First of all, I got some good news for those of you that use Gandy Blvd. and the Gandy Bridge as an alternative to the Howard Frankland Bridge, especially during the morning and evening rush hour or when there is a major incident on the Howard Frankland resulting in authorities advising motorists to use Gandy to or from St. Petersburg. According to an email from the City of St. Petersburg that I receive weekly called Foster’s Weekly Forecast, improvements to Gandy Blvd. from 16 St N to 4 St N will soon take place which will transform the at grade intersections of Gandy Blvd. at 16 St N, Martin Luther King St N and 4 St N from the at grade intersections as they are now to overpasses – and believe me, these overpasses are much needed! Work is supposed to begin in September 2012, according to the folks over at the Florida DOT.
Could this be the start of a project to eventually upgrade Gandy Blvd. to a limited access highway with frontage roads providing access to Gandy Blvd. businesses and a direct straight through connection to the Selmon Crosstown Expressway? Unfortunately, improvements on the Tampa side have run into plenty of NIMBY-ism but this connection is desperately needed especially to help with hurricane evacuation; remember the major backup on the Howard Frankland when Hurricane Charley almost hit Tampa/St. Petersburg in 2004?
OK. Now on to our main topic.
As you have more than likely seen everywhere you turn in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, you have seen gas prices climbing steadily up with no end in sight. As of 3/2/12 prices for gas are closing in on the $4.00/gallon mark and the news media – whose purpose is to make you scared – is claiming that we may see $5.00/gallon or more.
In fact, most other Florida cities are seeing already over $4.00/gallon. Same thing throughout the rest of the United States from what I heard. Believe me, that’s not good news. For me, I thank goodness that I traded in my mid-size car that featured a monster-size gas tank for the economy and savings of an economy car.
We can survive these high gas prices while our economy is in a downturn. So, let me offer you some tips to get the most gas mileage for your dollar. These are tips I got from the Federal Government’s fuel economy web site, fueleconomy.gov:
1. Use motor oil that is recommended for your engine. What is recommended varies from car to car, you may want to check your vehicle owner’s manual.
By the way, make sure that you have your oil changed at whatever your vehicle manufacturer recommends; this is usually 3,000 miles in most conditions. Be sure when you have your car’s oil changed that you go to a reputable service place.
2. Check and replace your air filter regularly – a clogged air filter can reduce mileage by 10%.
3. Keep engine properly tuned – poorly tuned engine can cost 4%, a faulty oxygen sensor as much as 40%.
4. Keep tires properly inflated; fuel mileage decreases 0.4% for every pound tires are under-inflated.
5. Avoid all aggressive driving; rapid acceleration and rapid braking lower your mileage by 5% to 30%. Besides, leaving earlier so that you can safely get to your destination if you have to be somewhere at a specific time helps!
6. Reduce your speed; at highway speeds, every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph increase your fuel cost by 8%. It pays to stay within the speed limit; you’ll save time and money not only on gasoline but speeding fines as well. Did I say speeding fines? They are more – if not a lot more – than your car loan payment.
7. Remove any extra weight from your vehicle; an extra 100 pounds can reduce mileage by 2%.
8. Avoid excessive idling. When at idle you are getting 0 miles per gallon – think about it. It is a misconception that it takes more gasoline to restart than you save by turning it off.
9. If your vehicle can use regular fuel, use it. Don’t spend the extra premium for premium fuel if you don’t need it.
10. Plan your trips in advance; try to use interstate highways such as Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay area wherever possible. That way, you can minimize your wait at traffic signals and not waste gasoline by idling while waiting for the traffic light. And you won’t have to worry much about red light cameras!
11. Consider using public transit if it’s available in your area. Think of the gas you would save every week. Employers may have an incentive program for you using public transit to and from work; check with your employer.
With the high gas prices we are now experiencing with no relief in sight, the high gas price situation should be a wake-up call on a more serious note to the leaders of the Tampa/St. Petersburg region as well as people who sit in traffic all day getting to and from work over considerable distances: Rail based mass transit is desperately needed if the Tampa/St. Petersburg region wants to survive if and when the economy begins to recover. Sure we can build a 20-lane Interstate 275 in Tampa but that’s not going to do any good. Sure we can add more buses or add dedicated bus lanes but that’s not going to to any good; after all, buses share the same roadway that we motorists do.
Perhaps the voters of Hillsborough County who voted against a commuter rail system a year or two ago will more than likely change their mind once gas prices climb to a level that people will have to end up moving closer to their workplace to help minimize the commute wherever possible. Unfortunately, with the housing market at its lowest level it might be hard: Either sell your home and move to a location closer to work or find another job closer to home.
None of us can control the price of fuel but we can all work towards reducing the amount of fuel we use to help our personal budgets. Ask yourself, especially if you or your family is planning a vacation: Would you rather drive the 200+ miles on Interstate 75 from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale or take Amtrak or Southwest Airlines to Ft. Lauderdale from Tampa and back? Just a thought.