By Sarah Chacko and Michelle Guffey
Killeen Daily Herald
While most motorists will say that they have tried to cut down on extended driving, long trips are hard for commuters to avoid.
Killeen Management Accountant Marty Simpson has been commuting from Gatesville for more than 20 years.
She thought it wouldnt be a problem until her kids graduated high school, but then her son got accepted into Killeen High Schools International Bacc-alaureate Organiza-tion.
Already up to 77,000 miles on her 2-year-old Chevy Ven-ture, Simpson said she buys a new car every three to four years. She changes her oil about every two months.
I get about 24 miles to the gallon, but even at that point Im paying $60 a week in gas, she said.
Several drivers have said they had to cut down on some of their luxuries, like dining out, to save a little extra money.
For commuters, gas is just one of the additional costs aside from the needed increased maintenance the long trips incur.
One of the options is to turn to public transportation where higher gas prices could mean a boom in business for the HOP.
Weve seen a pretty steady, significant rider increase, said Robert Ator, HOP Director of Urban Operations. Ator said he believes the climbing fuel costs have sent more customers HOPs way.
Its a great alternative, he said.
Though gas prices have sky rocketed, HOP fares have not, and Ator said right now he is not anticipating fuel-related fare increases.
Cristela Ledesma, a computer operator in Killeen who commutes from Bruceville-Eddy, said she cannot comprehend how the prices have risen so high so quickly.
I hear economically we have plenty, she said. We need to take advantage of that now and stop relying on overseas fuel.
But the truth of the matter is lost on a lot of residents. The war, the economy, the supply, the demand are all reasons floating through the heads of drivers as they pump in the gallons.
Ledesma said she heard recently that ethanol was being sold in gas stations in Nevada.
According to Wikipedia, the use of alcohol as a fuel for internal combustion engines, either alone or in combination with other fuels, has been given much attention mostly because of its possible environmental and long-term economical advantages over fossil fuels.
Ethanol may be the most interesting because many believe it to be a renewable resource, easily obtained from sugar or starch in crops and other agricultural produce.
Why arent we allotted that opportunity? Ledesma asked.
A new car?
With gasoline prices over $2.50 per gallon and rising, car dealerships have noticed an increasing amount of trade ins for fuel efficient cars.
People are just tired of paying $50-$60 for gas, said R.C. Carl, senior sales executive at Cleo Bay Honda in Killeen.
With no end in site to gas prices leveling off, sporty SUVs and trucks that get about 20 miles per gallon on the highway are no longer appealing.
A tremendous amount of people are trading in their trucks for cars with better gas mileage, such as the Civic Hybrid which gets 51 miles per gallon on the highway, Carl said.
And next door to Cleo Bay Honda at Toyota of Killeen, the same phenomenon is happening.
People are trading in their trucks and starting to look at Camrys and Corollas, midsize compact cars, said Bill Clifton, Toyota sales manager.
Like Honda, Toyota offers a hybrid car the Prius with a gas mileage of 60 on the highway.
But the dealership has a hard time keeping the gas saver in stock.
There is a two month waiting list for a Prius, Clifton said.
There are some dealerships that are taking advantage of the demand for the fuel efficient car. According to Clifton, Toyota of Killeen and one other dealership in Texas are the only ones in the state that do not charge thousands over the MSRP for the Prius.
We sell it at MSRP, he said.
Carl said he has seen people who have a 2005 truck or SUV return within a couple of months of buying it to trade it in for a car.
I have never seen anything like it, he said. I sold 20 cars last month and about 14-16 were SUV or truck trade-ins.
In fact, Cleo Bay has had so many truck trade-ins that they have opened a SUV Truck Supercenter off of Stan Schleuter Loop, Carl said.
In an attempt to keep up with consumer needs for fuel efficient cars, next year Toyota is coming out with Camry and Sienna Hybrids.
Toyota is a very green company, Clifton said. They want to save the world.
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