Video: Gas prices have Minnesotans giving up driving

It’s difficult to know whether this is a bug or a feature in Barack Obama’s energy policies. One might expect that voters would get angry over having to choose between the freedom of personal transportation and the economy of public transportation, but then again, this is the same administration that hired Stephen “Let’s push gas prices to European levels” Chu as Energy Secretary. If Barack Obama wants to make more Americans dependent on government transportation, he’s succeeding, at least in Minnesota:

Right now, Minnesota is averaging $3.72 for a gallon of regular gasoline — that’s up 3 cents from yesterday. And, in Wisconsin, the average is hovering at $3.99, right below the $4 mark.

New figures from Metro Transit show that this year could set a record for the most riders ever. Right now, ridership is topping the record year of 2008 when Twin Cities gas prices reached their highest ever average price of $3.97 a gallon.

The pain a the pump has Minnesotans like Robert Haston switching to Metro Transit.

“The price of fuel is outrageous and this is the best,” Haston said. “You can go downtown, you can go to the airport, you can go just about anywhere on mass transit.”

Well, actually, you can’t, not unless you live in the Twin Cities and you want to go to … the Twin Cities.  Downtown and the airport are about the only choices.  From Minneapolis or St. Paul, one can ride the Hiawatha light-rail train to either the airport or the Mall of America, and inside the cities, buses run on a normal schedule.  If you want to travel from the ‘burbs to the cities, though, you’ll either have to park at the MegaMall (as the MoA is known here) for free, or at the airport for a fee.  And while that looks rather economical at the point of sale for the tickets, those prices are heavily subsidized with taxpayer dollars.

WCCO notes in the story that bike and scooter sales have spiked recently, thanks to high gas prices and an early arrival of spring.  I’m part of that spike.  Last week I bought a new Znen Venture scooter for local errand running and a bit of recreation, in part to enjoy the few months of nice weather we get here, and in part to save gas in my Honda CRV for trips that really necessitate a car.  The scooter, which is pictured on the front page for this post in my garage, gets about 90 miles to the gallon and can get to speeds of 60 MPH.  Its 150cc motor required me to get a motorcycle license, and right now I have the first learner’s permit I’ve needed in 33 years.  I’ve never driven a scooter or motorcycle before, so I’m taking it slowly, but eventually I’ll use it to travel anywhere where I’m going alone without having to get on a freeway or carry goods.

Now, I don’t feel forced to do this by gas prices; this is something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years anyway.  But those who get forced by economics to use the time-consuming public transportation options won’t find their experiences nearly as enjoyable or convenient, and since our current gas prices relate to our current policies of discouraging domestic production, voters will react poorly when they have the opportunity.

House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy has a new video out today emphasizing how these gas prices are hammering the working classes — and how the Obama administration’s priorities on energy are obviously elsewhere: