***UPDATED*** We’ve added a comparison to Duarte, CA.
This week, we’ll take a look at a U.S. city known for its “car culture”—Los Angeles. As of Monday, May 9, the average cost of gas in Los Angeles is $4.29 a gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. That is 40 cents higher than the corresponding week in 2008 ($3.89), the last time gas prices shot up and sent everyone scrambling for L.A. Metro transit passes.
How are rising gas prices affecting the typical Los Angeles household? Let’s take a look at three Los Angeles-area communities, Palms and Duarte in Los Angeles County, and Simi Valley in Ventura County.
For those living in walkable, transit connected areas, the price of gas has less of an impact. Take the neighborhood of Palms: for a typical Los Angeles family living at Overland Ave. & Palms Blvd., transportation would cost $722 a month. By having the option to substitute walking, biking, transit, and car sharing when they might otherwise get in their own vehicle, families living in this neighborhood can keep their budget under control.
Now let’s look at the other extreme.a community that doesn’t have so many options. Let’s take the same typical LA family and move them to Duarte, out along the Foothill freeway. With gas at $4.30, the same family would spend almost $200 more a month, with a transportation budget of $921. That’s $2,400 a year.
One thing you may notice is the difference in the cost increases the households experience living in these two different places. In Palms, the rise in prices means that the cost increases 15% over the cost in 2000. That may stretch the budget, but not like in Duarte, where the same increase in gas means the cost of transportation goes up 22%. Because the household in Palms lives in a walkable, transit connected place, they are better insulated from the shocks than the household in Duarte.
Now let’s look at another extreme, the exurban community of Simi Valley. Because Simi Valley is in a different Census Defined Metropolitan Statistical Area, we need to imagine a different family, a typical Ventura County household. Simi Valley is a suburb more than 40 miles northwest of central Los Angeles. Without access to transportation alternatives, the cost of driving is going to take a significant chunk out of a household’s budget. At $4.30 a gallon, transportation is going to cost a typical household over $1,100 per month.
What can Angelenos do to avoid feeling the crunch?
- Take transit where possible and make sure their employers have signed up for pre-tax transit benefits. Pre-tax transit benefits are an underutilized “use it or lose it” federal and state tax break administered through employers. Employers can permit employees up to $230/month of their pretax income to pay for transit or vanpools. In Los Angeles, county employees currently can save up to $940 a year for simply enrolling in the program through their companies. Check out Metro Commuter Benefits and the LA County Department of Human Resources page.
- Curb your car and sign up for a local car sharing service. Americans spend an annual average of $8,776 to own, operate, and maintain a car, according to the AAA. Car sharing gets people where they need to go without worrying about gas prices. Members pay for cars by the hour, and gas is included in the hourly fee (as is insurance), so no need to worry about its price.
How are gas prices affecting your cost of transportation? What are your tips for getting out of the car? Let us know!