Marin residents rethink vacation travel as gas prices soar

Don Boyle of Vacaville, who grew up in Marin and drives to the county two days a week to work, discusses fuel prices and inflation in San Rafael, California, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 (Sherry Lavars/Marine Independent Journal)

Glenn Robinson of San Rafael has no plans to leave Marin over Memorial Day weekend.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’ll be at my house.”

Robinson, 40, travels throughout the Bay Area, working as a barber and beautician. He’s seen gasoline prices rise steadily over the past months – a full tank now costs $83 compared to $50 to $60 a few months ago. He said the price hikes have discouraged customers who drive into San Rafael to see him.

“It’s a financial violation,” he said. “It’s pure capitalism.”

Robinson is not alone. Across Marin, residents say they are wary of leaving over the long weekend, with many saying they will be spending local time with family instead. They don’t expect to receive guests either, a worrying sign for Marin communities that depend on tourism dollars.

It affects everyone and makes things difficult,” said Robert Rawlings, 71, of Sausalito. “Rich is in Marin, people may not feel it very much, but it is here. It means that people may not come here.”

Travel is on the calendar for some. AAA said the unofficial start of summer will involve 39.2 million people traveling 50 miles or more from their homes. The Automobile Club said travel volume is expected to rise 8.3% compared to 2021, bringing it in line with levels not seen since 2017 and pointing to a marked jump after the pandemic.

The volume is expected to be “ablaze,” said Paula Tweedell, senior vice president of AAA Travel.

“People are running late for a vacation, and they are looking to make up for some much-needed research and development in the coming months,” Twidale said.

AAA said the size of the vacation — buoyed by an increase in air travelers and 34.9 million car passengers — was to be expected despite the painful prices at the pump.

Traffic flows on Third Street between Arco and Chevron gas stations in San Rafael on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 (Sherri Lavars/Marine Independent Journal)
Traffic flows on Third Street between Arco and Chevron gas stations in San Rafael on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 (Sherri Lavars/Marine Independent Journal)

The national average for a gallon of gasoline is $4.59, and all 50 states are above $4 a gallon, according to the AAA. In California, the average cost of unleaded was $6.07 as of Tuesday. On Marin, the average cost was just over $6.28.

According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of gas hasn’t fallen in nearly a month.

In San Rafael, at the corner of Second and D Streets, Arco is offering a gallon of lead-free for $5.99 in cash or $6.09 in debit/credit. Across the street at Chevron Station, a gallon of unleaded will cost drivers $6.49.

Projected car travel has fallen from 92.1% in 2021 to 88.9% this year, a possible indication that gas prices may affect travelers’ transportation choices, according to the AAA.

Company spokesman Andrew Gross said the average cost of gasoline is $1.05 more than it was on February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

This led to shock waves in the oil markets that led to a rise in oil prices. Meanwhile, seasonal gas demand locally rises as more drivers get on the road, despite the pain they face at the pump.”

Marin residents said the reasons for the price hike are manifold, including ongoing supply chain issues amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Uncertainty continues to govern global markets, and rising gas and oil prices are a byproduct of this. But many have described the issue as mere institutional greed.

Gas and oil companies get these bonuses. Rowling said after he parked in front of San Rafael City Hall and walked away. “This is America. How did we make that turn in the road?”

Some said the price hike has limited their daily driving, a habit they expect to maintain over the weekend.

Sue Ah Landa of San Anselmo said her family owns three cars, an all-electric car, a hybrid car and a gas car. She said the family prioritizes electric and hybrid cars on most trips, but that her son usually drives the petrol car.

“Gas prices definitely drive our decisions for what we drive. Sitting with her friend, Yoko Kasai of San Rafael, outside Café del Sol on Tuesday, Landa said she was dumbfounded because it cost $100.

Kasai, who drives an electric car, said she was recently with a North Carolina real estate client who noticed how expensive gas is here.

“California is very attractive except for the costs and gas prices,” Kasai said.

Dawn Boyle, 40, comes to San Rafael from Vacaville several times a month for work.

“I don’t drive often because I work from home a lot,” said Boyle, who grew up in Marin.

She said she and her husband would not be returning to Marin for the weekend, and opted to stay home instead. In June, they have a trip planned to Lake Tahoe. They have already decided – they are taking Tesla.

Tourists at Vista Point look at the Golden Gate Bridge from Sausalito on Monday, May 23, 2022 (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)
Tourists at Vista Point look at the Golden Gate Bridge from Sausalito on Monday, May 23, 2022 (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

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