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					ELT Workshops 2007                                                           August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                     Facilitator: J. Uhler

Rev up your engines • Reading 1
Well, America: Is The Car Culture Working?
by David E. Shi

Soaring gas prices this summer have angered people, but no one seems to be driving less. Like
Granny in Jan and Dean’s 1964 song “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” we can’t keep our foot off
the accelerator.

We are crazy about our cars - and always have been. “The American,” William Faulkner lamented in
1948, “really loves nothing but his automobile.” His sardonic observation retains its force over a half-
century later. There are now more than 200 million cars in the United States. In Los Angeles there
evidently are more registered cars than people. Some families spend more on their monthly car
payments than on their home mortgage. We dream of cars as we dream of lovers. They express our
fantasies; they fulfill our desires.

Our intense love affair with cars began as soon as they were invented. Since its first appearance in the
1890s, the automobile has embodied deep-seated cultural and emotional values that have become an
integral part of the American Dream. All of the romantic mythology associated with the frontier
experience has been transferred to the car culture.

Americans have always cherished personal freedom and mobility, rugged individualism and
masculine force. The advent of the horseless carriage combined all these qualities and more. The
automobile traveled faster than the speed of reason; it promised to make everyone a pathfinder to a
better life. It was the vehicle of personal democracy, acting as a social leveling force, granting more
and more people a wide range of personal choices - where to travel, where to work and live, where to
seek personal pleasure and social recreation. As a journalist explains, the automobile is the “handiest
tool ever devised for the pursuit of that unholy, unwholesome, all-American trinity of sex, speed and

A century ago, automobiles were viewed as friends of the environment; they were much cleaner than
horses. In 1900, for example, New York City horses deposited over 2.5 million pounds of manure and
60,000 gallons of urine on the streets. About 15,000 dead horses also had to be removed from the city
streets each year. The motorcar promised to eliminate such animal waste.

The car also offered a quantum leap in power. In 1901, Motor World magazine highlighted the
subconscious appeal of the motorcar by alluding to its horse-like qualities: “To take control of this
materialized energy, to draw the reins over this monster with its steel muscles and fiery heart - there is
something in the idea which appeals to an almost universal sense, the love of power.”

But it was one thing to rhapsodize about the individual freedom offered by the horseless carriage
when there were a few thousand of them spread across the nation; it is quite another matter when
there are 200 million of them. In 1911 a horse and buggy paced through Los Angeles at 11 miles per
hour. In 2000, an automobile makes the rush hour trip averaging four miles per hour. American
drivers are stuck in traffic for eight billion hours a year. Young graduates entering the workforce in
the summer of 2000 will spend four years of their lives behind the wheel.

Yet despite congested traffic, road rage, polluted air, and rising gas prices, Americans have not
changed their driving or car ownership patterns. Suburban commuters have resolutely stayed in their
vehicles rather than join car pools or use public transportation. Teens continue to fill high-school
parking lots with automobiles. And the Sunday driver remains a peculiarly American phenomenon.
America’s love affair with the car has matured into a marriage - and an addiction. We refuse to

ELT Workshops 2007                                                            
ELT Workshops 2007                                                        August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                  Facilitator: J. Uhler

consider other transportation options. As a popular bumper sticker resolutely declares, “You’ll Get
Me Out of My Car When You Pry My Cold, Dead Foot from the Accelerator.”

The automobile retains its firm hold over our psyche because it continues to represent a metaphor for
what Americans have always prized: the seductive ideal of private freedom, personal mobility, and
empowered spontaneity.

Our solution to rush hour gridlock is not to demand public transportation but to transform our
immobile automobile into a temporary office, bank, restaurant, bathroom, and stereo system. We talk
on the phone, eat meals, don makeup, cash checks and listen to music and audio books in them.

A company that records audio books reports that two of its most popular selections among commuters
are Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; Or, Life in the Woods and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. An
interstate highway is not exactly a path to Walden Pond, nor does a BMW much resemble Huck’s raft,
but Americans remain firmly committed to the open road - even if only in our imaginations.

David E. Shi is president of Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Shi, D. E. (2000). Well, America: Is the car culture working? The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 9, 2000.
Retrieved August 26, 2007 from

ELT Workshops 2007                                                         
ELT Workshops 2007                                                           August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                     Facilitator: J. Uhler

Rev up your engines • Reading 2
Americans are not big on very small cars
Even with high gas prices, tiny minicars unlikely to make waves, study says
By Roland Jones

Despite a rush to offer them the smallest fuel-sipping cars, it seems one aphorism is likely to ring true
for some time when it comes to Americans and their cars — size matters.

Persistently high gasoline prices have spurred automakers to make plans to introduce tiny cars into the
U.S. market, beginning early next year, when Mercedes Car Group plans to begin selling tiny, two-
seater Smart models. At the New York auto show in April, General Motors unveiled three small
Chevrolet concept cars aimed at young car buyers in urban markets.

But research from consulting firm CSM Worldwide shows that American consumers are not very big
on very small cars, which are popular in many markets around the world because they are so fuel
efficient and easy to park.

Dave Terebessy, an automotive analyst at CSM, said American buyers are likely to avoid cars that are
smaller than the subcompact vehicles already on the U.S. market such as the Honda Fit, Chevy Aveo
and Toyota Yaris.

American consumers, he said, are likely to forfeit a few miles per gallon rather than buy a car less
than 150 inches in length, about the size of the Mini Cooper, which is the shortest car currently sold in
the United States. All three of the Chevrolet concepts shown at the New York auto show were under
150 inches, while the new Smart Car will come in at just 106 inches.

Fewer than 100,000 minicars will be sold annually through 2013, according to CSM, while annual
sales of subcompacts like the Fit and Yaris are expected to rise from an estimated 300,000 in 2007 to
over 550,000 by 2013.

“This is an important vehicle segment and we expect it to grow quite a bit,” Terebessy said, referring
to subcompacts. ”It’s affordable for first-time buyers and will meet consumer demand for fuel
efficiency — those are the two main propositions driving the growth in [subcompact] cars. And over
the next decade and in the future we expect to see the population growing and a greater emphasis on
environmental products — these factors are also playing into the expected increase in sales.”

Smart USA, a division of the Mercedes Car Group, is revving up a cross-country road show to
introduce the tiny, two-seater Smart “fortwo” car, which is due to go on sale in the United States in
early 2008 through a network of up to 70 dealerships.

Smart cars are already sold in 36 countries, and over 750,000 fortwo vehicles have been sold since
their introduction, according to Smart USA. The entry-level Smart fortwo, which measures almost
106 inches in length, will carry a sticker price under $12,000. The vehicle is designed to achieve some
40 MPG under normal driving conditions and current standards, according to Smart USA.

GM also is looking at bringing low-cost minicars to the United States, opening up a new segment in
the world’s biggest automobile market, but GM executives have shown some hesitancy about the

GM customer studies have shown that Americans, who pay relatively little for gas compared with
drivers in other countries, generally prefer bigger vehicles, Group Vice President John Smith said in

ELT Workshops 2007                                                            
ELT Workshops 2007                                                         August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                   Facilitator: J. Uhler

March. Rising gas prices are boosting demand for small cars, but truly tiny cars like the Smart are
unlikely to make gains unless gas prices go significantly higher, he said.

