Pain at the pump

As gasoline prices increase and public transportation becomes more expensive, some students are finding it harder to afford the commute to school.


Over 22,000 Portland State students live off campus, over 70 percent of which commute via car or mass transit, according to a survey conducted by Portland State’s transportation and parking services office.


Between rising gas prices and the cost of parking, some students have taken to driving only when necessary or taking the bus.


The price of gasoline has risen almost a dollar a gallon in the last year from a low of about $1.68 per gallon in January to the current average of about $2.68, according to, a web site that tracks current gas prices in the greater Portland area through volunteer submissions.


“It’s definitely more costly,” said Cherie Williams, a fourth year undergraduate, who drives to PSU. “Instead of filling up all the time like I used to, I usually just have them put in $10 or $20 at the gas station. I decide not to go some places because I don’t want to spend the money.”


In addition to skyrocketing gas prices, parking costs have increased significantly. Full time parking permits through PSU are now $240 a term, up 3.8 percent from $231 last year. The City of Portland also recently increased the cost of their parking meters by 25 cents an hour.


“I’m actually thinking about not driving my car as much and I already take public transportation sometimes,” said Rob Clarke, an undergraduate senior. “Having to feed meters gets expensive.”


The cost of taking mass transit has increased as well. On Sept. 1, TriMet transportation fares increased 10 cents, raising an adult two-zone fare $1.50. Though a small number, students who depend on getting to school by the bus or MAX line find that it adds up.

In the last two years, the percentage of students who use public transit has risen 6.5 percent, while the number of students who drive to school had dropped 10 percent. The decrease in students who commute by car is mostly due to economic conditions and financial pressures, according to Dan Zalkow, manager of transportation and parking services.


TriMet officials are considering raising the fare prices again. They are planning meetings on Oct. 12 and 26 to discuss an additional 10 or 15 cent fare increase. If approved, the increase would probably come around Jan. 1, said TriMet spokesman Bruce Solberg.


Easing some of the burden of getting to school, PSU spends 10 to 15 percent of parking fees on alternative transportation programs such as bus pass discounts. The number of students who have purchased transit passes has gone up 25 percent in the last two years.


Last August, as a temporary measure to offset rising fuel prices, President George W. Bush released oil from the government petroleum reserves, citing the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina as the primary reason.