- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

High gasoline prices are prompting more drivers to ditch their sport utility vehicles and turn to alternate means of commuting, including public transportation, bikes and carpools.

Unleaded gasoline fell below $2 for the first time in five weeks Monday, settling at $1.98 per gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration.

On the person-to-person car-buying Web site AutoTrader.com,more drivers are selling their SUVs, which are known for their low gas mileage.

The number for sale on AutoTrader.com jumped 10 percent in two months, from 14,968 in April to 17,662 on June 1.

The dealer-to-individual car-purchasing Web site Autobytel.com reported a similar decrease in SUV interest, with a jump in compact-car interest.

Requests for large SUVs on Autobytel are down 20 percent since January, and interest in all SUVs is down 13 percent, a company spokesman said.

Meanwhile, more Washington area commuters are interested in finding another way to get to work besides their car, according to Nicholas Ramfos, director of Commuter Connections, a Metropolitan Washington Council of Government organization of transportation venues.

He reports a 55 percent jump in the number of people seeking Commuter Connection’s help in telecommuting and car or vanpooling, some of which they attribute to an aggressive marketing campaign, Mr. Ramfos said.

“Typically, when gas prices go up, we get a jump in applications,” he said.

At least one area bicycle company has seen a jump in sales.

Charlie McCormick, owner of City Bikes in Adams Morgan and Chevy Chase, said sales at his stores rose about 15 percent in the past month. He said many customers bought bikes for commuting.

“People are surprised with how easy it is, and that it’s less effort than they thought to ride their bike,” he said. “There’s some gear to it, but it’s really not that hard: a bike, lock and a helmet.”

Those are small issues for area drivers fed up with high gas prices, high insurance costs and parking tickets.

“Gas prices might be the final nail in the coffin” in choosing to bike to work, said Mike Francis, salesperson for Revolution Cycles in the District.

Both city and suburban residents have called the Washington Area Bicyclist Association looking for safe bike routes to work, which average about 10 miles in each direction, WABA Director Eric Gilliland said. People also have opted to use their bikes for quick errands.

Dorcas Adkins, 58, began commuting on her bike because she didn’t like riding the Metro. When gas prices rose, she began running errands on her bike as well.

She bikes about 20 miles per week that she otherwise would have driven, saving about $5 per week.

A long bike commute can be shortened by adding a Metrorail or Metrobus ride to a route. Metrorail ridership has jumped in April and May, possibly because of high gas prices steering people away from their cars, spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

Metrorail ridership seasonably increases in April, but monthly ridership was up by an estimated 500,000 riders in both April and May 2004, compared with the same period in 2003.

When gas prices are high, some commuters rely more heavily on motorcycles — which average between 40 and 60 miles per gallon —already sitting in the garage, said Devin Battley, owner of a Gaithersburg Harley-Davidson store.

While there hasn’t been a significant increase in sales, Mr. Battley says people who already own motorcycles are likely to use them more often when gas prices are high.

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