New Report Finds Americans Spent Stimulus Checks on Gas
Without sufficient alternatives to driving, American families spent their entire economic stimulus check on high-priced gas. According to new analysis from U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), since President Bush signed the tax rebates into law on February 13th, the average household spent over $1500 filling their tanks. Gas costs were higher than average in areas without robust public transportation.
The report highlighted the need to invest in the region’s transit infrastructure to give people an alternative to high gas prices.
“With adequate capital funding from lawmakers, we can invest in our transit network, expand service to communities that need it and make it easier for people to drive less,” said Emily Miller, Advocate with Illinois PIRG.
According to the analysis, since February when President Bush signed the tax rebates into law, the average cost per household for gasoline has gone from just over $60 weekly to almost $100 per week. Americans have responded to higher gas costs by taking public transportation at record rates in areas where it is available. American drivers traveled fewer miles last year for the first time in almost thirty years.
The analysis, generated by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), also shows that neighborhoods around the country with the best access to transit spent an average of $728 monthly on all transportation costs, including gas, insurance, upkeep, and transit fares. Households in neighborhoods with the least access to transit, by contrast, spent an average of $925 per month.
“Here in metropolitan Chicago, residents of transit rich communities like Evanston are able to keep their annual gas costs below $1,490 per year, while residents in communities with less access to transit, for example Hoffman Estates, are spending more than $4,500 per year, almost three times as much, ” said Scott Bernstein, CNT President.
Transit agencies have meanwhile struggled to keep up with the increased ridership volume. Despite the success of new rail routes and bus lines around the country, new transit projects, like the red line expansion, have remained stuck on the drawing board due to lack of funding.
“If Congress wants to do something long-term about high gas prices, it will give people more alternatives to driving,” said Miller. “Unless we make it easier to drive less, American families will be stuck in neutral as they spend more and more at the pump.”
Analysis by PIRG shows that public transportation created net oil savings totaling 3.4 billion gallons in 2006. This is enough to fuel 5.8 million cars for an entire year and to save about $13.6 billion in gasoline at today’s prices. Here in Northeastern Illinois, public transit saved 276 million gallons, the equivalent of saving $1.1 billion at the pump today.
For more information about transportation costs in 52 US Metropolitan areas, see http://htaindex.cnt.org