Wall of masks in the hallway outside my office.
HIGH GAS PRICES SPUR CHANGES IN DRIVER BEHAVIOR
Weird weather couldn't make drivers cut down on their gas consumption. Nor could stern lectures or hand-wringing or despairing newspaper editorials. And unbelievably, only weeks ago, the New York State Assembly turned its back on $354 million in mass transit (congestion pricing pilot program) funding because it couldn't face the hard work of legislative negotiation and compromise required to secure the funding from the Feds.
But all that seems to have changed, and overnight. In front page stories dated May 10, both the New York Times and the Staten Island Advance reported that drivers they'd interviewed said high prices--low, $3.81; high $3.93 on Staten Island--were forcing them to change their driving patterns and behavior, including the choice of nearby vacation destinations over those farther away.
Some said they were doing more walking. Some described buying just enough gas to get them over the bridge to New Jersey, where prices at the pump are lower. Others reported they now thought twice about making even relatively short local trips because of the need to conserve fuel. And some were even taking the bus.
The problem is that these changes in behavior are driven by market forces, not policy or legislation. So that if oil prices were suddenly to moderate their seemingly inexorable rise or even decline, there's little reason to believe that drivers wouldn't revert to their old profligate ways.
I was pleased to see that, after Hillary Clinton jumped on John McCain's gas tax holiday bandwagon, Barack Obama rightly called the proposal a gimmick and a distraction from the need to craft an energy policy that works.