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February 29, 2012

Avoiding Pain at the Pump and from Congress

CargasGas prices are rising and so is pain at the pump.  But as Congress took a week off from Washington, it seems that Republicans are thrilled with rising gas prices – touting them as a political winner, even as high prices drain dollars from their constituents’ pocketbooks.

In fact, in a speech to students at the University of Miami, President Obama called out a headline that read: “Gasoline prices are on the rise and Republicans are licking their chops.”

We’ve already heard from Republicans clamoring to grant Big Oil’s wish list – drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off our coasts – all things that won’t affect the price at the pump, while endangering our national treasures. However, President Obama has put in place clean vehicle standards that promise to double the average fuel economy of new vehicles between now and 2025. These are standards that promise to deliver real relief for consumers at the pump and to significantly decrease our dependence on oil.

Just before the President spoke last week, Rep. Allen West from Florida complained bitterly about how much it costs him to fill the tank of his ultimate gas guzzler – an HR 3 Hummer.  In city driving, his gas hog will get perhaps 13 miles to the gallon. So, we thought we’d offer some useful tips to Rep. West and the offer some tips that all of us can use. 

First, some pointers for Rep. West: We note he has two offices in his Congressional District –

Fort Lauderdale
6300 NE 1st Avenue - Suite 100
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33334


West Palm Beach
3111 South Dixie Highway, Suite 308
West Palm Beach, Florida 33405

We suggest that Representative West could use Tri-Rail to go between his two district offices in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach for only $5.65, avoiding a 36 mile drive on I-95 that would use well over two gallons of gas if his Hummer gets 16.5 mpg. 

Stuck in traffic the H3 might guzzle its way through $21.20 of gas. A Google search shows the West Palm Beach Tri-Rail station is 2.4 miles from his office.  For such a short hop, we suggest looking for a bus that runs from the Intermodal Transit Center to his office, but we suppose catching a cab could be an option. 

The Ft. Lauderdale Cypress Creek Tri-Rail station is even more convenient, as it's only 0.4 miles from his office, a nice eight minute walk. One of the benefits of leaving the Hummer at home is getting some exercise along the way.  If a trip to Miami is in the plans, the train will take you there.

We estimate that the trip will take a little over an hour vs. the best case time of 36 minutes in the Hummer on I-95 (but much longer during morning and afternoon rush hours).  But, aside from getting some exercise along with the commute, a ride on TriRail offers a chance to read and perhaps more important, time to  speak with constituents who are using the TriRail system to beat the high price of gas that so vexes the Congressman who might otherwise be stuck in traffic in the H3. 

The fact is that 50% of Americans have access to transit as an option for avoiding pain at the pump.  Rep. West is luckier than most Floridians, who don't currently enjoy the option of light rail that has long served the people of Florida's 22nd District.

We agree with the President that this is one problem we cannot drill our way out of– but we can take smart and practical steps to reduce pain at the pump: 

1.    Leave your car at home - take transit if you can.
2.    Bike to work or to the store.  We have some handy resources for first time bikers.
3.    In the market for a new car? Buy a hybrid or the most fuel efficient vehicle that meets your needs.
4.    Check your tire pressure frequently and keep your tires fully inflated. Full tires can improve your fuel economy up to 10%.
5.    Use a GPS - studies show that using a navigational device can reduce miles traveled up to 16% 
6.    Ask your boss if you can telecommute one or two days per week.

Check out our web page for more ways to avoid pain at the pump (scroll down on the page).

Share with us your best strategy for keeping for avoiding the pump as gas prices rise!  You don’t have experience pain at the pump alone – join our Transportation Activist network and find out how you can get involved in your local area to increase transportation choices.

-- Ann Mesnikoff, Director of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign


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