As Bay Area travelers hit the road again for Thanksgiving this year, they can expect to pay significantly more for everything from gasoline to rental cars to Ubers – in some cases double the price.
The return to crowded highways on Wednesday’s traditional getaway day comes a year after a vacation amid the COVID pandemic, which has opened up the cheapest roads and gas prices in years. In an effort to reduce this year’s punitive fuel prices, President Biden on Tuesday ordered the release of 50 million barrels of crude oil from U.S. strategic reserves in tandem with other major oil-producing countries.
But it’s unclear how much, if any, emergency motorists will see at the pump on their Thanksgiving trips. In market trading after Tuesday’s announcement, oil prices rose about 2% instead of falling.
“The problem is that everyone knows this measure is temporary,” Claudio Galimberti, senior vice president of oil markets at Rystad Energy, told The Associated Press. “So once it is stopped, if the demand continues to be greater than the supply as it is now, you are back to square one.”
The sticker shock is causing a ripple effect in the travel industry – and in the wallets of Bay Area residents.
Gas price: California has long held the title for highest gasoline prices in the country due to heavy fuel taxes, and this year will be no exception. But statewide prices hit an all-time high at the start of the month before dipping slightly in recent days to an average of $ 4.64 per gallon, more than $ 1.50 more than the last year. In the Bay Area, prices are still close to $ 5 a gallon. High gasoline prices have not deterred drivers from hitting the road. More than 48.3 million people, just 3% less than in 2019, are expected to travel by car for Thanksgiving, according to the AAA.
“I chose not to fly because of COVID,” said Jane Richardson, who flew to Oakland from Los Angeles for Thanksgiving. On Tuesday, she paid $ 4.79 a gallon to refuel her Toyota Prius. “It was worth it, I was willing to pay the extra money.”
Flying: For the hundreds of thousands of people who pass through Bay Area airports, the cost of domestic air travel is up about 23%, with an average round trip of $ 300, but still down 11% from 2019, according to the Hopper travel booking app.
Car ride: Getting to and from the airport will also lead to a significant price increase for many who are unable to take public transport or convince a friend to brave airport traffic. According to the latest figures provided by YipitData, a research company that tracks Uber and Lyft journeys nationwide, the cost of standard journeys in the greater San Francisco area hit an all-time high in October, with fares 22%. higher than in October 2019.
Uber and Lyft prices have skyrocketed in recent months due to a driver shortage that has impacted the industry. As driver numbers begin to recover, passengers can expect price spikes at airports. Sergio Avedian, Los Angeles-based VTC Driver and Senior Contributor to The carpooling guy website, said the high prices are in part fueled by personnel issues and the end of “subsidized never land” of cheap pre-pandemic venture-funded rides.
“Prices are going to be high and prices are going to stay high,” Avedian said, adding that he often sees runners paying more than double the levels before the pandemic.
A spokesperson for Uber told the Bay Area News Group that more drivers are on the road now than at any time during the pandemic, but warned drivers to expect service to be “even more so. busy than in previous years. You can see high surge prices. If you are in no rush, try to wait a few minutes to request your ride as prices can drop.
Car rental: People who rent cars on Thanksgiving and continue over the Christmas period also notice that prices are raising eyebrows for everything from compact vehicles to large vans popular with traveling families. on the road. The car rental industry is still struggling to recover from the sale of its inventory of vehicles induced by the pandemic, as a global shortage of microchips has held back the production of new cars.
“The entire supply chain is in turmoil. We’ve been operating pretty tight for months, ”said Todd Connors, part owner of Rent-A-Relic, an independent car rental company based in East Bay. He said compact vehicle rentals start at around $ 60 a day if you can get one. “People are already running out of cars for Christmas. My only advice, as the prices are insane, is to book early and lock a car.
Although the prices are high, those looking to rent a car may have better luck with local companies like Service Rent-A-Car in San Jose, which still has a large number of vehicles available. Morgan Newby, a manager, said a good “rule of thumb” is that prices double from about $ 49 to $ 100 per day during the holidays.
“If they’re looking for a car at the last minute. I have them available, so call me, ”Newby said.
On Tuesday, Chance Ward was about to depart for a 2,400 mile trip to Lexington, Ky.
After working temporarily in construction in Oakland, he was delighted to be returning home with his family and dog to a place where, according to gasbuddy.com, the price of a gallon of fuel is a hair’s breadth above $ 3.
“I’m going to try to get there without stopping,” Ward said as he grimaced for the $ 4.79 price tag at the Valero on MacArthur Boulevard.
Ward stocked up on cigarettes for the long drive home, but said he plans to buy fuel at a cheaper location outside of the Bay Area. “Once I get to Missouri,” he joked, “gas will be cheaper.”