Monday, May 26, 2008

Alternative Transportation

I returned from the beach yesterday, arriving home with my tank nearly empty. I avoided filling up anywhere near the beach because I was convinced gas prices would be cheaper inland. Was I ever wrong. When I left for the beach a week ago, gas was around $3.78 per gallon. I filled up once at the beach for around $3.80. I return yesterday to find gas at $3.999 (Four Dollars!). I am hoping prices will drop slightly after the Memorial Day weekend.

Regardless of my minimal success in attaining better gas mileage (checked my tire pressures before I left yesterday and used cruise control most of the way back), gas this expensive makes me wonder about alternatives. Apparently, I'm not the only one. Last month, Toyota sold its one-millionth Prius, the preeminent mass-market gas-electric hybrid. In my area, bus ridership rose by double digit figures in the same month.

Also last month, for one of my video journalism classes, I shot a story about the owner and driver of a restored 1964 Vespa scooter. The woman who owns it bought it about two years ago, largely for the appeal of classic Vespas and aesthetics as much as gas savings, but recently, she said the fuel savings are unbelievable. She estimated the scooter with a two-gallon tank gets around 70 miles per gallon. She couldn't remember spending more than $5 to fill her scooter tank, whereas she easily spends $40 to fill her car gas tank when taking longer trips or when she needs to haul cargo.

One of the reasons I decided to work on this story was the appeal of scooters from a value perspective. Obviously, they are cheaper to buy than most cars, use little fuel and parking is generally cheaper, quicker and easier than with a car. I told my subject I imagine that if I have a twin out there from whom I was separated at birth, he owns a scooter; I figure he is just as value-conscious as I am, but has fewer inhibitions and is a little wilder. I can't see myself owning a scooter now (for one, I think my mother would kill me), but depending on where I end up working after college and the state of gas prices, it may be a viable alternative to firing up the car every time I want to go across town.

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