Alternatives for students during Gasaggedon

The Low-P moniker at the top of one Calabasas gas station stands for “low price.” On October 5, a gallon of premium there was selling for $5.99.

But it’s not just our neighbors to the north who are coping with the octane sticker shock. Gas prices were over $5 per gallon at the 76 station at 20th street and Pico Boulevard last week.

Gas prices all over California have hit an all time high, according to AAA spokesman Michael Green. An average statewide cost of $4.61 per gallon beats the previous high in June 2008 by a fraction of a penny at $4.60.

Santa Monica College student Sara Jensen encountered the high prices while filling up her Honda Accord. “It costs me $78.00 to fill up my tank, and that’s on a good day,” she said. “Lately I’ve spent as much as $90.00 depending on where I am in the city.”

But students at SMC looking for alternatives to driving don’t have to go very far to find relief.

Free ridership on the Big Blue Bus is provided to all members of the Associated Students. The offer is a joint partnership with the school and the BBB, financed by member’s semester fees.  For non-students, regular fares for the BBB are $1, and transfers to LA’s metro are only fifty cents.

Transfers to the Metro’s by bus and subways cover public transit over much of Los Angeles. Day passes for the Metro are $5 and up for weekly, monthly, and annual passes; the prices vary with time and whether riders are taking bus or subway, according to their website.

“$4.77 for a gallon of gas?” laughs commuter Marcus Howard. “I think I’m going to have to start riding a bike to work.”

While historically known as an automobile city, Los Angeles has recently focused efforts on improving conditions for bikers. Locally, a construction project at SMC will increase bike racks for two-wheeling students.

Additionally, students can map out their routes to potentially avoid hazards with Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s twitter updates for biking commuters.

For those students looking to pool resources to split the cost of gas, SMC’s Sustainability Department recommends a ride-share program called “ZimRide” to connect carpooling students.

The website says it uses social networks to connect riders to drivers who are heading in the same direction.

Who’s to blame for the gas price hike? It’s due to a couple of things, say state officials.

A power failure at an Exxon Mobil refinery in nearby Torrance earlier this month shut down production, according to the LA Times. According to the San Fransisco Chronicle, the refinery produces 10 percent of the state’s gasoline. Earlier in August,  a fire at a Chevron refinery in Richmond damaged the plant’s ability to process crude oil.

This, coupled with California’s requirement of higher-grade gasoline to combat air pollution, has led to a scarcity, driving prices higher.

Governor Jerry Brown allowed for the state’s winter blend to be sold immediately as opposed to later this year.

While prices are expected to decrease later this month, proponents of alternative transportation hope the trend of commuters ditching driving won’t be temporary.