When I was growing up, we didn’t drive very far. Most of our driving to work, school, and shopping malls was done within 5 miles of our home. To my parents, a long road trip was about 20 miles from Honolulu to “the country” (Kaneohe and Kailua) to visit relatives. Sometimes I would take the bus to Waikiki or Windward Mall. I don’t know whether my parents didn’t like to drive, gas was too expensive, or they just didn’t need to go anywhere else.
When I got my first job, gas prices were reasonable and I was willing to drive farther, more often. I ended up commuting 25 miles one way from home to work. I made unnecessary trips, sometimes to run a single errand. Road trips got longer, too (it was cheaper than going to the movies or an amusement park). Traffic got worse, and I started leaving earlier for work and staying a little later at work to avoid it. I learned that there’s a high cost to low gas prices.
Then gas prices started going up, and I changed my lifestyle – for the better. I found a job closer to home. I ran multiple errands in one trip. I tried to find the shortest route to my destination. I drove less and spent more time in nearby areas. I started paying more attention to pollution and the quality of our air.
Now gas prices are down again. This month, gas was $2.319 at Costco in Honolulu – the lowest I’ve seen in years. I know that I should be happy about low gas prices – who likes paying more for anything? – but the truth is that I’m a little dismayed about low gas prices.
I never thought I’d say this, but I think Hawaii should pay more for gasoline. This doesn’t mean that we need higher gas taxes. This means that Hawaii’s economy and Hawaii’s environment may not be able to afford low gas prices.
We need to think harder about how far and how often we drive. We usually don’t have a lot of choices about where we live and work – that depends on what we can afford and what jobs we are offered – but we can choose our leisure time.
With high gas prices, we would be forced to reevaluate our driving habits. Or we can choose, right now, to change our driving habits.
We can choose to spend more time at neighborhood beaches, parks, and libraries instead of driving around the island. We can choose to get out of our cars and spend less time at the drive-through. We can choose to shop less and take our time with purchases, instead of rushing to buy. We can choose to reduce carbon exhaust, cut down on traffic, and enjoy cleaner air.
How have lower gas prices affected your driving habits? Do you think low gas prices help or hurt Hawaii?