Gas prices hit home with U’s student commuters

Upheaval in the Middle East has pushed oil prices to more than $100 a barrel for the second time in history.

by Kathryn Raddatz

With gas prices at an all-time high for the season, University of Minnesota commuters and area gas stations are paying the price.

Recent upheaval in the Middle East has pushed oil prices to more than $100 a barrel for only the second time in history, according to the Associated Press.

Gas reached a national average of $3.51 a gallon Monday. ThatâÄôs up 14 cents over the past week. âÄî a website devoted to listing gasoline prices and locations for U.S. cities âÄî reported the average Minneapolis gas price Monday at $3.58 a gallon.

A year ago, the average national price was $2.75.

With no end in sight for either the protests or the price hike, students commuting to campus from outside Minneapolis are wondering how they can afford getting to class.

“I take a car to a train to a bus and it still costs me $60 of gas in a week,” theatre sophomore Daniel Flohr said.

Flohr chose to live with his family in Apple Valley, Minn., instead of on campus for financial reasons. He said the jump in gas prices has forced him to cut back in other areas to save money on his commute.

“It definitely makes an impact [on spending],” Flohr said. “IâÄôll cut back on other things I spend money on, like eating out, and just start bringing my meals to campus.”

Psychology senior Lisa Anderson commutes to campus from Maple Grove, Minn. She said higher gas prices make it even more difficult for a commuter to manage a social life on campus.

“ItâÄôs an annoyance that itâÄôs so high,” Anderson said. “I go to the U less on the weekends. If I drive to campus Friday night, I wonâÄôt drive back Saturday night. I cut down on trips.”

Anderson also stays overnight on campus with her boyfriend a few nights a week to cut down on the driving. She said what she spends on gas doesnâÄôt influence her spending habits as much as it influences her routine.

“ItâÄôs more making sure that I plan out my trips a little bit better so IâÄôm not wasting gas âÄî when I do errands IâÄôm doing other things at the same time,” she said.

Commuter Connection Co-Chairman John Worden said the group has rarely discussed gas prices, but that could change if prices continue to increase.

“No one likes an increased cost of doing anything,” Worden said, adding that heâÄôd like to see more discussion of the issue.

Commuters and others filling up at the pump arenâÄôt the only ones affected by the price hike. Gas station owners can lose money as more people steal gas when gas prices go up. Gas station owners, on average, profit only 14 cents on a gallon of gas and pocket even less after credit card transaction fees, according to a March 2 CNN report.

Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty said gas stations that donâÄôt require you to prepay for gas are at higher risk for theft.

“ThereâÄôs no exact numbers right now, but there is definitely an increase in drive-aways,” he said. “A lot of times thereâÄôs no license or suspect information âÄî itâÄôs kind of on the responsibility of the gas station owner.”

Analysts told the AP the economy could stay on the upswing as long as oil remains below $120 per barrel.

Any higher and it will push up the cost of fuel. Then consumers could rein in spending, more commuters may opt for public transportation and car pools, and leisure travelers will probably vacation closer to home.

Even with the prospect of record-high gas prices, most commuters maintain that the drive to campus is financially worth it when compared to campus housing costs.

“In the long run IâÄôm still saving money commuting,” Flohr said.