seeking fuel-efficient vehicles, the Department of Transportation Web site show. Automobile and scooter dealerships are trying to keep up with consumers’ demand for cheaper alternatives.
American Honda Motor Company has a waiting list for new Honda Civics that run on natural gas, said Kathy Paulsen, who is an online customer support specialist at the company.
“It runs on the gas you cook with, and it only costs $1.99 a gallon,” Paulsen said. “You can go 200 miles on a tank of natural gas. You also get a $75 federal and state tax rebate.”
While some commuters downsized their vehicles, others have given them up altogether.
“I just drive around town on my scooter without any hassle,” said Amy Brickman who lives in Burbank. “I work in Glendale, so I can take the side streets. I feel like I’m doing my part to help the environment right now and at the same time, I’m saving money.”
The 150cc scooter is most commonly used for city driving, but it is illegal to drive them on freeways, said Ed Romero, who is a scooter mechanic at Scooter World in Glendale.
The 150cc refers to the number of centric centimeters in the piston that pushes the engine. The scooters with larger pistons have more power.
“If you want a scooter for driving on the freeways, you’ll need a 250cc,” Romero said. “Either way, you’ll be spending at least 40 percent of what you use in a typical small economy car that only gets 30 miles per gallon.”
The average cost for the 150cc scooter is $1,500. It has a 1.2-gallon tank and gets 70 to 80 miles per gallon. The 250cc sells for approximately $5,000 and gets close to 80 miles per gallon.
Scooter sales typically increase in the summer, but this year “it is really high,” Romero said.
“If the price of gas continues to go up, I’m sure our sales will continue to go up,” Romero said. “There are a lot more people considering buying a scooter now who probably never thought of it before.”
Nancy Kurland, assistant professor in the Department of Management, referred to the current change in people’s lifestyles as a “cultural transformation.”
“People throughout the world are having to transform how they interact with their environment,” Kurland said. “There is a consensus that we’re in this together. There is nowhere else to go, and it’s forcing us to change.”