May 23, 2008

High gas prices compel many Sacramento
residents to change driving behavior
But majority slow to respond, oppose tax increase for mass transit

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With increasing gas prices, many residents in the Sacramento region have changed their driving habits. Fully 37 percent report they and their family members used carpooling, biking or walking instead of driving at least once from February 2007 to March 2008. And 27 percent indicate they used vehicles that get better gas mileage, while 12 percent say they changed jobs or moved in order to shorten their commute to work. Additionally, 12 percent also report they used public transit as their main sources of transportation.

The survey, conducted by Sacramento State professor Amy Liu and her students through the University’s Institute for Social Research, found that despite deep concerns over the high price of gas, 63 percent have not used carpooling, biked or walked. A total of 73 percent of residents have not used vehicles that would get better gas mileage, and 88 percent have not changed their jobs, moved closer to their workplace, or used mass transit instead of driving.

Just over half of area residents (55 percent) would not vote to raise gas taxes by one cent on the dollar to fund public transportation. This is especially the case for Republicans (70 percent) and those with household incomes of less than $30,000 (62 percent).

Concern about global warming has also failed to trigger significant shifts in driving behavior.

Even among those who are deeply concerned about global warming, 56 percent have not carpooled, walked or biked at least once in the past year, 84 percent have not used public transit as their major mode of transportation, and 48 percent would not vote for a gas tax increase to support public transit.

“The study has shown that changing the driving habits of the majority of area residents will take more than concerns over current high gas prices, global warming or traffic congestion,” Liu says.

“Thus, to encourage sustainable changes in area residents’ lifestyles and driving habits, education regarding the need to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, global warming and oil consumption must be continued. It also requires government to build and maintain adequate infrastructure and to have long-term commitment and creative policies for land use, energy and public transportation.”

Other findings include:

• 94 percent of residents in the Sacramento region believe the high price of gas is a problem; 74 percent see it as a big problem, and 20 percent regard it as somewhat of a problem.
• 81 percent of non-white residents and 77 percent of women expressed a great deal of concern about high gas prices.
• Residents in Yolo County and their family members are the most likely to have used ridesharing, walking or biking in the past 12 months (56 percent).
• More than half of those aged 40 or younger (51 percent) have opted to use carpooling, walking or biking at least once in the past 12 months instead of driving.
• City of Sacramento residents (20 percent) are more likely to use public transit when gas prices are high, versus residents in Yolo and Sacramento counties (14 percent), Placer County (5 percent) and El Dorado County (6 percent).
• 51 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of Yolo County residents and 51 percent of residents with a college degree would vote to increase gas taxes to fund public transit.

The survey was a computer-assisted telephone survey of 1,200 randomly selected adults from Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties. It has a margin of error of 3 percent.

More information is available by contacting Liu at amyliuus@yahoo.com or at (916) 278-7572. For media assistance, contact Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.