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Gas price hardship drives more to conserve: Poll

Gasoline prices in Metro Vancouver topped $1.50 per litre this week and a poll shows many B.C. residents are beginning to try alternatives to driving. - Black Press file photo
Gasoline prices in Metro Vancouver topped $1.50 per litre this week and a poll shows many B.C. residents are beginning to try alternatives to driving.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

A new poll has found high gas prices are causing financial hardship for a majority of B.C. residents, many of whom say they're driving less and trying alternatives like walking or transit more.

The Insights West online survey in partnership with Black Press found two-thirds of respondents across the province have felt financial hardship from the recent rise in gas prices.

Pump prices for regular gas climbed above $1.50 per litre in Metro Vancouver this week, up more than 20 per cent since early January.

More Interior B.C. residents cited hardship – 74 per cent – even though they don't pay the extra 17-cent-a-litre gas tax charged by TransLink in Metro Vancouver.

Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco said $1.50 per litre appears to be a psychological level where more people seek ways to cut their fuel consumption.

"We're seeing people saying it might be better to take the bus this afternoon, it might be better to walk or try to bike – essentially not to drive," he said.

Fifty-five per cent of poll respondents across B.C. said they're already driving less than usual, while 27 per cent said they're walking more and 19 per cent said they're taking public transit more. (Twenty-six per cent in the Lower Mainland said they're taking transit more.)

While it's helpful that gas prices tend to spike in spring and summer, when the weather is more conducive to walking or biking than December, Canseco believes that's coincidence.

"They're not doing it because it's lovely outside, they're doing it because they're feeling the pain when they gas up."

The poll also uncovered refueling habits of those surveyed.

It may not sound like a winning strategy, but a large number of respondents – 38 per cent – said they've refueled with less gas than usual lately, possibly in hopes of lower prices the next time.

Just over half said they buy at gas stations that give them loyalty reward points, while far fewer respondents said they use a station close to home or work (20 per cent), or they buy at any station when they run low (10 per cent.)

Sixteen per cent said they don't own a car.

The poll also found widespread belief that gas taxes are too high, that B.C. stations charge more than ones elsewhere in Canada, and 91 per cent said they believe gas stations take advantage of motorists by raising prices just before a long weekend.

"There's a high number of people who look at the service stations as gougers," Canseco said.

Just four per cent said they've considered selling their vehicle and switching to a more fuel efficient one.

Canseco said he believes that will change over time as electric car prices come down.

The poll didn't ask the more than 800 respondents if they regularly drive to the U.S. to refuel with cheaper gas.

But Canseco said a previous poll on cross-border shopping habits showed gas savings is one of the top reasons why Lower Mainland residents frequently head south.

GAS PRICES POLL | Create Infographics
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