Lower Gas Prices No Match For $1 Bus Ride

Current gas prices are coming in lower than anticipated for this year’s summer travel season. In the short term that’s good. Looking forward, alternative forms of generating energy through clean renewable solutions are being developed but may be years away. Looking back, one method of transportation that has served us well in the past is being used right now on an increasing scale, saving travelers millions.

Megabus.com was the first city-to-city, express bus company with fares from $1. Launched in April 2006 and using UK-style double-decker buses, Megabus has become one of the largest intercity express bus service providers in North America, transporting more than 18 million travelers.

“Megabus is an express city-to-city service that offers affordable pricing, the ease of booking on the Internet, with center-city location pickup and drop-off points,” Coach USA President and COO Dale Moser said in the San Angelo Standard-Times.

In addition to affordable fares, Megabus offers customers state-of-the-art buses with free Wi-Fi, power outlets and restrooms, all in an environmentally friendly way.

Starting June 19, Megabus is expanding to Texas and the southern United States. Residents of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas, can now travel to cities as far away as New Orleans for as low as $1.”Megabus.com has rapidly become the travel option of choice for millions of people and today we’re excited to bring our unique travel option to Texas and the southern United States,” said Moser. “As Americans continue to look for ways to stretch their income, we look forward to providing safe, convenient and affordable travel to the millions of residents in the South.”

During the first week of sales all tickets will be no more than $1 – including 10,000 free seats. Visit megabus.com for additional information about the service, schedules, arrival and departure times and fares.

[Flickr photo by gorgeouxness]

Summer road trip guide: where’s the cheapest gas in America?

Come on, people, sing it with me: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” The summer road trip season is here – and that means photo ops at scenic viewpoints, snacks melting on sun-soaked dashboards, and nights in roadside campgrounds or fleabag memorable motels.

Unfortunately, this summer season also brings some nasty gas prices with it. So what’s the best region for an American road trip? I compared current prices state by state to find out.The Big Winner

The good news? The region with the cheapest gas is also one of the nation’s most scenic: the Rocky Mountains. Wyoming has the cheapest gas in the nation (hellooo, Yellowstone National Park) and its neighbors in Colorado, Idaho and Montana aren’t too far behind.

Coming in a close second is another area rich in road trip possibilities: the Deep South. Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina were all staying well under the $4-per-gallon mark at the time of writing; Georgia, North Carolina and Florida prices are a nudge higher, and costs continue to rise through the Virginias towards D.C.

Finally, the desert Southwest remains a good-value region: Utah comes in cheapest in the area, while Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada prices are only slightly higher.

…And the Wallet-Killers

Most of the rest of the country hovers around $4 per gallon, but there are a few standouts where prices rise substantially higher. It’s a predictable set of villains: Alaska, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City.

Of course, prices will change over time and they also vary between urban and rural areas, but the general trends tend to hold. Here’s the full list of price ranges I found using GasBuddy.com:

