Fewer students buying parking passes as gas prices rise


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Though some student drivers say it's difficult to find parking on the University of Iowa campus, one official said the number of student-registered vehicles has decreased.

"For decades, there were places on campus where you would never find an open space. The meters south of the IMU and meters by Quad and Hillcrest were virtually always full," said Dave Ricketts, the director of UI Parking and Transportation. "Now, there is not nearly as much activity there."

Ricketts said the rise of oil prices nationally has had a "dramatic effect" on students who drive to campus.

In October 2004, 1,377 freshmen registered vehicles with UI Parking. In October 2010, that number fell to 772.

According to IowaStateGasPrices.com, average gas retail prices have fallen 3.1 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.41 per gallon on Monday. Although prices have fallen recently, Monday's average gas retail price sas increased 67 cents per gallon higher than the price the same day last year.

Ricketts said as gas prices continue to rise, students are looking for a more efficient means of transportation such as mopeds and motorcycles. The UI has seen an increase in number of registered two-wheel vehicles, he said, from 254 in October 2004 to 709 in October 2010.

One UI sophomore said that although he has a car, using his moped is easier on his wallet.

"I do own a car, but it just stays in the garage even through the winter," said Louis Trinca-Pasat, who now rides a moped to campus. "You just fill up one gallon every two weeks for a scooter. So three or four bucks get you by."

To tackle the hike in gas prices, the United States has increased its oil production.

"This increase in production is an attempt to decrease foreign dependency for oil and stabilize the rising gas prices," said Hennadige Thenuwara, a UI economics lecturer. An increase in oil supply gives an economy slightly more control on the prices, he said.

Data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration show an increase in the total oil supply from an average of 8,514 thousand barrels a day in 2008 to 9,648 thousand barrels a day in 2010.

Some students seem confused or misinformed about what is causing the price hikes.

UI senior Jonathan Eberlin said he thinks the rise in prices is due to the U.S. "dependency" on oil reserves in the relatively unstable Middle East.

"We import most of our oil from the Middle East, and that region is almost always in a state of turmoil," he said. "No one knows what is going to happen to those reserves, and we are paying the price."

Thenuwara said that even though the United States imports only 19 percent of its oil from the Persian Gulf, instability in the region can roil gas prices here.

And Thenuwara said an increasing demand of oil from developing economies such as China are another factor driving up gas prices.

While United States has increased production, it has also found ways to reduce oil imports.

Thenuwara said the depreciation of the U.S. dollar has made U.S. oil exports cheaper.

"The exchange rate plays an important role in defining oil production and prices," he said. "Since the U.S. dollar took a hit from the financial crisis, we paid more to import the same amount of oil as the value of our currency fell. This pushes the prices up."

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