Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

June 10, 2007

My $4.00 per gallon Chicago cab ride

Category: Economics,Take Actions,Tips,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 11:26 am

As I was in a cab, along with a mass of other vehicles moving out of Chicago on Thursday I noticed a gas station changing $3.97/gallon. Oh my god — it’s still at around $3/gallon here in the Boston areas. This explained why the driver had all the windows open and no A/C on a 93 degree day.

I asked my cab driver about high gas prices and he said he was not making enough money to keep driving, and that many other drivers had quit. He showed me an article in a paper in which cab drivers had requested a fare increase to City Hall, which they had denied. Yes, the free market is working, as it usually does. Slowly, and brutally.

The truth is, cabs are incredibly inefficient: they are the biggest possible vehicle (my driver reported getting a measured 11 MPG) — I think the car was an Impala, but something huge. Just one person in the car — me. Cab drivers also don’t drive efficiently (gun it, brake, gun it, brake, etc.). I left from a hotel, and one after the other after the other hotel guest was getting in a cab with a suitcase — we were all going to the same airport, most likely. As I looked past the Escalades, Navigators and other SUVs, I saw cab after cab after cab. All of us were in huge cars, almost exclusively with a single passenger.

I am an idiot, of course. I could easily have taken a microsecond to think about this, but I didn’t. I could have taken the two minutes I just took to find (on the web) that there was a train less than 1/2 mile from where I stood, running every 5 minutes, which cost $2.00 (cab fare was $38 plus tip) and would have gotten me to the airport in about the same time (probably faster, actually). And the train would have been air conditioned :-)

Why didn’t I think of taking a train? Well, I am an idiot, as I have said. But if we are really going to fess up to this little energy problem we have, private businesses need to support our public transit options. Like hotels — they have a great thing with cabs, lined up in front of their door. But why don’t they promote public transit?

Partly because public transit is not seen as a luxury option, I bet. And hotels and cabs have a symbiotic relationship; hotels offer amenities so cabs line up in front of hotels. But mostly, I think it’s for the same reason I didn’t take the train: habit.

I’m going to write a letter to the Hilton where I stayed, and perhaps someone else can write to other hotels. I’ll write about how it goes.


  1. […] week, I wrote about high gasoline prices in Chicago and my realization that I could have easily taken public transit to the airport, rather than the cab that was ever-so-conveniently waiting for me, with the […]

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  2. […] rolling, when gas prices here in Boston reached $3.00 a gallon (and a month months later when I saw 4 dollars per gallon gas prices in Chicago. Both of these events were ascribed to a shortage of supply due to the maintenance that […]

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