Young people hard hit by gas prices
The rising cost of gas is hitting young people hard. Teenagers are working longer hours, riding the bus and finding their own way to adjust to the high prices.
St. Paul, Minn. — Paula Larson-Miller is 17 and a high school junior.
She's been scooping ice cream at the Grand Old Creamery in St. Paul for about a year now and the price of gas has gone up about 60 cents a gallon since she started.
"I share a car with my mom. She's really nice about it. I do have to pitch in with the gas," she says.
While she admits she doesn't do that as much as she should, she felt her own pain at the pump when she filled up last week. It cost Larson-Miller $46. That more than a third of a week's pay.
"The rising costs are definitely making me more conscious of 'Do I need to drive here?' I'm definitely going to be walking, biking this summer."
She's not alone.
With part time jobs and often older vehicles, young drivers are probably more sensitive than any to the run-up in gas prices.
Instead of putting their money in their fuel tanks, they're already looking for other ways to get around.
In Duluth, for instance, transit officials say use of their young adult fares for high school students are up 11 percent so far this year compared to 2007. The city's bus program for college students has grown by 25 percent over the same time.
The effect isn't as great in the Twin Cities, although Metro Transit officials say use of their youth fare program is up about 3 percent this year.
Kids may instead be resorting to that most dreaded form of transportation: the school bus.
Districts don't typically track ridership. But some drivers are reporting nearly twice as many kids getting on their buses some days, as parents are changing their driving habits. They're taking their kids to school less often.
But the big yellow bus is a last resort for students at schools like TrekNorth, a charter high school near Bemidji.
"They don't see it as a choice," says Jennifer Roy, a science teacher there.
She talks about transportation and the environment in class. But her students are working harder than ever to stay behind their hard-won steering wheels.
"Maybe for the last six months or so, they've been talking about how expensive gas is, and saying 'I need to work more hours,' and making that connection," says Roy. "A lot of the jobs they have are in fast food, or retail, so they're working into the evening hours. They're putting in a lot of hours over the weekend. And, as a result, the schoolwork tends to get sort of pushed to the back burner."
But some kids think of the rising price of gas an opportunity.
Anthony Hernandez is a high school senior in Austin. He's got a nice ride. It's a 1999 Saab 9000 turbo.
These days, though, he's leaving it in the driveway when he goes to school. He's pedaling his mountain bike across town instead.
"It's not a nerdy thing to do, I don't think," Hernandez says. "The bike racks are definitely full right now. I had to chain my bike to the railing to the stairs to the school, instead of the bike rack. Which might be a good thing, you know. More kids are riding their bikes."
But Hernandez also thinks there may actually be an upside to this summer's gasoline price crisis.
"I think it's made people more conscious of their driving habits, which up to this point, may have been poor driving habits," he says. "I think that includes me, because before, I would make careless trips with my car, I wouldn't kind of plan out my day for where I was driving. But now that's something I try to be more aware of. I also think that teenagers care more about how their driving habits effect the environment, than they care about how them using gas affects the economy."
But with gas expect to hit $4 a gallon as early as next week, it'll be easier than ever to be green.
- All Things Considered, 05/23/2008, 4:54 p.m.