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Many forced to cut corners to fill up gas tank

POSTED: April 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Michael Phillips/The Times

Adrian Stowers of Lula fills his new car with gas at a local station. Stowers recently purchased a more fuel efficient car because of the rising price of gas.

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Record gas prices haven’t pushed Hall Countians to adopt drastic routine changes, but some have resorted to logging time behind the wheel in a more gas-efficient ride to conserve spending.

Rachel Burlison, mother of six children, said soaring fuel costs cannot force her to drive less. But she did park her four-passenger vehicle last week to take the helm of an eight-passenger van that can tow all six children ranging in age from 3 to 14.

"With that many kids, I’ve always got somewhere to go," Burlison said. "You still gotta do what you’ve gotta do regardless. So I’ve parked the Trans Am because it costs too much to drive it. I’ve had it. I can drive this one probably three times as far as I can drive the Trans Am."

Burlison said the van gets better gas mileage, and allows her to cart her six children to the dentist all at once, which reduces the number of trips she makes in a day. She said she spends at least $50 each week fueling the van.

Although the van requires less gas than her previous car, Burlison said fuel costs are still eating away at the family’s budget.

"We cut corners in other ways to make up for it. We’re spending less on entertainment, like taking the kids out to eat or taking them shopping," Burlison said.

High gas prices have forced the mother to get creative — she has put the kids on school buses to transport them to and from school, which Burlison said saves her $100 each week in gas costs.

Burlison added that she has started walking the kids to the park on the weekends instead of loading them into the van for the roughly three-block journey.

And she’s not the only one who has parked her preferred vehicle to save money.

Lula resident Adrian Stowers said he left his beloved V-8 Jeep Grand Cherokee in the driveway after he purchased a more gas-efficient Dodge Neon last Saturday. His Jeep Grand Cherokee gets 17 miles per gallon, whereas the Dodge Neon gets 28 miles per gallon.

"When it got to $70 every time I filled up, I had to stop. No more," Stowers said. "Now with the Neon, I pay $34 to fill up. Just having it for a week has already shown a big difference."

Stowers said the new car will save him roughly $150 each week as he drives to work at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center. He added that he and his wife now share one car between the two of them, and they carpool with friends or family members when going out to eat or running errands in Gainesville.

Stowers said he’s even started taking Ga. 365 instead of back roads when he drives to Gainesville so that he doesn’t have to stop at traffic lights as often, which saves small, but crucial amounts of gas. He said he no longer uses the air conditioning, and rolls down the windows instead. Stowers also turns the car off while waiting on friends or family and uses cruise control more often in an effort to save precious fuel.

Scott Webb, owner of Primeview Satellite in Gainesville, said he is more conscious of how much gas costs, but feels that he cannot make any real changes in his routine.

"I can’t not take the kids to school or to camp. Then I’ve got to pick them up and take them to Grandma’s, to baseball or to a friend’s house. Kids have their own social schedules," Webb said.

He did say that gas prices could affect the costs his satellite service asks of customers. Webb said his business depends on the multiple service trucks that travel to clients’ homes.

"We haven’t gone up on our rates because of gas prices yet, but it may be coming," he said.

Brian Carr, spokesman for The Clean Air Campaign, said some drivers’ routines cannot be changed, but for those who commute to work, carpool may be the answer.

"This is a crucial time. We can’t really wait for relief on gas prices, but we can look for alternatives to commuting alone," Carr said.

The Clean Air Campaign, a nonprofit agency which works closely with the governor’s office, will pay drivers to carpool, bike or walk when traveling to work. Drivers can earn up to $180 during a 90-day period by logging their alternative commuting practices online with The Clean Air Campaign.

In addition to getting paid for sticking with commuting alternatives, Carr said that carpoolers, bikers and walkers will help keep one pound of pollution out of the air for each mile of driving they forego.

"Gainesville used to be a completely separate entity from Atlanta, but now it’s not that way anymore," Carr said. "I think it’s hitting us hard because here in North Georgia, the average person commutes a total of 40 miles to work each day. The financial pain is felt to a greater degree here in a high-commuter region. We just rely so much on our cars."



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