Smith said that the company’s long-term internal forecast shows gas at about $2.50 a gallon, a range
that he said would not inspire “a seismic shift in consumption habits.”

All the subcompact vehicles on the U.S. market already offer decent fuel economy, notes Terebessy,
and at $12,000 for the basic model, the Smart fortwo comes in at around the same price as a Toyota
Yaris or Honda Fit.

“So there is just not a whole lot to swing consumers to a Smart,” Terebessy said. “And when people
think about accidents, they’d rather be in a larger vehicle.”

He said customers will conclude they get more for their money in a subcompact, rather than a minicar.

“The consumers who would still go for these (tiny) cars are those who have a strong attraction to their
look, or really want a car because they are easier to park in a big city,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jones, R. (2007). Americans are not very big on small cars. MSNBC. Retrieved August 26, 2007 from

ELT Workshops 2007                                                          
ELT Workshops 2007                                                         August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                   Facilitator: J. Uhler

Rev up your engines • Reading 3
Toyota, an All American car company?
by Steve Schifferes, Economics reporter, BBC News, Detroit Motor Show

Having made tremendous headway in the US market with its small, energy efficient petrol-electric
hybrid cars, Toyota is getting ready to take on its US rivals on their home turf with an American
model of its own.

Toyota’s Tundra pick-up truck is the Japanese company’s first all-American vehicle, completely
designed and manufactured in the good ‘ol US of A.
“The Asian automakers have cornered the market on vanilla,” says Global Insight automotive analyst
Rebecca Lindland.

“Now they’re adding the hot fudge chocolate with cherries on top, which is what they have to do to
progress in the US market.”

Toyota has built a spanking new assembly plant for the Tundra in San Antonio, Texas, which is
supported by a slew of design and development centres across the country.

It hopes its US branding will attract truck buyers in the American heartland in the West and South and
help it achieve sales of 200,000 Tundras this year alone.

“Toyota is going after a new segment with its truck - heartland America, NASCAR drivers, who are
more patriotic [and] not Toyota drivers typically,” says Ms Lindland.

“It is good to base production in Texas - heartland of this group.”

Climbing the ladder

Toyota knows that for it to reach these NASCAR-watching men, being patriotic has to be part of the

If it succeeds here, the company that would be hurt most would be Ford, the market leader in pick-up

Pick-up trucks are big business in America, where trucks (including minivans - or people carriers -
and sports utility vehicles - or SUVs) outsell cars by some margin.

And although demand for big SUVs is falling, demand for smaller so-called crossover models - or
CUVs - is growing sharply.

Success could also elevate Toyota from third position in the US, to second after General Motors,
knocking Ford into third place in terms of the number of cars and trucks sold.

Boosting capacity

Toyota is deadly serious about building up its US manufacturing capacity to match its rising sales.
The company already produces more than 1.5 million cars in the USA, but it sells 2.4 million.
The number of locally produced Toyota models is set to soar as the car maker is planning to open
another two new plants next year, and probably at least another two by 2011.

In total, this should add at least 500,000 to its production capacity.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                          
ELT Workshops 2007                                                           August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                     Facilitator: J. Uhler

“We are a global company, but we have to apply our global lessons locally and to localise
production,” Toyota’s US president Jim Press tells BBC News.

“Our goal is produce all the cars we sell in the US within US.”

Toyota’s strategy of designing globally but manufacturing locally is characteristic of the new global
division of labour in the car industry.

GM has also merged its design teams around the world, creating common platforms for different sizes
of cars, while modifying the designs to local conditions.

Toyota, however, also has a broader political purpose in mind.

No unions

In the 1980s, after pressure from the Big Three automakers and their unions, Toyota’s exports from
Japan to the US were limited by a so-called Voluntary Export Restraint agreement.
That was when Toyota decided to build up as much manufacturing capacity in the US as possible,
opening its first plant in Kentucky in 1988.

Toyota is keen to stress that it is still adding jobs, while GM, Ford and Chrysler are axing the jobs of
thousands of unionised workers.

Workers in Toyota’s US plants have never voted for a union, and some observers believe that union
work rules would impede its vaunted just-in-time production system.

But with the Democrats now back into control of Congress, and the 2008 Presidential race up for
grabs, there have been renewed calls by the unions to give preferential treatment to American-owned
carmakers like Ford and GM.

One proposal is for a special tax-break for petrol-electric hybrids built in the USA, aimed at attracting
Toyota’s Prius model, which is still only made in Japan.

Toyota is already converting the rest of its range to offer a hybrid option, and expects to sell more
Camry hybrids than Prius hybrids in the future.

In the past 30 years there has been a dramatic change in the US car industry, which at that time had
90% of its cars built by US companies in the USA.

Now foreign owned companies - mainly Japanese and Korean, though there are also a fair few
Europeans doing well here - sell and build nearly half of all cars sold in America.
This has caused a certain amount of unease among Americans, and not just in Detroit.
Yet, the trend is likely to continue as the likes of Honda and Nissan, Hyundai and Kia, follow suit and
start branding their cars as Made in the USA.

Schifferes, S. (2007). Toyota, an All American car company? BBC News. Retrieved August 26, 2007

ELT Workshops 2007                                                            
ELT Workshops 2007                                                           August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                     Facilitator: J. Uhler

Rev up your engines • Reading 4
Road Warriors
Tie-ups. Backups. Gridlock. The American commute has never been so painful. Is there any solution?

by Will Sullivan

For Kathy Kniss, staying calm while getting to and from work is about sticking to her rules. The 29-
year-old publicist must be out the door of her Long Beach, Calif., home by 7:45 a.m. at the latest.
Some car-choked neighborhoods are just off limits. When leaving her office in Culver City, she must
shut down her computer by 5:54 p.m., so she can be in her car by 6:00 to avoid the traffic buildup on
side streets and make it to La Cienega Boulevard before 6:15.

SIGH. Over 3 million people drive 90 minutes or more to work.

Five years ago, Kniss says, commuting caused so much stress that she had panic attacks on the road
and had to see a hypnotherapist. But moving closer to her office is out of the question. “I live on the
beach, and I pay the same amount for a two-bedroom that I would be paying in the middle of Los
Angeles for a complete dump,” she says.

It’s only about 25 miles from Kniss’s office to her home, but driving to her little bit of heaven in the
evenings is a grueling 75 minutes, meaning that, on average, her speedometer is hovering just above
zero. That’s on a good day, when weather, accidents, or bad luck don’t interfere. “It’s Murphy’s
Law,” Kniss laments about her drive. “If something can go wrong, it will.”

The status of the City of Angels as a commuting hell is nothing new. But by 2030, according to some
estimates, driving in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and nine other urban areas will be worse than present-day
Los Angeles. Nationwide, more and more people will see their roads clogged for longer periods of
time. With Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s rollout last week of a plan to charge hefty tolls for driving in
most of Manhattan, New York became the most recent city to try to fight back. Others are investing in
mass transit or high-tech traffic management. Across the country, new technology, new thinking, and
cold cash are being leveraged in aggressive efforts to combat congestion.