Alabama (Mobile): $3.68-3.89
Alaska (Fairbanks): $4.13-4.30
Arizona (Phoenix) $3.59-3.95
Arkansas (Little Rock) $3.49-3.89
California (Los Angeles): $4.08-4.69
Colorado (Denver) $3.55-3.89
Connecticut (Hartford): $4.07-4.35
Delaware (Wilmington): $3.89-4.16
Florida (Orlando): $3.60-3.99
Georgia (Atlanta): $3.74-4.29
Hawaii (Honolulu): $4.35-4.55
Idaho (Boise): $3.65-3.79
Illinois (Chicago): $4.23-4.79
Indiana (Indianapolis): $3.99-4.19
Iowa (Des Moines): $3.70-4.00
Kansas (Wichita): $3.72-3.79
Kentucky (Lexington): $3.85-4.09
Louisiana (New Orleans): $3.65-3.89
Maine: $3.85-4.21
Maryland (Baltimore): $3.84-4.29
Massachusetts: $3.85-4.19
Michigan (Detroit): $3.95-4.29
Minnesota (Twin Cities): $3.79-3.99
Mississippi (Jackson): $3.58-3.84
Missouri (St. Louis): $3.79-4.19
Montana (Billings): $3.61-3.64
Nebraska (Omaha): $3.89-4.09
Nevada (Las Vegas): $3.75-3.93
New Hampshire: $3.79-4.00
New Jersey (Trenton): $3.75-3.99
New Mexico (Santa Fe): $3.75-3.89
New York (New York City): $4.15-4.49
North Carolina (Charlotte): $3.79-3.99
North Dakota (Fargo): $3.79-3.89
Ohio (Cincinnati): $3.95-4.19
Oklahoma (Oklahoma City): $3.67-3.99
Oregon (Portland): $3.83-4.07
Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh): $3.95-4.09
Rhode Island (Providence): $3.95-4.15
South Carolina (Columbia): $3.64-3.89
South Dakota (Sioux Falls): $3.89-3.99
Tennessee (Memphis): $3.63-3.89
Texas (Dallas): $3.69-4.19
Utah (Salt Lake City): $3.59-3.79
Vermont: $3.85-3.99
Virginia (Richmond): $3.73-4.09
Washington (Tacoma): $3.91-4.15
West Virginia: $3.89-4.29
Wisconsin (Madison): $3.95-4.09
Wyoming: $3.36-3.76

[Flickr image via Wolfgang Staudt]

Gas stations: then and now

Once upon a time, gas stations gave away all kinds of cool stuff, most of it targeted at kids. As a child of the 70’s, I clearly recall of our Exxon “NFL Helmets” drinking glass collection, and my miniature Noah’s Ark collectible series (What genius ad team decided that was the perfect gas station promo?). The point is, these giveaways worked. My parents would bribe me not to annoy my older brother on road trips by promising me a new plastic animal for my Ark. My brother didn’t have to punch me in retaliation, my parents didn’t have to pull over; everyone was happy.

I’m not exactly sure when the freebies stopped, but that’s not the only thing that’s changed in American gas station culture over the years. Prior to the opening of the world’s first dedicated gas (or “filling”) station in St. Louis in 1905, hardware stores and mercantiles had gas pumps. The price of gas when the first “drive-in” filling station opened in 1913? Twenty-seven cents a gallon.

As I write this, I’m in Oregon, on the final leg of a 10-day road trip from my home in Seattle to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. The cost of gas in Truckee, California, where my brother lives is $4.09 a gallon. I paid $3.59 in Mt. Shasta today, and thought myself lucky. Oregon also reminds me of another way gas stations have changed between then and now.

[Photo credit: Flickr user iboy_daniel]There were still full-service station attendants when I was a kid: clean, smiling, uniformed pumpers of gas who cleaned the windshield and checked the oil for free. Today, however, Oregon is one of the few states that prohibits the pumping of gas by motorists. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been yelled at in this state for absentmindedly getting out of my car and touching the pump. I actually enjoy pumping gas, but I’m not going to fight about it. I just think southern Oregon might want to look into hiring gas jockeys who look as though they haven’t spent time in a federal prison or crawled out of a meth lab, especially when they don’t even bother to wipe down my windshield. “Here, take my debit card, please.”

I think the trend toward enclosing urban attendants in bullet-proof booths is something that’s fairly recent. That makes me kind of sad. No one should really have to risk their life working the graveyard shift for close to minimum wage, but being a gas station attendant is definitely a high-risk occupation in a lot of places. If nothing else, the temptation to snack on the plethora of chemically-enhanced food and beverages in the workplace creates a hazardous environment.

Although a dying breed, I’ve seen some pretty sweet, old-school gas stations in the rural Southwest, South, and California’s Central Coast that sell regional bbq, Indian fry bread, or biscuits and country ham. I once visited a gas station in Tasmania that sold artisan bread, local cheese, butter, and milk (in bottles, no less), and local wine, jam, and honey. I really wish gas stations/local food markets would catch on the States…it would make getting gas less painful, even if it further depleted my bank account.

