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Triangle ranks as nation's biggest gas guzzler

Posted May 12, 2011
Updated May 13, 2011

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— Drivers in the Triangle spend more on gas each year than anywhere else in the U.S., according to a new study.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago think tank that studies the cost of living and working in cities nationwide, crunched data collected by the federal and state governments to determine how much people in various ZIP codes drive. The group's calculations don't account for gas burned while sitting in traffic congestion.

The average household in the Triangle racks up 21,800 miles per year, which the center says translates into 1,074 gallons of gas. With prices approaching $4 a gallon, that means area drivers are spending close to $4,300 in gas annually.

"I burn a lot of gas," driver Glenn Coleman said. "I live in Louisburg, and I work in Apex."

Like many area residents, contractor Jeb Powell doesn't think twice about driving from one end of the Triangle to the next on a daily basis.

"I just got back from Clayton. The day before, I was in Willow Springs. The day before that, I was in Wake Forest. I've driven all the way to Fayetteville," Powell said.

"If you want to live in the nicer areas, you have to come to the city to work, and that's kind of where I'm at," waitress Janell Ethridge said.

Highway traffic, highway construction Long commutes give Triangle dubious distinction

State lawmakers are considering opening up the coast to offshore drilling for oil, and it's clear North Carolina drivers could benefit from increased supply and lower gas prices, with the Charlotte and Triad areas also ranking among the nation's top gas-guzzling locales.

The Charlotte metro area was right behind the Triangle. The average household there added 21,500 miles to the odometer, spending about $4,250 for gas per year.

Drivers in Greensboro and Winston-Salem spent about $4,050 to drive 20,700 a year, which ranked sixth nationally.

Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn., placed third and fourth nationally. Other areas in the Top 10 include some New Jersey suburbs of New York City, Jacksonville, Fla., and Washington, D.C.

New York City itself ranked as the nation's top gas-sipper, with the average household spending $1,920 on gas to drive 9,800 miles each year.


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  • tarheel_2014 May 13, 2011

    "Why do liberals want to push their morality on me? I like my SUV. I like living aways from work. I like driving by myself. I like driving fast. It's my money, I should be able to spend it the way I want."

    Maybe we should frame it as a question of national and domestic security. Many of the Middle Eastern regimes which the West opposes because of their extreme interpretation of Sharia law earn billions of dollars each year thanks to our addiction to foreign oil. If we truly want to pull out of that region, stop padding the wallets of our enemies, AND ensure our own safety, perhaps people like you could reconsider driving an SUV or at least slow down a little bit. The little things, like our gas usage, make a big difference. Call me a liberal all you want, but at least I realize that my choices affect the world in very complex ways.

    The development of public transit doesn't mean anyone is forcing you to use it. Plenty of people in the outer burroughs of NYC drive cars everyday

  • kcfoxie May 13, 2011

    1) I don't spend nearly that much money for more expensive DIESEL fuel in my car and I put an additional 13,000 annually on my car than the average. 44MPG average helps, 54 highway even better.
    2) I am glad I can prove to the arrogant idealists that 12,000 a year is hogwash if you live here. 20k I think is a conservative average, most working folks are probably closer to 30k a year.
    3) I moved to Durham to take advantage of their bus system to get to RTP. If raleigh had half a brain in their planning department they'd have express routes from every single part of the city to the heart of our economy: RTP. But, they don't. A light rail will be a disaster if Raleigh heads it up, leave that to Triangle Transit. No school stops, airport to RTP downtown Raleigh and downtown Durham, expand it from there and it'll pay for itself with visitor fares. Look at Portland Oregon for your example, Germans set that up and it's still the best transit system in America.

  • jafarmg2 May 13, 2011

    We need people to SLOW DOWN! I drive 65 mph on the interstate and people pass me like I'm standing still! The faster you drive the more gas you use...duhhhhhh. I see these big SUV's and gas guzzlers speeding down the highway and envision dollar signs coming out the tail pipe!

  • jaydosse May 13, 2011

    How about families car-pooling together instead of having 2 to 6 cars per family clogging up their driveways, not to mention the roadways?? It is not necessary for every family member to own their own vehicle.

    Been here over 20 years and still no public transportation. Get with the program NC and wake up to reality. Gas prices will never again be $1.19 or less per gallon.

    If ya buy an electric car, then you will have increased energy bill due to charging that $30,000 investment. It is a lose - lose situation.

    Companies will eventually stop relocating here and more people will fulfill the natives wishes and leave the state. If that happens, I can assure ya'll that all businesses will suffer.

    Lets junk the cars and get public transportation on the table to stay.

  • catawbaroots May 13, 2011

    "State lawmakers are considering opening up the coast to offshore drilling for oil, and it's clear North Carolina drivers could benefit from increased supply and lower gas prices"

    WRONG! This statement -- by the reporter -- is not true. It is widely belived, after a major political campaign, but there is no evidence that gas prices in NC would be affected at all by even the largest oil and gas find, and no effect could be felt in any event for many years. This is a red herring, pure and simple.

  • Big Mike May 12, 2011

    The Triangle is a huge place and it's a lot cheaper to buy gas to get to work than a new house that might be closer. I used to travel 23.6 miles one way, but have found alternative routes through town instead of the using the interstates. My trip is about 7 minutes longer but cheaper in the long run. My daily commute is now 21.4 each way...a savings of 4.4 miles daily roung trip and 22 miles weekly which gives me a free one way trip from work each week. As savings of about $5.00. The annual savings is about $250 based on current gas prices. I'll take it with a smile.

  • Conservative May 12, 2011

    "We need to look towards the future and stop feeding our oil addiction. We can't afford not to succeed here.
    Click to view my profile" - geosol

    Nobody is stopping you from riding your bicycle.

  • Conservative May 12, 2011

    we need mass transit options. tax dollars pay for roads, tax dollars should pay for mass transit. end of story. or we can all die choking on exhaust and starving to death trying to pay for gas to get to our jobs.

    Get off the EPA website and read real news.

  • jellygirl May 12, 2011

    That's because everything is so darned spread out around here. No way to make mass transit work for everyone involved.

  • Keepin_it_real_in_NC May 12, 2011

    "Charlotte is sprawled out almost 2x as much as Raleigh and their light rail line is wildly successful. "

    Only a liberal will think this is success. 100% overrun in cost. The rider only pays about 10% of the cost. The public pays the rest. They have about 1/4 the riders compared to Houston. Yep, this is a success...sheesh.