News Release

squandering the stimulus

An Analysis of Household Gas Spending, Economic Stimulus Checks, and the need for better transportation options
For Immediate Release

Without sufficient alternatives to driving, American families spent their entire economic stimulus check on high-priced gas.  According to new analysis from the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, since President Bush signed the tax rebates into law on February 13th, the average household spent over $1500 filling their tanks. Gas costs were higher than average in areas without robust public transportation.

The group was joined in releasing its findings today at an event at Baltimore’s Woodberry Light Rail Stop by local transit advocates who called on Congress to approve additional funding for public transportation as an alternative to high gas prices.  

“We need to increase federal funding in public transportation to make it easier for people in the Baltimore area to drive less,” said Richard Chambers, Executive Director of One Less Car.

According to the analysis released by Maryland PIRG, since February when President Bush signed the tax rebates into law, the average cost per household for gasoline has gone from just over $60 weekly to almost $100 per week. Americans have responded to higher gas costs by taking public transportation at record rates in areas where it is available. American drivers traveled fewer miles last year for the first time in almost thirty years.

Transit agencies have struggled to keep up with the increased ridership volume. As early as tomorrow, the US House of Representatives will consider the Saving Energy through Transportation Act, a bill that would authorize close to 2 billion dollars to allow public transit agencies across the country to reduce fares and to expand services.  The Baltimore metro area would receive more than $15.5 million over two years.

“If Congress wants to do something long-term about high gas prices, it will give people more alternatives to driving,” said Johanna Neumann, Maryland PIRG State Director. “Unless we make it easier to drive less, Maryland families will be stuck in neutral as they spend more and more  at the pump.”

Analysis by Maryland PIRG shows that public transportation created net oil savings totaling 3.4 billion gallons in 2006. This is enough to fuel 5.8 million cars for an entire year and to save about $13.6 billion in gasoline at today’s prices. In Maryland, public transit saved 132.3 million gallons, the equivalent of saving $540 million at the pump today.

Additional Maryland PIRG-released analysis, which was generated by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), also shows that neighborhoods around the country with the best access to transit spent an average of $728 monthly on all transportation costs based on 2000 Census data, including gas, insurance, upkeep, and transit fares. Households in neighborhoods with the least access to transit, by contrast, spent an average of $925 per month.

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