High gasoline prices have once again demonstrated how dependent American households are on oil. Coping with road networks and development patterns that for the past century have been built to make driving the preferred and often only means of transportation, Americans are suddenly held hostage to a diminishing and increasingly expensive resource to live their daily lives. Yet with less than 2 percent of oil reserves, there is little that the U.S. can do to increase the supply of oil and almost nothing to reduce its costs over the long term. Without real transportation choices, Americans spend increasing amounts of money on gasoline as they commute, go shopping, pick up their children from school and fulfill other daily responsibilities.
On June 2, 2011, the Livable Communities Task Force (LCTF) released a report entitled “Freedom from Oil: How Transportation Choices Can Provide Gas Price Relief. ” The report recommends a suite of legislative proposals and other steps that policymakers, businesses and individuals can take to help consumers deal with high gas prices.
“America deserves better than the endless cycle between denial of our vulnerability to oil prices when they are low, and sticker shock when they spike upwards,” said Blumenauer. “It’s time to revamp our transportation policies at the federal, state and local level to give Americans options, so that when gas prices are high they have safe, convenient and affordable ways to avoid falling victim to these high prices. This report illustrates how we can move in that direction.”
The report recommends federal policy solutions that protect communities and families from oil price sticker-shock:
- Continue to increase fuel efficiency of passenger vehicles, which could save drivers the equivalent of $1.00-1.70 per gallon of gas.
- Increase investment in alternative fuels like electric vehicles, which could save drivers $1000 in fuel costs each year.
- Set clear national priorities for our transportation system, including a strategy and performance measures for reducing oil consumption.
- Require Metropolitan Planning Organizations to evaluate the effects of new transportation projects on regional petroleum consumption.
- Promote Pay-As-You-Drive insurance, allowing consumers to pay less if they drive less.
- Encourage lenders to use transit accessibility and location efficiency as a factor in mortgage rates, taking into account the reduced spending on gas and making it easier to purchase a home that allows transportation savings.
- Use the tax code to encourage businesses to offer comprehensive commuter benefit programs that level the playing field for alternative, non gas-dependent transportation.
- Increase federal funding for transit, including allowing capital funds to be spent on operations, helping transit agencies deal with increased fuel prices without compromising service or access.
- Increase funding for “Safe Routes to School” programs so that parents and children have the option to get to school safely without driving.
- Support “Complete Streets” policies that design streets for all users, making it safer for people of all ages to travel by bike, foot, or public transportation.
- Authorize the Office of Sustainable Communities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and provide funding to the Partnership for Sustainable Communities so that the agencies can continue to provide technical assistance, planning, and capital support to communities.
Download the Livable Communities Task Force Report
"Freedom from Oil"
Riding public transportation saves individuals, on average, $10,116 annually according to the American Public Transportation Association’s Transit Savings Report (based on the 4/13/2011 average national gas price of $3.81 per gallon and the national unreserved monthly parking rate.)
Increasing fuel economy standards to 60 miles per gallon would save the average American family $513 on summer gasoline alone.
In 2010 half of all the trips Americans took were less than 5 miles long and every one of those 5 mile auto trip requires a quarter gallon of gas on average. At $4 gasoline, switching from a car to a bicycle for one 5 mile car trip per day would save a household $365 in a year.