Squandering the Stimulus: Average American Households Spent Stimulus on Gas

Media Contacts
Jason Donofrio

Bill in Congress Would Authorize $1.7 Billion for Public Transportation in Response to High Gas Costs

Arizona PIRG

Without sufficient options to driving, Arizona families on average spent their entire economic stimulus check on high-priced gas.  According to new analysis from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, since President Bush signed the tax rebates into law on February 13th, 2008, the average American household spent over $1,500 filling their gas tanks. Gas costs were higher than average in areas without robust public transportation.

According to the analysis released by the Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG), since February when President Bush signed the tax rebates into law, the average cost per household for gasoline has gone from just over $60 weekly to almost $100 per week. Americans have responded to higher gas costs by taking public transportation at record rates in areas where it is available. American drivers traveled fewer miles last year for the first time in almost thirty years. 

Transit agencies have meanwhile struggled to keep up with the increased ridership volume.  As early as tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider the Saving Energy through Transportation Act, a bill that would authorize 1.7 billion dollars to allow public transit agencies across the country to reduce fares and to expand services.   Over two years, the Phoenix area would receive $16,682,470; the Tucson area would receive $4,063,128; Flagstaff $248,322; Prescott $257,816; and the Yuma area (including part of California) $494,412.  Statewide rural formula funds would be $3,701,172 for the two years.

“If Congress wants to do something long-term about high gas prices, it will expand options to driving,” said Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of Arizona PIRG. “Unless it is easier to drive less, Arizona families will be stuck in neutral as they spend more and more at the pump.”

Analysis by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund shows that public transportation created net oil savings totaling 3.4 billion gallons in 2006. This is enough to fuel 5.8 million cars for an entire year and to save about $13.6 billion in gasoline at today’s prices. In the Phoenix metro area, public transit saved 4.1 million gallons, the equivalent of saving $16.7 million at the pump today.

The Arizona PIRG-released analysis, which was generated by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), also shows that neighborhoods around the country with the best access to transit spent an average of $728 monthly on all transportation costs, including gas, insurance, upkeep, and transit fares. Households in neighborhoods with the least access to transit, by contrast, spent an average of $925 per month.

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