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Gas prices keep going up

Posted: March 11, 2008 2:06 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Gas prices averaged $3.55 a gallon Monday in the Santa Clarita Valley; the Shell station at McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard is a penny above average.

 
As the price of oil continues to skyrocket, and the price of gasoline along with it, Santa Clarita Valley motorists are feeling pain at the pump but so far are not making drastic changes in their driving habits, according to residents surveyed Monday by The Signal.

The price of crude oil hit an all-time high of $108 a barrel Monday, while gas prices averaged $3.55 a gallon in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The price increase over the last few months has been steep and painful. A year ago a gallon averaged only $2.91; on Jan. 3 it was at $3.33 a gallon; and as of last Thursday it was $3.52. In the next few days, prices are expected to rise another five cents.

"It's too much," said Jenny Pryor of Newhall, whose husband, Ed, was filling up a U-Haul truck at the Mobil service station on San Fernando Road. "It's ridiculous."

Despite the sharp increases, most motorists seem to be swallowing the price rise and only making few, if any, adjustments to their spending and driving habits.

Ian, a British expatriate who has lived in Newhall for 17 years, said he compensates by driving differently.
"I definitely drive slower," he said. "But my company pays for my gas, so it doesn't really impact me much."

Kathleen G., who was filling up next to Ian at the Mobil station, said that she simply tried to earn more money to offset the higher prices.

"I try to work more, but I don't really drive less," she said.

Randy Cressall, owner of the Valencia Chevron Auto Spa, said Kathleen's attitude is typical of the average driver. For years, Cressall has monitored trends in gas prices in the Santa Clarita Valley and their impact on the local economy.

"For most people, gas is a necessary utility like power and water," he said. "They are not going to cut back on gas. They are going to ask what else they can cut back on, or how they can dig deeper. I don't think Californians are going to give up their cars."

At the Alliance station on San Fernando Road in Newhall, business was as brisk as ever, partly due to the $3.49 a gallon regular unleaded, which is among the cheapest gas in the valley.

"It's just as busy as it's always been here," said Temo, the cashier.

Jeff O'Keefe, transit manager for the city of Santa Clarita bus system, confirms that so far he has not seen commuters flooding - or even trickling - onto public transit.

"For now, people are just starting to think about it," he said. "But if gas prices continue to rise, we'll probably see higher ridership in the near future."

Denise Tyrell, spokeswoman for Metrolink, said ridership on the commuter trains increased only 2.2 percent in the last month. She added that the softening economy may be partly to blame for the low numbers.

"We're not seeing [an increase] yet," Tyrell said. "The price of gas just isn't painful enough. The job losses that have occurred recently offset any increase in ridership we would see from rising gas prices. If people don't have a job to go to, they don't ride the train."

Despite the statistics, some local residents are switching to public transit at least part of the time - if it's relatively convenient.

Tom O'Brien, a Saugus resident who works at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, said he started riding Metrolink about six months ago, taking it to work two or three times a week. His wife started taking the bus to her job in Sherman Oaks, he said.

"I take the Metrolink train whenever I can," O'Brien said. "The Burbank station is very close to my office. It's a hassle sometimes, because my wife and I have to take turns picking each other up from the station [in Santa Clarita], but in addition to the savings in gas, it saves a lot of wear and tear on our car."

According to Cressall, many automotive-related industries are being adversely affected by rising gas prices. "People are not cutting back on driving, but they are cutting back on services like carwashes and oil changes," he said.

The Pryors, who own a U-Haul franchise in Saugus, said they have seen the impact in their business.
"U-Haul rentals are definitely down," Jenny Pryor said. "People have stopped renting trucks for casual trips to the dump and things like that. They complain about gas prices all the time."

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