But serious doubts linger about whether any of these plans will amount to more than a finger in the

People have been complaining about congestion since the time of Julius Caesar, who banned some
traffic from downtown Rome. But in America, the 50-year-old Interstate Highway System is showing
its age, more people are on the roads, and traffic has grown dramatically worse. Americans spent 3.7
billion hours in traffic in 2003, the last year for which such figures are available-more than a fivefold
increase from just 21 years earlier. The amount of free-flowing travel is less than half what it was in
the ‘80s, and the average commuter now loses 47 hours to congested traffic every year.

Disconnect. The issue mainly boils down to population growth outpacing road building. America has
about 70 million more people than it did a quarter century ago, but highway miles have increased by a
little more than 5 percent in that time. The Department of Transportation estimates that the demand
for ground transportation-either by road or rail-will be 2½ times as great by 2050, while highway
capacity is projected to increase by only 10 percent during that time.

Changes in consumer behavior also aggravate traffic congestion. A strong economy has driven car
ownership to new heights; the average household now has slightly more cars, 1.9, than drivers,
1.8.High property values and restrictive zoning in many areas have made finding quality housing near
one’s workplace virtually impossible for many, and the quest for affordable housing has sent people
to ever more-distant locales. Commuters to New York City increasingly call the Pocono Mountains of

ELT Workshops 2007                                                            
ELT Workshops 2007                                                             August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                       Facilitator: J. Uhler

Pennsylvania, two hours away, home, while workers in Washington have streamed into Gettysburg,
Pa., a full 85 miles away.

Folks in places like these are considered “extreme commuters,” those traveling 90 minutes or more to
work every day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 3 million people-about 2.8 percent
of workers-now have such commutes, a 95 percent increase from 1990.

Dave Givens, 47, hits the road at 4:30 a.m. each day for a three-hour drive from his home in
Mariposa, Calif., on the edge of Yosemite National Park, to his job at Cisco Systems in San Jose,
Calif. It’s an hour before he even stops for his first coffee and picks up his carpool partner. He adds
372 miles to the odometer daily. “It’s kind of a daily mind game of what’s on the radio traffic
reports,” says Givens, who won first place in an “America’s Longest Commute” contest run by Midas
Inc. Givens says the drive is a small price to pay to live in the town his family has inhabited since the
Gold Rush. And he says he enjoys the rural lifestyle.

But all that driving takes a toll on a commuter’s time, money, and peace of mind. David Lewis, a
British scientist who studies the brain’s response to stress, found that the tension commuters
experience when stuck in traffic is comparable to that felt by first-time parachutists. Part-time New
York cabdriver Sol Soloncha knows that all too well. “I’m a Buddhist,” he says. “I do yoga, I practice
meditation, and weekday traffic gets so bad that even I can’t keep my composure during it.”
Traffic can be more than an annoyance. Medical symptoms ranging from sleep deprivation to
digestive problems are linked to long commutes, and a 2004 article in the New England Journal of
Medicine found that being stuck in a traffic jam more than doubles one’s chance of experiencing a
heart attack in the subsequent hour.

Consequences. Traffic inflicts social costs as well. Harvard public policy Prof. Robert Putnam found
that community involvement falls 10 percent for every 10 minutes spent driving to work. And leisure
pursuits are casualties, too. “It sort of turns me off to have to go far to see any sort of entertainment or
any arts, or even to go to the beach,” says Donald Pierce of Granada Hills, Calif. “Any good day at
the beach, there’s going to be a lot of traffic.”

Major improvement in traffic congestion not only requires massive government intervention but also
involves getting all political forces on the same page. And that can be an insurmountable hurdle. In
Virginia, years of fierce legislative battling over who should foot the bill for traffic relief in heavily
congested Northern Virginia finally resulted in a compromise between Gov. Tim Kaine and antitax
Republican legislators in April. The bill authorizes $3 billion in borrowing for statewide
improvements, such as widening highways and improving rail service, and lets car-choked regions
raise taxes and fees for local projects. But even backers urged Virginians not to set their hopes too
high, with a Republican state Senate leader calling the bill “one of the ugliest bastard stepchildren” to
pass the Senate.

Some cities, including Houston, have embarked on aggressive programs of road building, trying to
stay ahead of their swelling populations. But significantly increasing capacity is just not feasible for
metropolitan areas with high population densities. Building more roads in places like Chicago or
Philadelphia would involve either leveling buildings or tunneling-an option that is now virtually
unthinkable after Boston’s troubled, and fabulously expensive, Big Dig project. Even when new roads
are built, they are often quickly filled to the point of congestion by drivers who previously traveled at
other times, took other roads, or used public transportation, says Brookings Institution traffic expert
Anthony Downs.

With that in mind, more cities are looking to enhance public transportation options. In January,
Denver opened new lines that more than doubled the miles covered by its light rail system, to 33. By
2017, the city hopes to have laid down 119 miles of track and 18 miles of bus rapid transit, at a cost of
$4.7 billion. Charlotte, N.C., will unveil the first of what is expected to be a five-line rail system in

ELT Workshops 2007                                                              
ELT Workshops 2007                                                           August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                     Facilitator: J. Uhler

November, joining cities like Salt Lake City and Dallas, whose low population densities don’t make
them obvious candidates for rail.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Los Angeles, where driving is almost a religion, is undergoing a veritable
transit boom, furiously digging new subway tunnels and expanding a rapid bus system that will let
buses zoom down their own designated lanes. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing hard for his
dream of a “subway to the sea,” a Metro line running under the notoriously jammed Wilshire
Boulevard. “This city will one day have a world-class transportation system, period,” he proclaims.
There is cause for optimism. Less than 18 months after the October 2005 opening of the city’s Orange
Line-a high-speed bus line using an old railroad right of way to avoid traffic-ridership had reached the
city’s 2020 projections. And unlike nearly every other city, Los Angeles drivers spend less time in
traffic now than they did a decade ago, thanks to both mass transit and aggressive traffic management.
But experts are skeptical that public transportation offers a real solution to congestion problems. In
the 2000 census, just 4.7 percent of people said they used public transit to get to work, and transit
represents only 2 percent of daily trips in Southern California. In most cities, even if the percentage of
trips using transit tripled, which is not likely, the resulting drop in congestion would be overwhelmed
by the projected growth in population. And it would no doubt be extraordinarily expensive.
Villaraigosa estimates that a public transit system that would seriously reduce congestion, rather than
just slowing its growth, would require funding “that has heretofore been unprecedented. I’m talking
about ... tens of billions of dollars and beyond.” That’s in Los Angeles alone.

The prohibitive cost of alleviating gridlock is one factor behind the Department of Transportation’s
new congestion initiative, announced last year. The department hopes to partner with cities to show
the usefulness of charging tolls based on the level of congestion, raising the price during rush hour to
deter some commuters from traveling during peak times. DOT believes this would keep highways
near capacity without descending into gridlock, and increase the number of cars able to travel on a
road daily by 40 percent. “What we are trying to do is push states to be as aggressive as they can be,”
says Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.

