NEWS

More Greeks leave their cars at home as petrol prices rise

More Greeks are leaving their cars at home as gasoline prices continue to rise, making even short trips to work too costly for many people. The average price for unleaded petrol was 1.016 euros a liter on April 19, up by 1.2 percent in a five-day period. Since the beginning of 2004, petrol has gone up by 38.99 percent, according to a survey conducted on April 19 on 2,300 gas stations throughout Greece by the Development Ministry. Since the beginning of 2004 petrol has gone up by 38.99 percent. The fact that petrol has now reached its highest price ever – over a euro per liter even in Attica – did not keep people from traveling over Easter. People are cutting back on daily trips by car in the city, due to gas-guzzling traffic jams that burn the most petrol. A recent survey by the Athens University of Economics has revealed that 21 percent of Greeks spend two to five hours a day behind the steering wheel and 78 percent up to two hours. On average Greeks make nine trips of 1 kilometer every week. New habits Due to the skyrocketing prices, Greeks are changing their habits. Maroussi gas station owner Constantinos Constantinou says his business has dropped by 10 percent and will likely decrease further. «The rise in prices has really affected customers,» he said. «They continue to put 20 euros’ worth of petrol as before but they do not replace the liters they have lost. Most people cannot leave their car behind and complain every time they have to fill the tank. Fortunately they know we are not to blame for the rise in prices.» «Fill it up» is heard less and less, said Christos Skourlas, the owner of a gas station in Aspropyrgos. «The drivers are just putting in less petrol, 10-20 euros, what they have in their wallets,» he said. «They buy fewer liters and have to visit the gas station again shortly, but they do not fill up the tank.» Metro use P.K., a 29-year-old employee in an imports company who asked to be identified only by his initials, is rethinking his dependency on his car. Although he continues to use it to go to work and back, when he can he tries to use public transport. «Before I never used the bus to visit a friend or to go to the movies,» he said. «When I saw that gas now eats up a sixth of my salary, I decided that this state of affairs could not continue. I can’t spend 100 to 120 euros a month only on petrol. If I had rent to pay I would have nothing left.» This winter, not only did P.K. get some bus timetables, he also became better acquainted with the train, tram and metro. «What I discovered was that by leaving the car behind I felt freer,» he said. «On the other hand, you do not have the independence that a car gives you.» Byron Lazarides, a high school teacher, has recently limited his monthly petrol consumption in an effort to curb costs. He travels every day from Patissia to Psychico. «The car costs me 140 euros a month for petrol alone, when before I never spent more than 100 euros,» he said. «And I don’t put super unleaded like I did before. I decided to put a limit of 100 euros and start using public transport.» He has to travel by train, metro and bus to get to work. Tina Grigoraki, an employee in the marketing department of a multinational, has also switched from super to simple unleaded petrol. «Every day I travel from Metaxourgeio to Maroussi,» she said. «It’s a long way and though I can take the metro I got used to taking the car as I often needed it during the day. I noticed that from 33 euros to fill up the tank, after just a few months I needed 37 euros with simple unleaded. I rarely fill it up now. Before I used to fill it up every time I went to the gas station. Today I have put in 5 euros’ worth, just enough to reach my destination. When I have little petrol left I leave the car and take the metro.»