PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- Once again, America finds itself awash in $4-per-gallon gas with no fewer miles to commute, public transportation still catching up to demand and bicycles woefully inadequate for any but the most hardy individuals in locales with miles of bike path. Care to share a ride anybody?
As the latest Department of Energy numbers indicate, fuel prices have been inching steadily upward since early January and have hit a nationwide average of almost $3.80. Take it out to the West Coast and you're already looking at more than $4 a gallon.
Meanwhile, car use is slowly inching down as the days of $2 gas seem like a pipe dream and peak oil looks more imminent. The share of new cars being bought by Americans between 18 and 34 is down 30% in the past five years, according to auto pricing site Edmunds.com. A Pew Research Center study notes that people under 35 bought 12% fewer cars than they did in 2010.
Think it's just an economic anomaly? A remnant of the recession? Guess again. The Department of Transportation notes that just 28% of 16-year-olds had driver's licenses in 2010, with just 45% of 17-year-olds claiming the same. That's plummeted from 50% and 66% respectively in 1978.Overall, as DC Streets Blog and the Frontier Group and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund point out, Americans are driving roughly 6% fewer miles than they were in 2004. That's partially, as Census Bureau data shows, because more people are living in cities than they were a decade ago. It's also because fewer Americans want to put up with the $818 a year in lost time and gas money sucked away by the average commute, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Report. So what do these newly urbanized, auto averse Americans do when life requires them to move something across town, go on a big shopping run or get out of town to a place off a rail line for a few days? Increasingly, they share cars through new Avis Budget (CAR) acquisition Zipcar (ZIP), Car2Go and similar services. The New York Times (NYT) reported in January that 800,000 Americans belonged to car sharing services last year, up 44% from 2011. In cities where it makes more sense to pay $10 an hour for a car than $10,000 every few years, picking up a Toyota (TM) Prius, Mini Cooper, Smart Car, Nissan (NSANY) Leaf or Ford (F) Escape for a few days is as much a part of urban life as ordering in Chinese food or staying in town during the holidays while everyone else flees. WalkScore, a site dedicated to determining and rating the density of amenities and resulting "walkability" of various cities, recently compiled a list of the Top 10 car-sharing cities in the U.S. With the number of car-sharing pickup and drop-off points tallied and the most popular car-sharing neighborhoods mapped out, here's their take on the best cities for sharing cars without sharing any of the hassle of actually owning one:
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