Cordons. That includes encouraging the implementation of “cordon tolls,” which would charge
drivers for entering crowded urban areas. Such systems are already in place in London (box, below)
and Singapore, but Bloomberg’s proposed $8 charge for daytime driving in Manhattan, assessed using
E-ZPass technology and cameras, would be a first for America. In announcing his push for tolling,
Bloomberg conceded that he had once been a skeptic himself but said he had come to see it as

The proposal faces an uphill battle in the state Legislature. Trucking unions are already griping
because trucks would be charged a whopping $21 for entering Manhattan, and politicians in the city’s
outer boroughs are unmoved by the mayor’s pledge to increase public transit to compensate for the

DOT Secretary Peters concedes that cordon tolling is not politically palatable in most cities and that
perhaps the most realistic option is so-called HOT lanes, converted carpool lanes where drivers
willing to pay a variable fee can ride with carpools and buses. Though often derided as “Lexus lanes”
for the wealthy, they have proved effective in several states as a means of letting those willing to pay
avoid gridlock. In Minnesota, which opened its first HOT lanes in 2005, drivers in the lanes travel at
an average speed of 50 miles per hour 95 percent of the time. But HOT lanes lack the major benefit of
other tolling options for reducing congestion; since people can still use the untolled lanes free, the
lanes don’t discourage drivers from hitting the road during peak hours, limiting congestion relief. And
even congressional Republicans who preach limited government are skeptical that market forces are
enough to bust the nation’s bottlenecks.

The DOT’s plan also encourages states to follow a growing trend of seeking private financing for
building or managing roads. An Australian-Spanish consortium paid $1.8 billion for a 99-year lease of

ELT Workshops 2007                                                            
ELT Workshops 2007                                                             August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                       Facilitator: J. Uhler

the Chicago Skyway in 2004, and a number of states have inked long-term leases of toll roads or are
considering it. Both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes could go on the auction block soon.
However, both the American Automobile Association and the American Trucking Associations are
wary of leasing highways, and previous leases have sometimes borne out their concerns. The deals
often forbid government to build roads that would compete with the private toll road. After selling a
private company the right to operate HOT lanes on the Riverside Freeway for $120 million in the late
‘80s, officials in Orange County, Calif., had to buy them in 2003 for more than $200 million to make
improvements on the road’s untolled lanes. In Indiana, the Republican loss of its House majority in
November was blamed in part on Gov. Mitch Daniels’s unpopular 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll
Road, which led to a toll hike.

“There is certainly a strongly held belief in this country that roads are for the public benefit ... and that
they are free,” says Bill Graves, the president of the ATA and former governor of Kansas.
With few appealing options, many traffic experts suggest that the growth of congestion is inevitable.
That might not be the end of the world, says traffic expert Downs. To remain efficient and prosperous,
people largely have to be traveling to the same places at the same times of day. Traffic is simply the
equivalent of waiting in line. Downs contends that only a serious economic downturn-such as the one
that sent congestion plummeting in Silicon Valley after the tech bubble burst-can reverse the cycle of
rising congestion.

That doesn’t mean government is helpless. Many cities are looking to Los Angeles for lessons in how
to slow traffic’s growth. To avoid blockages, the city has stopped road construction during rush hour,
stiffened penalties for parking illegally, and deploys a roaming fleet of tow trucks to quickly clear
stalled or damaged cars off the freeways.

Tech fix. New technology also gives the city an edge. Its Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control
system uses sensors buried in the road to measure traffic flow and can automatically adjust 3,400 of
the city’s 4,400 traffic lights to ease congestion. The system can, for example, extend a green light for
a bus that is behind schedule or an emergency vehicle rushing to an accident. At its high-tech
command center, buried four stories under City Hall East in downtown Los Angeles, ATSAC
operators can view bottlenecks from hundreds of cameras throughout the city and make their own

The system has given Los Angeles unprecedented power to respond to unusual traffic patterns, from
the Academy Awards to the 1994 earthquake that collapsed key sections of the city’s freeway system.
And the city is hoping to use some of its share of California’s recently approved $19.9 billion
transportation bond-the largest bond in state history-to link the remaining lights to ATSAC.
The city has most likely shaved minutes off its frustrated citizens’ commutes, but such measures can
go only so far. Each morning and evening, despite all their efforts, ATSAC operators still watch
freeways clog and Wilshire Boulevard turn as suffocating as the La Brea Tar Pits it runs beside.
“We’re maxing out what our roads are able to do,” says John Fisher, assistant general manager of the
Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

How bad can traffic in American cities get? Los Angeles’s long-range transportation plan is a grim
look at the future. By 2025, Los Angeles County is projected to have 3 million more people, which
could prompt a 30 percent increase in car trips. At that rate, the report suggests, “congestion will last
nearly all day long.” None of the city’s innovative solutions-from new subway lines to traffic
management systems-are likely to change that. And at the rate traffic in other cities is snarling, they
won’t be far behind.

Sullivan, W. (2007). Road Warriors. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved August 26, 2007 from

ELT Workshops 2007                                                              
ELT Workshops 2007                                                             August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                       Facilitator: J. Uhler

Rev up your engines • Reading 5
Poll: Traffic in the United States
A Look Under the Hood of a Nation on Wheels Analysis

Feb. 13, 2005 --
Freeways get clogged, minutes tick by and tempers sometimes flare, but there’s another side to the
daily commute for millions of Americans: Most of them actually like it.

So it goes (and stops-and-goes) in the nation’s love-hate relationship with the daily task of getting
around. In a country where 220 million adults average an hour and a half a day in their cars, views of
traffic in America vary as much as highway conditions themselves, from the joy of the open blacktop
to the misery of another rubberneck-inspired backup.

On balance, the road still offers more freedom than frustration. Three-quarters of Americans say
driving often gives them a sense of independence, and nearly half say it’s often relaxing. Four in 10
love their cars -- not just like them, but love them.

But there’s a darker side: About a third can be classified as aggressive drivers. Six in 10 concede they
sometimes go well over the speed limit. Sixty-two percent occasionally get frustrated behind the
wheel, more than four in 10 get angry and two in 10 sometimes boil into road rage. And nothing fuels
driver anger like getting stuck in a traffic jam.

From emotional responses to policy choices, this ABC News/Time magazine/Washington Post poll
dissects public attitudes on traffic and experiences on the road, with some surprising results. The
national survey supports ABC’s weeklong, cross-platform coverage, “Gridlock Nation: America’s
Traffic Toll,” starting Feb. 13.

On The Road
For better or worse, America is a nation on wheels. To get where they need to go, 90 percent of
Americans say they usually drive, reporting an average of 87 minutes a day behind the wheel. For car
commuters, it’s an average of 100 minutes; for parents with children at home, an average of 104
minutes (compared with 77 minutes for people without kids at home). The average household owns
two cars, trucks or sport utility vehicles -- and one in four owns three or more.

