CNT Online Tool Shows How Rising Gas Prices Affect Transportation Costs by Location

CHICAGO (April 21, 2011)—A new feature on CNT’s Abogo® website allows users to see how rising gas prices could affect household transportation costs at a given location. Users type in an address to see average transportation costs for a neighborhood, and then select a gas price to calculate how this price affects total transportation costs for a typical household at that address. In auto-dependent locations, transportation costs increase dramatically as prices move up along the slider, while transit-rich locations have more modest increases.

“Location matters when it comes to how much a household pays to get around,” said Scott Bernstein, CNT president. “This tool illustrates how people in neighborhoods that lack transportation options will feel the gas price squeeze more acutely than people in neighborhoods where they can get around via transit, car sharing, a bike or their two feet.”

To see how gas prices will affect transportation costs where you live, go to: http://abogo.cnt.org/.

Abogo – a mash-up of “abode” and “to go”— uses data and calculations from CNT‘s Housing + Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index to calculate the average transportation costs of a place. Transportation costs in the Index are based on the area’s average cost of auto ownership, auto usage and transit use. Calculations are based on 2000 Census data, the most recent data available at the census block group level. CNT will update the H+T Index with the most recent American Community Survey data later this year.

The Abogo gas slider allows people to adjust gas prices at $.05 increments between $3/gallon to $7/gallon. Users can compare these projected costs to two other transportation costs that are based on:

  1. the most recent national gas price average, and
  2. 2000 gas prices in the H+T Index.

How do today’s gas prices compare with 2008, the watershed year when a gallon of gas topped $4? The figure below charts the two years’ gas prices by week:

natl-avg-gas-prices

The national average gas price was $3.84/gallon on April 18 of this year, 33 cents higher than the price at this time in April 2008. National average gas prices didn’t hit $3.84/gal until May 26 in 2008, so in a sense we’re running at least five weeks ahead of that famous price run-up.

To minimize the impact of raising gas prices, CNT recommends that people:

Take transit where possible and make sure their employers have signed up for pre-tax transit benefits. Pre-tax transit benefits are an underutilized “use it or lose it” federal tax break administered through employers. Employees can save up to 40 percent on their commuting costs by buying transit fare before paying taxes. In Chicago, Cook County employers currently can receive up to $1,700 for simply enrolling their employees into the program.

Curb their cars and sign up for car sharing. Americans spend an annual average of $7,319 to own, operate, and maintain their cars, according to the AAA. A typical member of I-GO® Car Sharing in Chicago spends roughly $2,520 per year on transportation. Car sharing gets people where they need to go without worrying about gas prices. Members pay for cars by the hour, and gas is included in the hourly fee (as is insurance), so no need to worry about its price. Chicago’s I-GO has cars that are gas sippers, and it will soon add 30+ electric cars to its fleet that don’t use gasoline at all. There are 10 other nonprofit car-sharing organizations across the country. Find one in your city at carsharing.org.

“The H+T Index quantifies how choosing to live in walkable, transit-connected neighborhood can lower household expenses, and escalating gas prices drive this point home,” said Bernstein. “It’s times like these that underscore how tolerating low-density development patterns and neglecting public transportation infrastructure has serious consequences.”

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Founded in 1978, CNT is a Chicago-based think-and-do tank that works nationally to advance urban sustainability by researching, inventing and testing strategies that use resources more efficiently and equitably. Its programs focus on climate, energy, natural resources, transportation, and community development. Visit www.cnt.org for more information.