Gas prices impact travelers, drivers

April 25, 2011 8:23:08 PM PDT
Record high gas prices are driving up the cost of travel and leading many Chicagoans to change their vacation plans.

Gas prices hit new highs Monday with Chicago at the top of the list. To fill up in Chicago, a driver will pay an average of $4.27 a gallon. The national average is $3.88, according to the latest Lundeberg Survey.

"I'm paying almost $60 to pay up a PT Cruiser... It's ridiculous," Kayla Martineck said.

"I recently just bought a scooter. I actually filled up the gas tank and it was $3.25 and it was amazing so it's nice to have that," Niki Esser said.

Analysts say that the instability in the Middle East, particularly in Libya, Egypt and Yemen, is a big part of the current situation. But it also has to do with the dollar's low value overseas and the disruption domestic production after BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

"You can't take one of the most promising production areas of the United states and just turn it off and not expect to have ramifications," Phil Flynn, FBS contributor, said. "There is still a lot of risk in the system. If something else goes wrong you could be talking $6 a gallon. More than likely Chicago 5 dollars a gallon."

The high gas prices come at the beginning of the spring/summer driving season, when Americans are looking to plan their vacations. Jennifer Johnson was hoping to fly out west with a group of friends this summer, but with gas prices affecting airline costs it may not happen.

"We were hoping to go west to Washington wine country in June, at the beginning of June, for our 35th birthdays and airfare is about $500 to get where we want to go. I'm thinking we're not going to travel in the beginning of June unless airfare comes down," Johnson said.

Rail travel is emerging as the eco-friendly budget alternative. Amtrak says ridership is up 5.9 percent over the last six months. Rail Vacations travel agency, which specializes in long-haul rail trips, tell ABC7 inquiries and bookings are way up for them.

"We've seen an increase in people taking trips out of Chicago to say Glacier National Park. It's a 1500 mile journey. If you book in advance a coach class ticket would run $155...and then you factor half price for kids it becomes an affordable option," said Todd Powell, Rail Vacations.

Another alternative is car-pooling. Denise Powell drives five of her co-workers from Chicago's Beverly neighborhood on the South Side 38 miles each way to their job in Glenview in the north suburbs. They are part of the Pace Ride Sharing Program. Powell says it's a huge savings.

"I'm saving...$140 just in gas a week," Powell told ABC7.

Powell keeps the six-seat Dodge Caravan at her house. Pace pays for gas, tolls and insurance while riders pay a monthly fee.

A spokesperson says the program is drawing a lot of interest since gas prices started to rise.

"Every van pool we have out there takes between 5 and 13 cars off the road. It helps reduce traffic and gas consumption too," said Patrick Wilmot, Pace spokesperson.