Emotions Behind the Wheel
Driving often makes you feel...
Independent                            74%
Relaxed                                48
Driving occasionally makes you feel...
Frustrated                             62%
Nervous                                56
Angry                                  43

Traffic overall is not decidedly dreadful -- 53 percent say it’s pretty good in their area. But 47 percent
say it’s bad, and there’s great local variance. Traffic is worst in big cities and suburbs -- but far better
in the towns and rural areas where about half of Americans live. Regionally it’s best in the Midwest
and especially bad in the West, which on a population basis mainly means California.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                              
ELT Workshops 2007                                                            August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                      Facilitator: J. Uhler

Rating Traffic Conditions
                    Good        Bad
All                 53%         47
Midwest             64          36
Northeast           53          46
South               52          47
West                43          57
Rural/Town          65          35
City/Suburb         39          60

About half of Americans say traffic in their area is worse now that it was five years ago, and about
half expect it to be worse still five years from now -- both about 10 points less negative than they
were in a 2000 survey. Westerners, suburbanites and people with long or often-delayed commutes are
most likely to say traffic has gotten worse, and to expect it to worsen further.

Almost a quarter of Americans get stuck in traffic jams on at least a weekly basis. That’s the same as
it was five years ago -- no worse -- but still it represents about 50 million adults stuck on the road with
something better to do. Among commuters, more, nearly a third, get nailed by traffic jams at least

Life for commuters can be heaven or hell. They report an average one-way commute time of 26
minutes (over an average distance of 16 miles). But the variance is huge: On the best days, the
average commute is 19 minutes; on the worst days, 46 minutes. That means traffic, at its worst, can
double the average commute time, adding 27 minutes each way.

And on average -- not at its worst, but just on average -- workers estimate that traffic congestion adds
a half-hour a day to their drive, 15 minutes each way. That’s an impressive time suck.

Commuting to Work: the Agony, the Ecstacy
Commute Time: Average              26 minutes
On a good day                      19 minutes
On a bad day                       46 minutes

Commuting to Work: the Agony, the Ecstacy
Like commute                           60%
Dislike it                             36

As an example of how much conditions vary, average commute times range from 19 minutes for
people who work in towns to 34 minutes for people who work in big cities. And where people say the
traffic is OK, it’s 24 minutes; where poor, it’s 32.

Views of traffic conditions over time have been unstable. In four Roper Organization polls between
1976 and 1992, anywhere from a low of 42 percent to a high of 59 percent said traffic in their area
was good. The average was 49 percent, not far from the 53 percent measured in this poll.
One difference: A fortunate 14 percent now say their traffic is “excellent,” the first time it has cracked
double digits. About as many, 15 percent, give their traffic the worst rating, “poor.”

ELT Workshops 2007                                                             
ELT Workshops 2007                                                          August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                    Facilitator: J. Uhler

Traffic engenders impressive avoidance strategies. Two-thirds of Americans sometimes take a less
direct route to avoid snarls. Six in 10 sometimes leave earlier or later than planned to duck the worst
traffic. Two in 10 have moved homes mainly to improve a commute.

A quarter have changed their work schedules, and 10 percent sometimes work at home to avoid a
commute -- obviously not an option for many workers. This rises to a fifth of people in high-
congestion areas, and a quarter of those who really don’t like the drive.

Fourteen percent of Americans say they’ve taken the ultimate commute-avoidance measure: Changed
jobs, or simply left a job, primarily because of the commute.

Traffic Avoidance Strategies
Take a less direct route             68%
Leave earlier or later               60
Skip a planned stop                  40
Changed work schedule                24
Moved closer to work                 20
Changed/left a job                   14

Policy choices are a contentious brew. Among some of the most-discussed options, the public is
somewhat skeptical about high-occupancy vehicle lanes and downright hostile toward adjustable-rate
or city-center tolls. Solutions such as quickly hooking and hauling breakdowns, retiming traffic lights
and providing prompt traffic alerts are seen as the best choices, and automatic cameras to catch traffic
offenders get 2-1 support. About half see building roads as very effective -- but most oppose gasoline
taxes to fund it.

For most people, public transportation and carpooling remain far outside the fast track. While six in
10 Americans have public transit available, just 10 percent use it regularly, and just 4 percent of
workers use it for their daily commute. (Ninety-three percent call driving more convenient.) Eighty-
four percent drive alone to work, 8 percent drive with someone else and 80 percent of solo drivers
aren’t interested in car pooling.

Alongside the traffic, there’s the other kind of congestion: Two-thirds of Americans are concerned
about the effect of auto exhaust on their health, although fewer (four in 10) concede that their own
driving is much to blame.

Like it/Love it

Yet, as noted, for all the watercooler gripes, 60 percent of people who work outside the home say they
like their daily commute.

How so? One secret is a sane trip: Happy commuters tend not to work in cities, report below-average
travel times and distances and say their local traffic isn’t bad. Among people who work in towns or
rural areas (four in 10 commuters), 71 percent like the commute; but among those who work in big
cities (three in 10 commuters) it’s 24 points lower.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                           
ELT Workshops 2007                                                          August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                    Facilitator: J. Uhler

The Commute: Liking it
All                           60%
Work in rural/town            71
Work in suburb                56
Work in city                  47
<15 min. commute              74
>30 min. commute              42
<5 min. traffic delay         74
>15 min. traffic delay        40
Good local traffic            71
Bad local traffic             46

Long commutes are no fun: Enjoyment is 32 points higher among people who spend 15 minutes or
fewer each way on their daily commute, compared with those who take more than a half-hour.
Similarly, people with a long-distance commute are 22 points less likely to say they like it.
Indeed, about a quarter of commuters say the main reason they like it is because they’re blessed with a
short or easy route. More, nearly four in 10, like the quiet time alone or the break between home and
work. And others report simple pleasures such as the scenery or listening to music or the radio.

Detroit may enjoy one finding: By a 10-point margin, people who “love” their cars are more apt to
like their commute. Environmentalists may dislike another: It’s SUVs that win the most affection.
Among the one in six Americans who drive an SUV, half love it. Among sedan drivers, by contrast,
just 35 percent love their cars.

Behaving Badly
One common experience on the road is bad behavior. Majorities of motorists say they often see other
drivers speeding (reported by 82 percent), driving inattentively (71 percent) or driving aggressively
(64 percent).

Four in 10 often see others run a red light or stop sign; 34 percent often witness “impolite gestures,”
and 27 percent often see other drivers exhibiting road rage -- “uncontrollable anger toward another
driver on the road.”

Traffic plays a big role. Among people who give the worst rating to their local traffic conditions,
many more -- 41 percent -- see road rage, and 54 percent often see other drivers making angry or
impolite gestures -- double the number who see it in good traffic.

Bad Behavior on the Roads
                             Local traffic: Ex/Good Local traffic: Poor
Often see: Impolite gestures 27%                    54
Often see: Road rage         22                     41

Given these, it’s no wonder that 30 percent of drivers say they feel nervous about their safety on the
road very or somewhat often. Include those who feel this way at least occasionally, and the number
jumps to 56 percent -- a majority.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                           
ELT Workshops 2007                                                           August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                     Facilitator: J. Uhler

Feelings on the Road
                     Very often Very/Somewhat Occasionally or more
Independent          54%        74            98
Relaxed              20         48            73
Nervous about safety 12         30            56
Frustrated           10         30            62
Angry                5          19            43

As far as their own behavior, nearly a quarter of drivers fess up to speeding very or somewhat often,
and more -- 58 percent -- say they do it at least occasionally. More than four in 10 concede that they
drive inattentively at least occasionally, and three in 10 sometimes drive aggressively. Two in 10, or
close to it, at least occasionally make impolite gestures, feel road rage, or run a light or stop sign.

