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Will rise in gas prices lead to less driving?

Posted at 5:57 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 21:39:51-04

PHOENIX — The average gallon of regular crossed the $5 mark in the Phoenix metro on May 17, rising well above the inflation rate of other goods and services. Does an increase in price mean a decrease in driving?

According to data from the company GasBuddy, the daily average for a gallon of regular in Phoenix hovered in the low $3 range in the summer months of last year. The price began a precipitous increase in late September, reaching a peak on June 7 of $5.44, a 74% increase in just under nine months.

So are the high prices impacting driving habits?

Traffic statistics from official sources can lag a year or more before they are released. There are other datasets that can provide an idea with gasoline demand from the US Energy Information Agency being one of the most reliable. Their weekly updated data shows demand for gasoline is below where it was this time last year. Demand fell below 2021 in late March, but both years remain below pre-pandemic demand levels.

A snapshot of travel habits of Memorial Day travelers from AAA does show a slight increase of 1.5 million more auto travelers in 2022 compared to last year. At the time COVID-19 still affected the behavior of travelers in some states and 2022 is still down compared to 2019.

There are also more people taking light rail in Phoenix.

Data from Valley Metro shows that in April of last year average weekday boarding was just below 21,000. One year later the average rose to almost 29,000, a 38% increase.

Any drop in demand for gasoline may lead to a drop in prices if production does not also drop. Today the US Energy Information Agency released its latest forecast for gas prices. The agency predicts that prices may begin to drop in the coming months, but will likely stay over $4 a gallon in 2023 and beyond.