Friday, May 30, 2008

higher gas prices = longer weekend?

Is there an upside to higher gas prices? Like maybe shorter work week to shrink the amount of commuting workers do. St. Francis University in Cambria County is implementing just that. See the story in the Tribune Democrat. Of course, other employers may shorten the work week and shorten the paycheck as well.

Anyway, shorter work weeks or telecommuting is great is you are a wayward economist, but it's hard to cut back the driving for things like meals on wheels which are also being hit by higher gas prices.

This all reminds me of the Port Authority route cuts last year. Now as gas prices are hitting $4/gallon, people are actually thinking about switching their mode of commuting. How many folks that might have switched to a bus last year can't now because their route was eliminated. The cuts were concentrated in the longer and, in the past, less used routes to the suburbs. Yet, those were the routes that really served the marginal transit riders which are most likely to switch to riding the bus as gas prices go up. The dense usage of bus ridership in city neighborhoods to Downtown and Oakland can't go up as much with gas prices because a higher percentage of those who can use transit already are doing so on those routes. So to cure (or is that partially cure?) the Port Authority's short term budget woes, the cuts implemented were precisely the routes that could be enticing new riders out of their cars and onto public transit right now. Maybe the Port Authority should be thinking about putting back some of those routes? But no, while most parts of the country is at least thinking of how to leverage public transit to deal with current energy costs, the only debate that is going here is over the drink tax (or hockey banners).

Speaking of alternative commuting modes. I am not really proposing this particular vehicle as viable here, but the picture below was of a human power street vehicle literally parked on a Swiss street. I don't care if that frame was made of the latest carbon fiber, can you imagine trying to bike all that up a moderate Pittsburgh hill.


Blogger Michael Grant said...

The economy works in great ways – give people higher prices, and they will demand less. Keep rising the price, and adjustments will be made; for example, the public transportation system increasing in usage or people moving closer to where they work. The four day work week is a possibility but so is the general trend for people to work from home. We became use to traveling 20 or 30 miles to work and urban sprawl increased dramatically; I wouldn’t be surprised if this sprawl began to contract with people moving back to the cities. With technology, let’s just be thankful the oil price increase came at a time when we could respond without dramatic negative consequences, as may have been the case 30 or 40 years ago.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008 12:39:00 PM  

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