Driving Behavior
                      Have seen: Very/Somewhat often Have done: Occasionally or more
Speeding              82%                            58
Inattentive driving 71                               43
Aggressive driving 64                                30
Run a light/stop sign 40                             17
Impolite gestures     34                             21
Road rage             27                             19

Fessing Up: Personal Behavior (at Least Occasionally)
Speed                                               58%
Drive inattentively                                 43
Drive too aggressively                              30
Make impolite gestures                              21
Feel road rage                                      19
Run a stop sign or light                            17

Thirty-six percent of Americans concede that they engage in at least one of these behaviors very or
somewhat often. These aggressive drivers are most likely to include young drivers, people who often
get stuck in traffic jams and city drivers.

There’s another kind of behavior this poll measures: What people do when they’re stuck in stop-and-
go traffic. Almost everyone listens to the radio or music; four in 10 talk on the phone or have a bite to
eat. Among women, one in 10 say they sometimes put on makeup. The fewest -- 3 percent -- try to
drive and read at the same time.

Problems and Solutions
People chiefly blame the sheer volume of traffic as the main cause of jams in their area; 44 percent
say so, while 26 percent blame construction and 14 percent say it’s accidents. In cities, suburbs and
the worst-traffic areas, moreover, volume soars as the prime culprit.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                            
ELT Workshops 2007                                                           August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                     Facilitator: J. Uhler

However, building new roads or expanding public transit -- both presumably volume-reducing
measures -- are not seen as the most effective solutions. Instead a low-tech and comparatively low-
cost approach takes the top slot: Sixty-six percent think it’s very effective to remove disabled vehicles
from the roadway immediately, an approach some municipalities are stressing.

‘Very Effective’ Traffic Remedies
Clear breakdowns                        66
Traffic alerts                          56
Improving lights                        55
New roads                               51
Public transit                          42
Car pooling                             39
HOV lanes                               27
Adjustable tolls                        7
City-center tolls                       7

The next best solutions from the public’s perspective are equally commonsense: Using an information
system such as electronic signs or other alerts to warn people about jams and suggest other routes, and
improving the timing of traffic lights.

Fifty-one percent do think road-building is very effective (highest in the South, lowest in the
Northeast); that slips to 42 percent for building or expanding mass transit. About as many think car
pooling can work well.

Some of the approaches that get some of the most buzz, however, are much less likely to be seen as
very effective solutions. Just 27 percent think HOV lanes will do the trick, and even among the nearly
three in 10 Americans who have HOV lanes in their area, 34 percent rate them as very effective in
reducing congestion.

Far fewer still, a mere 7 percent, think it’s very effective to charge adjustable tolls on highways (that
is, higher tolls when the volume is heaviest), or tolls on non-residents to enter the central areas of
major cities during business hours. Even among people who live in big cities, just 15 percent support
tolls on non-residents driving in, and just 10 percent see it as very effective in reducing congestion.
Taxes, Tolls and HOVs

People may see tolls as ineffective because they don’t want to pay them. Eighty-eight percent say
they’d oppose a $5 toll to drive into city centers (a type of approach that’s said to have been
successful in London); opposition is equally high whether people drive into big cities or don’t.
A substantial if less overwhelming majority, 68 percent, opposes adjustable tolls to try to spread the
flow of traffic more evenly across the day; even in bad-traffic areas, it’s equally unpopular.

Support for Policies
Automatic cameras                  66
Single-driver hybrids in HOV lanes 54
HOV lanes (if none now)            51
Single-driver tolls in HOV lanes 36
Higher gasoline tax                32
Adjustable tolls                   29
City-center tolls                  11

ELT Workshops 2007                                                            
ELT Workshops 2007                                                            August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                      Facilitator: J. Uhler

The cost sensitivity expressed in anti-toll sentiment may reflect the price of gasoline, now averaging
$1.91 for a gallon of regular unleaded. In any case, it extends to gasoline taxes: Americans by a 2-1
margin, 65 percent-32 percent, oppose higher gasoline taxes even if the money is earmarked for
transportation projects.

HOV lanes – though not broadly seen as very effective – garner fewer objections. Among the seven in
10 Americans who don’t have them in their areas now, 51 percent would support HOV lanes, while
43 percent oppose them. Support is higher in worse traffic areas, including cities and suburbs.
Sixty percent oppose opening HOV lanes to single drivers who are willing to pay an extra toll for the
privilege - another anti-toll result. But 54 percent are in favor of another proposal, opening HOV lanes
to single drivers of low-pollution hybrid vehicles in order to encourage the use of such cars.

Public transit is more available in the Northeast and West (seven in 10 say it’s an option) than in the
South and Midwest (five in 10). But it’s not an especially attractive alternative: Among those who
have public transit available, 52 percent rate it positively – no better than the number who positively
rate their local traffic.

Lack of convenience seems to be the main rap – as noted, 93 percent of Americans say it’s more
convenient to travel by car. Fewer but still a majority, 56 percent, don’t see a cost advantage either,
instead saying it’s less expensive for them to drive.

Public Transportation
Is Available                                                                        59%
If available, use it often                                                          10
Use it to get to work                                                               4

Incentives are few and far between: Just 8 percent of people with jobs outside the home say their
employers offer money or other incentives to encourage people to take public transportation to work.
There is a plus for public transit: People who know it best like it. Among those who use it, 69 percent
rate it positively; 23 points higher than among those who don’t. (Use of public transit peaks among
city dwellers, minorities and lower-income Americans.)

Carpool/Car Share
While just 8 percent of commuters currently car pool, 20 percent of solo drivers say they’d be
interested in it -- far from a majority, but enough to take plenty of cars off the road if they were to
follow through. For most, though, that looks unlikely: Just 6 percent are “very” interested in a car
pool arrangement.

As with mass transit, convenience is the biggest objection: Asked the main reason they’re not in
carpools now, 51 percent say it’d be inconvenient, and an additional 22 percent give reasons related to
convenience or privacy. Eighteen percent, though, say it’s because they don’t know anyone to carpool

There are roughly similar levels of interest in short-term car rentals -- membership services that rent
cars by the hour. A quarter of Americans say they’d be interested in replacing their main car with this
kind of service; 32 percent say they might use it to replace a second car. The numbers who are very
interested, however, are again much lower -- 8 percent and 10 percent, respectively.


ELT Workshops 2007                                                              
ELT Workshops 2007                                                         August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                   Facilitator: J. Uhler

A word about numbers: While this analysis refers to averages (meaning the means) for results such as
driving and commute times, they also can be computed as medians -- the midpoint of responses.
Medians, while less inclusive of the full range of responses, mitigate the effect of the extremes.
It can make a difference. Americans say they spend an average of 87 minutes a day in their cars, but a
median of 60 minutes. Commuters say their average commute takes 26 minutes; the median is 20
minutes. Their worst commute can take an average of 46 minutes, but a median of 30. The amount of
time they estimate traffic adds to their commute averages 15 minutes, while the median is 10.

