Gasoline habits lower prices

Bay Area consumers are cutting down on gas consumption — and it’s driving down gas prices, analysts say.

At the end of the week, the average price for one gallon of unleaded gasoline in San Francisco was down 16 cents from one month ago at $4.34, said Matt Skryja, spokesman for AAA of Northern California. The national average is also down.

“Consumers are taking more mass transit, carpooling and buying fuel-efficient cars,” Skryja said. “And that combined with a stronger U.S. dollar have helped to force down oil and therefore gas prices.”

And the trend of cutting back on driving may continue even if gas prices drop even further.

Marie Harding, a 27-year-old San Francisco resident who recently sold her car, said high gas prices and city parking rates are too expensive.

“Gas is still expensive,” Harding said. “It’s not worth the hassle of owning a car in The City. I save at least a couple hundred bucks a month not owning a car.”

<p>She’s now taken to walking around The City more — even if it means long distances or hills. And when she wants to leave the urban bustle, she said she rents a car.

There’s no clear way to estimate exactly how much commuter habits have affected gas prices, analysts say. It also is unclear whether the prices will continue the downward trend.

Skryja said the next few months are unpredictable — any outbreak of violence in the Middle East or severe hurricane in the Gulf could cause a spike, he said. And fuel costs could rise some during Labor Day weekend, the final summer holiday, he said.

But Skryja said it would take a lot to pull consumers from their reduction of gas use.

“There’s a culture of conservation out there,” he said. “Though some analysts might disagree, we at AAA think it would take a significant drop in prices for people to revert back.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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