Nfld. & Labrador

For N.L. drivers with lengthy commutes, the spike in gas prices is hitting hard

Chris Freake of Deer Lake and Mari-Lynn Taylor of Makinsons commute to work. But recent increases in the price of gas have both considering making changes.

With gas costing more than $2 per litre, many are rethinking their commutes

Chris Freake lives in Deer Lake and commutes to Corner Brook five times a week. (Submitted by Chris Freake)

With the latest gas price increase, drivers in most parts of Newfoundland and Labrador are now paying more than $2 per litre of regular gas.

The high price is especially hard on people with lengthy commutes, like Chris Freake of Deer Lake.

For his job as a social worker, Freake makes a round trip of 110 kilometres to Corner Brook five times a week. And lately, he's been really feeling the pinch at the pump.

"I think I might be breaking some kind of record," said Freake.

"A couple of weeks ago, I did manage to squeeze $103 into a Corolla. That's the most I ever put in."

After he started his job last summer, Freake soon decided to park his truck and get a small sedan for his commute.

Unless it is needed to haul something, the truck is now mostly parked in the driveway. A third vehicle, an SUV, is used by Freake's wife to get to her job in Deer Lake.

"If I'm getting in a vehicle to go any distance, I usually, you know, I go grab the keys to the Corolla, for sure," said Freake.

On the other side of the island, in Makinsons, Mari-Lynn Taylor and her husband own only one vehicle, but their gas costs are steadily climbing as well.

Taylor owns a small business in downtown St. John's and has a full-time job in the city centre and has commuted — about 160 kilometres for a round trip — for the past 12 years.

To save on gas, Taylor started staying with a friend in St. John's on weekdays last summer, and reduced her trips home to once or twice a week.

"[My husband and I] thought we were making a decision to … do some extra things we want to do and be a bit smarter with our money and of course the environment too," said Taylor.

"Turns out we just made that decision right in the nick of time because we are spending a lot of time apart just to kind of break even at this point."

But Taylor still has to fill her car up once a week and spends hundreds of dollars a month on gas.

Now Taylor and her husband are forced to reconsider their living arrangements.

"We have it on the agenda today to talk about what some serious, tangible next steps might be for us," said Taylor.

"I filled up yesterday and it wasn't even on empty and I was close to 150 bucks. And so, even with my minimal driving and those four fills.… I'm back up to $600, which there's zero cost savings and a long time apart."

Mari-Lynn Taylor, who owns a business in downtown St. John's, commutes weekly between the city and her home in Makinsons. (Submitted by Mari-Lynn Taylor)

Freake says the cost of gas is starting to have an impact on life decisions, such as his career.

"I've always maintained that I would be able to commute anywhere within an hour's distance of Deer Lake. And over the course of the last 10 or 15 years, I've pretty well done that," said Freake.

"Fortunately, now in the coming weeks, I'll be transitioning to a full-time job in Deer Lake. And the price of fuel, the price of getting back and forth to work, certainly played a factor in that."

Freake has also seen his friends and family change their habits and consider more carefully whether a trip with the car is really necessary.

For Taylor, the choices she and her family members make remind her of times she thought were long gone.

"I have trouble wrapping my head around it because I cannot believe, you know, in 2022 and when we're all well into our careers, that we're making decisions right now based around the price of gas," said Taylor.

"I feel like it's something that I had to consider when I graduated college, you know, back in 2010.… And I cannot believe this is where we are again."

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