It is, finally, close to another national holiday -- President’s Day, Feb. 21. Get ready for traffic:
Fourteen percent of Americans say they’ll be traveling by car on a special trip during the upcoming
holiday weekend -- translating to nearly 30 million cars on the road.

This ABC News/Time magazine/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 26-31, 2005,
among a random national sample of 1,204 adults, including 750 commuters. The results have a three-
point error margin for the full sample, 3.5 points for commuters. Sampling, data collection and
tabulation was done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Langer, G. (2007). Poll: Traffic in the United States. ABC News Internet Ventures. Retrieved August
26, 2007 from

ELT Workshops 2007                                                          
ELT Workshops 2007                                                      August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                Facilitator: J. Uhler

Rev up your engines • Reading 6

Drivers cut back — a 1st in 26 years
by Paul Overberg and Larry Copeland, USA TODAY

The average American motorist is driving substantially fewer miles for the first time in 26
years because of high gas prices and demographic shifts, according to a USA TODAY
analysis of federal highway data.

The growth in miles driven has leveled off dramatically in the past 18 months after 25 years
of steady climbs despite the addition of more than 1 million drivers to the nation’s streets and
highways since 2005. Miles driven in February declined 1.9% from February 2006 before
rebounding slightly for a 0.3% year-over-year gain in March, data from the Federal Highway
Administration show. That’s in sharp contrast to the average annual growth rate of 2.7%
recorded from 1980 through 2005.

“You have demographic shifts, traffic congestion and increased gas prices,” says Ed
McMahon, senior research fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a non-profit group that
promotes innovative development. “For the first time in recent history, the rate of vehicle
miles traveled is not increasing at the rate it was for 25 years. It’s having an effect and is
changing in subtle ways the way people think about their driving.”

The nation has not seen such stagnant growth in driving since 1981, when the USA staggered
through an oil shortage and a recession. Gas prices reached an all-time high of $3.223 in
March 1981 when adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars.

During the past 18 months, the nation’s population and workforce have grown by just over
1% a year, so an annual gain of 0.3% indicates a decrease in miles per person.

“Thirty-five to 40% of personal miles traveled is work commutes,” says Bill Veno, director
of global refined products for Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a Boston-based
energy consulting firm. “If you continue to grow the employment base, that would tend to
push (miles driven) upwards.”

ELT Workshops 2007                                                       
ELT Workshops 2007                                                   August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                             Facilitator: J. Uhler

Americans are driving about 200 million to 300 million fewer miles a day than they would be
if the annual growth rate of 1.9% from 2000-2005 had continued.

Factors contributing to the slowdown:

•Soaring gas prices. Seven of 10 Americans are combining trips and taking other steps to
reduce driving, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll May 4-6. Don Harrison, 32, of
Indianapolis, no longer visits his relatives across town on the weekend; he saves gas by
simply calling them.

•Expanded public transportation. More people took public transit last year than at any time in
49 years. “We’re seeing suburban locations create new transit systems,” says William Millar,
president of the American Public Transportation Association. “They’re expanding into areas
that never thought they needed transit because they could do everything by car.”

•Slower growth of minority and women drivers and the aging of the population. Except for
African-Americans, minority groups drive at high rates, and the annual growth in women
drivers has slowed, says Alan Pisarski, an expert on commuting patterns. Also, he says,
people on average drive less after age 55.

•Demographic shifts that de-emphasize the need to drive. Many Americans, particularly
young, upwardly mobile singles, are moving downtown and revitalizing cities. “(They) don’t
have to live the way of the Ozzie and Harriet model — two parents, suburban, who drive to
the city,” McMahon says.

Contributing: Theodore Kim of The Indianapolis Star

Overberg, P., & Copeland, L. (2007). Drivers cut back – a 1st in 26 years. USAToday.
Retrieved August 26, 2007 from

ELT Workshops 2007                                                    
ELT Workshops 2007                                                            August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                      Facilitator: J. Uhler

Rev up your engines • Reading 7
Fed-up drivers begin to look ‘outside the box’

From forming car pools and riding bicycles to taking trains and cutting back on pleasure trips, drivers
across the USA are finding creative ways to drive less. Their methods vary but share a common goal
— to lessen the financial impact of skyrocketing gasoline prices.

Last train to Nashville

Jerad Schutt of Lebanon, Tenn., rides the Music City Star, a commuter train in its inaugural year of
service, to his job at a design studio in downtown Nashville. As gas neared $3 per gallon in the area,
Schutt, 24, opted for mass transit early this year.

“You don’t have to worry about traffic, about what’s happening farther down the interstate, whether
there’s a wreck. You don’t have to worry about parking,” he said. “I’m saving about $5 a day riding
the train.”

Runs on vegetable oil

Maria Allison, 28, said that before she moved back to Louisville from Bel Air, Md., she was driving
about 70 miles a day to and from work at a cost of about $250 a month.

“Paying $60 every time you go to fill up your car gets a little bit old,” Allison said.

After she moved, she noticed some cars around Louisville that advertised they could run on vegetable
oil. In February, Allison and her husband, Peter, bought a diesel-engine car and had it converted to
run on used vegetable oil. They get it from Marrakech, a Middle Eastern restaurant in Louisville’s
Highlands neighborhood.

“This is a more environmentally friendly option,” Allison said. Plus, she said, it saves the couple at
least $100 a month.

Scooter or moped

Kathy Grandell of Newport, Del., who has watched her family’s monthly gasoline bill more than
double to about $550, said she doesn’t understand why consumers aren’t marching on Washington in

“You know it’s price gouging. Why are people putting up with this? What happened to democracy?”
said Grandell, 55.

Grandell doesn’t work outside the home, but her husband, Mark, 55, who teaches physical education
at Paul M. Hodgson Vocational-Technical High School, drives 40 miles round-trip each day. His gas
bill has risen to $400 a month from $200 within the past year.

To cope, Grandell plans to make fewer trips to the Delaware beaches this summer. Instead of a
weekly visit, she plans to go once a month. She also has cut down on visits to her brother in Seaford,
If prices continue to rise, Grandell said, she will buy a motor scooter or moped.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                              
ELT Workshops 2007                                                            August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                      Facilitator: J. Uhler

Backyard vacation

Jean Smith, 43, of Bear, Del., went shopping recently for a substitute for her joy rides in Pennsylvania
and trips to Delaware’s Lums Pond State Park. Smith decided on an aluminum gazebo frame with
mosquito netting, so she could turn her backyard into a vacation spot.

“I love to go up to Pennsylvania and spend the whole day driving around,” said Smith, a home health
care worker who is taking time out from the workforce. “You get lost, fine. Now, I dare not go and do
that anymore.”

Redraw trash routes

Staff meetings at Myers Container Service, a family-owned trash-hauling business based in Winooski,
Vt., have transformed into logistical strategy sessions, Operations Manager Lynn Ploof said.

