Despite a recent surge in gas prices, LSA senior Ben Lack doesn’t plan on changing his driving habits anytime soon.
With buses too slow, the weather getting too cold and his parents footing the bill on his gas prices, Lack said there’s no need to abandon his’ 92 Toyota Camry.
“I drive it around campus for convenience, but when I need to go off campus, it’s usually a necessity because the bus sucks,” Lack said. “It takes an hour to get to Meijer with the bus.”
Many University students who drive cars give the same story, even as gas prices in Michigan hover around $2.64 a gallon according to AAA. Although some students are trying alternatives to curb gasoline usage, the daily transportation needs of many student drivers haven’t yet overwhelmed them in relinquishing their car keys.
Walter McManus, director of the University’s Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, said people shouldn’t be surprised that students are continuing to drive.
McManus said research shows that if gas prices rise 10 percent, driving is cut down by only 4 percent. After Hurricane Katrina, gas prices rose 12 percent.
Other students who are not changing their driving habits said that their parents paid for their gas, or said they use their cars only to drive to work.
First-year Law student Betsey Wiegman said she fills her tank very rarely because she uses her car only once or twice a week.
Students like Nursing junior Laura Ready say higher prices have changed her driving habits. Ready said she now walks as much as possible and doesn’t visit places like the mall as frequently as before. Yet, she said she still needs the car for work.
“It was really crappy that they made us have a car and made us drive to clinical (and community service), but they wouldn’t reimburse us for gas,” Ready said.
She said she puts as many as 90 miles on her car per week driving to Detroit and Chelsea and spends about $40 a week on gas.
Tony Smith, a first year physics graduate student, said he has cut down on driving back home to Southfield, and for on-campus transportation he is trying alternatives like riding the bus and biking – but not without some problems.
“I’ve been making a conscious effort to try to take the bus, but I’m always running late,” Smith said. “I even started to ride a bike, but then somebody stole my bike seat. And also, when I’d get to class, I’d be all sweaty.”
McManus said gas prices may rise in the future because countries like China and India will probably add to the demand for fuel. He also said as a result, fewer cars may be on campus and people will utilize public transportation more.
Since Hurricane Katrina, gas prices have decreased, but it may take a few more years, McManus said, until gas prices truly begin to financially squeeze the population.