As area gas prices soared to record highs, some in the Charlottesville area are worried about the added costs while others say it’s a small price to pay to support Ukraine.
Average retail regular gasoline prices in the Charlottesville area hit a new high Monday, at $4.02 for a gallon of regular gas, surpassing the area record set in 2008. On Tuesday, average gasoline prices in the Charlottesville area were $4.11 a gallon, setting a new record.
“I know it’s a hardship for a lot of people,” said Susan Bender, who was getting gas at the Marathon station on Rio Road, where regular gas was $4.29 a gallon on Tuesday. “I live in the country and my friends and I try to group our errands, but I realize we’re trying to help Ukraine and get the world back in shape.”
Average gasoline prices in the Charlottesville area are up 63.5 cents per gallon from a week ago and 80 cents per gallon from a month ago.
“The effects of geopolitical tension between Russia and Ukraine, coupled with tight worldwide oil supplies and increased demand, continue to impact the upward climb of crude oil and, in turn, gas prices,” Morgan Dean, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a statement. “Drivers are feeling the pain at the pump and we’re still months away from the start of the peak summer driving season.”
The previous high recorded average gasoline price for the Charlottesville metro area was July 5, 2008 at $4.01 a gallon, according to AAA. For diesel, the previous highest recorded average price was $4.78 on June 8, 2008.
The average retail price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Virginia hit $4.10 on Tuesday, shattering the old record of $4.01 set in 2008. Nationally, the average retail price reached $4.17 a gallon, surpassing the record of $4.11 from July 2008.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order banning the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal due to Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“The decision today is not without cost here at home,” he said. “Putin’s war is already hurting American families at the gas pump and with this action it’s going to go up further. I’m going to do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home.”
Two men at the Marathon station on Rio Road, who declined to give their names, said the cost increase was expected due to the war.
“It’s a minimal cost to have to pay,” said one of the men. “The cost could be much greater.”
“We need to pay right now so we can help fight for democracy,” said the other.
At the Exxon station near the intersection of Greenbrier Drive and U.S. 29, one woman who commutes from Louisa County said she was really just starting to see the increase this week.
“I probably pay another $10 every time I go to the gas pump,” she said. “I do have a little commute, so it’s gonna be hard, but what are you going to do?”
The woman declined to be identified.
It’s unclear if area residents and workers are yet seeking alternative transportation options other than driving as prices soar.
The Afton Express, which provides public commuter bus transportation between Staunton, Waynesboro, Fishersville, Charlottesville and the Fifth Street Station in Albemarle County, saw increased ridership in February, but rider numbers so far in March were not yet available.
“The fare prices for the Afton Express one way is $3 per ride, which is, as of now, less than a single gallon of gas,” said Paula Melester, a regional planner with the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission.
She said the service currently has about 15 riders each way a day on a bus that can seat up to 26 people.
Jaunt, which provides commuter service from Crozet, U.S. 29 North, Lovingston and Buckingham through its CONNECT services, also didn’t have early March ridership numbers available Tuesday. Currently, the service is operating fare free.
In an interview, Dean said gas prices depend on the price of crude oil, which is under that “severe stress” because of everything happening with Russia and Ukraine, and that’s “the driving factor.”
“AAA really can’t predict how high prices will go,” he said. “There’s really no template for what’s happening right now.”
Additionally, many things in the near future threaten to continue pushing prices up, he said.
“Over the next few weeks, we’re going to change over from the winter blend gasoline to some of the gasoline that’s more environmentally friendly for the warm, humid months of the summer,” Dean said. “That changeover, to get those into the pumps, it’s usually about 10 to 15 cents every year when that happens.”
Plus, typically, spring break trips create higher demand at the pumps, then the Memorial Day holiday weekend leads into people traveling for the summertime.
“The warning to a lot of drivers is we’re still in the middle of this, we’re not at the end of it,” Dean said.