Gas station design has changed drastically over the years. Many rural stations in the fifties and sixties sported kitschy themes, such as dinosaurs or teepees, and were roadside attractions in their own right. Today, we have mega-stations like the Sheetz chain, which is wildly popular in the northeast for made-to-order food, all of it annoyingly spelled with “z’s” (If you need coffeez to go with your wrapz and cheezburgerz, you should check it out). There is something to be said for one-stop mega-station road shopping, however. It’s incredibly convienient when you’re short on time or in the middle of nowhere, and in need a random item.

I love dilapidated old filling stations, but I’m also lazy, so it throws me when I can’t use my debit card at the pump. It’s kind of a moot point, because I possess a bladder the size of a walnut. The cleanliness of gas station restrooms, while still an advertising hook, used to be a point of pride. These days, I feel like I should be wearing a hazmat suit when I use most small chain station toilets. Seriously, if you’re not going to going to clean or restock your bathroom, ever, please don’t post a sign telling me to report to the management if it needs “servicing.”

As for those fun giveaways disguised as advertising? I think that maybe the Happy Meal is what killed it for gas stations. Once fast food outlets started giving kids toys, the ad execs had to come up with a new plan. Which I suppose is why most gas companies target grown-ups now, even if they still use cartoon graphics. Does the sight of anthropomorphized cars dancing atop the pump actually sell gas and credit cards? I’d rather have a set of drinking glasses.

[Photo credits: Magnolia, Flickr user jimbowen0306; DX, Flickr user Chuck “Caveman” Coker;

RVing – the enviromentally-friendly travel option?

Recreational Vehicles: giant, gas-guzzling monsters, or eco-friendly transportation? Our friend Peter Greenberg recently analyzed a new travel trend: the “green RV.” The term may seem contradictory; after all, can a lumbering, fuel-thirsty behemoth really be labeled “green?” But Greenberg points out that “the RV industry is adjusting to the demands of a more environmentally conscious public.” And those adjustments don’t just include simply trying to improve fuel efficiency (though a sleeker, more aerodynamic design and lighter composites contribute considerably to better gas mileage).

Features of these new, more environmentally-conscious RVs include solar and wind turbines (for powering that gourmet kitchen), and hybrid models that run on both gas and batteries.

Greenberg also points out that many consumers are simply buying smaller vehicles, which reduce environmental impact by using less fuel and creating fewer emissions. Further, he notes that the self-contained nature of an RV reduces travelers’ carbon footprint, since folks are not flying, eating out, or staying in a hotel.

Still, even innovative hybrid models get around 12 miles to the gallon, which doesn’t seem too eco-friendly to me. What are your thoughts?

Road tripping to be easier this summer with lower gas prices

Fill your tank, cut down a redwood and kick a polar bear in the ‘nads … gas is likely to stay cheap this summer! So, let the environment be damned, load up the Hummer and take the longest road trip of your life.

The Energy Information Administration has great news for motorists: gas is expected to hang around an average of $2.23 a gallon this summer (more if you live in New York or California, I imagine). Peak driving season – late in the summer – could see a rise to more than $2.30, but it’s still a far cry from last summer’s insanity … when the average gallon would set you back $3.81.

What’s behind this embarrassment of fossil fuel riches? A barrel of crude is likely to cost about a third of what it did last summer ($53 versus $147), and U.S. crude oil production is supposed to come back up – by 440,000 barrels a day.

But, it pays to have a backup plan. Howard Gruenspecht, acting administrator of the EIA, concedes that an early broader economic recovery could lead to more pain at the pump, though you’d probably be able to afford it.

An EIA spokesman was on hand to confirm, “We’re not in the crystal ball business.” If they were, they probably wouldn’t be talking about fuel prices anyway.