While the price of fuel has increased around the country to record highs, Whatcom County seems to be particularly hard hit. The highest recorded average price for gas, $3.655, hit on March 24, and diesel hit $4.171 the day before.
Price samplings from states that surround Washington, however, show that prices are much lower in some areas: $3.16 in Boise, Idaho and $3.19 in Portland, Oregon, for example. It has been difficult for local economists to explain why this area has had such problems with price increases, however, and finger pointing abounds. People point to local gas stations, but it’s fairly clear that nationally, at least, gas stations are getting squeezed by higher fuel prices, and they are forced to slim their margins more and more.
And for retailers such as auto dealers, the double whammy of a decline in consumer spending and an increase in fuel prices has led to automakers predicting that 2008 will be the worst year for auto sales in the past 10 years.
Whatever the reason for rising fuel prices and its negative consequences for local businesses, one thing is clear — for companies to keep this rising cost at bay, creativity is required.
This is a great time for local businesses to start implementing incentives to save on fuel costs, both for the business and for employees. Now that summer is approaching and the skies are clearing (except for the errant March snow, naturally), this is a good time to start thinking about implementing employee bike programs at the workplace, for example.
Businesses around the state are beginning to jump on board with alternative transportation programs — and some are receiving funding by the state to do so. David Evans and Associates’ “Dare to Share” program was allocated $9,100 as a part of the state’s 2007-2009 Trip Reduction Performance Program. The company gives monetary incentives to employees to reduce single occupant vehicle trips through the use of carpooling, vanpooling, transit, cycling and walking. The company expects the project to reduce 12 vehicle trips per day in the first year, which is equivalent to 480 roundtrip vehicle miles per day.
While not all businesses are able to receive funding for reducing trips, there are things they can do to help encourage alternative transportation. One is to promote the 11th annual Bike to Work or School Day, which is on Friday, May 16 this year. This annual event encourages and supports students and workers to bike or walk to school or work. Event organizers provide tables with goodies, water and friendly volunteers around the county and the city to offer support. Last year, a reported 7,400 people in Whatcom County took part. For more information on this event, visit www.mtbakerbikeclub.org.
As we all face fuel-cost increases, we need to rethink how we travel — and see if there are some things we can do differently.
— Vanessa Blackburn
by Rik Dalvit