With fuel prices hanging just under $4 at fuel pumps in Storm Lake, many folks may be looking at alternate forms of transportation to get around town. Many are also taking staying closer to home this summer.
"So many people are talking about not going on vacation this year or at least not going so far," said Larry Godfredson, owner, of Lakeshore Cyclery.
For some, the solution has been to begin biking to work. Some customers have come into the local bike shop to invest their federal stimulus payment into bicycles - having already penciled out that at $4 a gallon for fuel, their bikes may pay for themselves within a three-month period.
Godfredson said he's seen an increase in sales at his shop, due in part to high gas prices.
Others just seek recreation and family fun. He's also seen some people pulling older bikes out of garages to be repaired.
Saving gas is great, he advises, but he urges new bikers to find a comfortable fit,especially if they'll be peddling many miles.
Those using their tax stimulus checks are buying for the long term. "A lot of people are focused on putting that money towards something that they're going to have forever," he said.
Others may look at public transportation like the RIDES bus which operates from Spencer and covers a nine county radius. CFO Ted Bauer said, however, he is not yet sure if more riders will turn to the bus as gas prices rise. There is a misconception that the buses are only available to the elderly and disabled, he said. They are open to the public.
Currently tickets in Storm Lake are $3 for the general public and senior citizens and can be purchased through the Northwest Aging Association based on their income eligibility.
However, the high fuel prices have taken a toll on RIDES too. "What we are doing is looking at becoming more efficient," said Bauer. According to Bauer, RIDES is approaching $400,000 total in gas and diesel bills across their service area, a big hike from previous years. Bauer said they are looking at smaller more fuel efficient vehicles like minivans and reconsidering routes. "We just have to use our resources more efficiently and more effectively."
Auto dealers are promoting their most gas-thrift models this season, after years of heavy sales of big pickups and SUVs.
Scott Schuelke, of Schuelke's Auto in Storm Lake, said Chrysler dealers are offering a "Let's Refuel America," $2.99 gas guarantee for new buyers. Looking at fuel efficient vehicles is something that's been ongoing, Schuelke says. "Sometimes it makes economic sense to make the change."
Others still opt for large vehicles, but change their driving habits and eliminate trips. "I do think a lot of people are changing their habits," he says.
Maybe it is a good time to put the car in the garage for a rest. "We could all use the exercise," says Godfredson, chuckling.