Employees try to reconfigure routes to reduce the hundreds of miles the 16-truck fleet travels per day
in diesel-powered vehicles that get, on average, 3 miles per gallon, Ploof said.

The $2.90 cost per gallon is the highest the company has ever paid, she said.

“We sit down with maps and say, ‘How can we save money?’ “ Ploof said.

Myers is trying to keep its stops in rural locations and avoid raising fees, but to make the trips
worthwhile, they need more customers in the remote countryside. “We’re getting a little more
aggressive about trying to sell other stops in the area,” Ploof said. “We have to kind of ride it out until
it’s over.”

Braving mountain pass

Joe Savage’s alarm rings at 4:45 a.m. every workday. The early wake-up is required so the Reno man
can join two other music teachers for a car-pool commute that takes them nearly 40 miles and over a
9,000-foot pass to their jobs near Lake Tahoe.

Soaring gas prices force the group to carpool so they can cope with a weekly gas expense, which
Savage says costs at least $50.

The high cost of Tahoe housing necessitates that Savage live in Reno, where he’s buying a house. He
expects gas could top the $4-per-gallon mark, but his commitment to his music program and students
means he will continue his mountainous commute, Savage said.

“We’re doing what we can. We’re carpooling and trying to make a difference that way,” Savage said.
“I feel like I’m helpless.”

‘Have to get the bike out’

For an enterprising young man such as William Torres of Yonkers, N.Y., who works two jobs seven
days a week to save money for college, the price of gas can be demoralizing.

“If the prices go much higher, I’ll have to get the bike out,” the 18-year-old said.

Last summer, when prices peaked, Torres stopped driving his 1998 Camry and started pedaling.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                             
ELT Workshops 2007                                                            August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                      Facilitator: J. Uhler

But now he works at a supermarket in Yonkers and does carpet cleaning 10 miles away in Pelham.
Biking back and forth in summer isn’t practical, he said, so he spends about $100 a week on gas.

“I don’t really do much else except work, because I’m trying to save for college next fall. Spending
this much on gas really hurts,” he said. “If it goes higher, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ve got to get to

Hybrid car, bike and bus

Malachy and Fenix Grange share one hybrid Toyota Prius, a bicycle and a bus pass for their daily
commutes. Even so, they decided last year to give up a rented home in the Honolulu suburb of Kailua
and move back to Honolulu to cut down on gas and driving time. The move saved them at least 25
miles of driving each day.

“The price of gas was a big part of the decision,” said Malachy, 57, a home health care nurse for the
state of Hawaii.

He rides his bike several times a week to his office, a 30-minute commute, and to many of his home

The couple also keep a closer eye on the tire pressure in their Prius. “When our mileage went down to
30 miles per gallon, we checked the tires, and the pressure was low,” Malachy said. Normally, the car
gets 40 to 45 miles per gallon and costs the couple about $50 per month in gas.

As gas prices rise, more urban commuters will see the value of bike riding, but only if cities do more
to promote it, Malachy said. “There would be a lot more people riding today, except it’s so

Circuit racers feel pinch

Gregg Bakker, a sprint car driver from Sioux Falls, S.D., said he feels the gas pinch when he travels to
weekend races in Knoxville, Iowa — a trip of about 320 miles.

“We’ll spend anywhere from $350 to $400 on fuel, depending on the conditions,” said Bakker, who
needs diesel fuel for his hauler when transporting the race car. “It’s a major expense over what it used
to be. It makes it tough for us to get up and down the road.”

Bakker, 38, gets some money from sponsors to help run his operation. Many small-circuit racers must
fend for themselves. “Some guys try to do it for a living, but it’s a hobby — and it’s getting very
expensive,” Bakker said.

Sisters carpooling in N.J.

This winter, Dora Martinez, 48, of Parsippany, N.J., began carpooling to work and grocery shopping
with her three sisters.

“It’s not easy to come up with $50 a week to go to work,” said the accountant, who drives a Nissan
Quest minivan.

Martinez and her sisters share driving at least three times a week and pack lunches so they don’t have
to leave the office during the day. They also share three trips a month to the supermarket.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                             
ELT Workshops 2007                                                            August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                      Facilitator: J. Uhler

“This is ridiculous,” Martinez said. “Maybe the power of everyone doing a little something can bring
it down.”

Plots out her errands

Linda West is constantly on the go. The Salem, Ore., woman works part time in a medical office,
cares for two aging parents, volunteers for community causes and makes regular visits to her
daughter, in college in Tacoma, Wash.

As gas prices have risen, “I’ve definitely become more organized,” said West, 55.

“I make a little list. I’ll start at the south end of town and work my way downtown — everything on
one side of the street, then everything on the other side of the street,” she said.

Instead of driving to visit her mother or father-in-law, she has them ride CherryLift, a transportation
service provided for seniors, to her house. And she now limits out-of-town trips to those she deems

Last weekend, West decided she wouldn’t make the 400-mile round-trip drive to Tacoma. Instead, she
took the train. At $63 for a round-trip ticket, it was cheaper than driving, she said. “And that’s
including dinner and wine.”

Mayor says costs soared

Amelda Arnold feels the pain of high gas prices in more ways than one. As a server at a Subway
franchise, she hears complaints while taking orders from an unrelenting stream of customers in the
small city of Port Gibson, Miss.

Rising fuel prices have made it difficult to visit her daughter at a Jackson college a little more than an
hour away.

Arnold’s fuel woes don’t end there. She is also the mayor of Port Gibson. That means her worries
extend to the fuel needed for the police cruisers, the school buses, the garbage men and the water main
in this town of about 1,765 people. The city’s monthly fuel bill has gone from about $1,800 to $4,000-
$5,000 over the past year and a half.

“Heating costs, schools, houses, offices, everything you know has gone up because of the gas prices,”
she said. “And it’s ridiculous that we’re paying almost $3 a gallon for gasoline.”

Rejecting car culture

Palm Springs, Calif., entrepreneur Steve Sims said the key to lower gas prices is to “think outside the

What’s the box? Your car, said Sims, a member of the California Bicycling Coalition, which pushes
state legislation to find alternative transportation resources.

Sims, 61, thinks outside his car. As gas prices in Palm Springs hover in the $3.38-a-gallon range, he
and wife Nancy eat out less and use their bikes to pick up non-refrigerated groceries. He said he’s
working toward getting his “cute butt” back anyway.

ELT Workshops 2007                                                             
ELT Workshops 2007                                                          August 30-September 7, 2007
Regional Diversity and Stereotypes                                                    Facilitator: J. Uhler

Dodge Ram gathers dust

Chris Gilmer of Greenwood, S.C., likes to drive his Dodge Ram, but he joked that “I don’t get miles
per gallon, I get gallons per mile.”

He bought a Honda Accord to cut the cost of his daily 50-mile trip to his job in Greenville. He saves
even more by sharing the ride with a friend who also commutes to Greenville.

It doesn’t matter how high gas prices get, though, Gilmer said.

He’s not moving. “That’s not an option,” he said. “I like it where I am.”

USAToday. (2007). Fed up drivers begin to look ‘outside the box’. Retrieved August 26, 2007

ELT Workshops 2007                                                           

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