LOGAN SQUARE — Gas prices are hitting record highs throughout the United States — and Chicago has been no exception.
Average gas prices in Chicago hit an all-time high Monday afternoon: $4.573 per gallon. Soaring prices have some Chicagoans rationing gas and looking into alternate modes of transportation. Some said they’re thankful they can still work from home and understand the price bump given the crisis in Ukraine.
David Shin rolled his eyes and sighed as he gassed up his tank Monday at a Shell station at North Avenue and North LaSalle Drive. He put in $20, which went quickly at the station, where gas was $4.959 a gallon. He didn’t bother to fill up his tank “beyond what I need to get to my next spot,” he said.
“It just sucks,” said Shin, who uses his car every day. “Almost $5 for regular. Crazy. But there’s not an option for me not to fill up.”
Gas prices rose dramatically after Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to the United States sanctioning the country. And President Joe Biden is expected to announce Tuesday that the United States will ban Russian oil imports, which could drive prices higher, according to Reuters.
Prices could continue to creep up, though perhaps at a slower pace than what’s been seen recently, experts said.
Last week, Chicagoans were paying “$3 and change within city borders,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices across the United States.
De Haan expects prices will “continue inching higher.” The average driver in Chicago could spend $700 more this year on gas than in 2021, De Haan said.
“The biggest increases are now behind us,” De Haan said. “A lot of this is induced by what we’re seeing in Russia and Ukraine. There’s higher elevated prices until there’s a resolution there.”
Cashier Ignatio Bahena said business seemed to drop about 25 percent Monday at the Shell station at North Avenue and Clark Street. Customers came inside to complain and were scrounging change just to get at least some gas in their car, Bahena said. But stations have to raise their prices when oil costs more, he said.
“We have to raise the prices for us to stay open. It’s not something we can control,” Bahena said.
In the meantime, Chicagoans are trying to balance their need to travel for work and daily life with the price changes.
Gage Park resident Carvelle Jeffries had a friend send him $10 so he could fill his Chevy Impala with enough gas to get home. Jeffries said it’s been difficult to get around recently, as the Shell station at California and Fullerton avenues was charging $4.999 a gallon.
“The prices just got me thinking, ‘How far can I get off maybe just 1 gallon?’” Jeffries said. “I’m very much calculating every move even more now. Five bucks a gallon, that stuff is mind-blowing.”
Rayquwain King drives around the Gold Coast for a grocery delivery company and said he strategically refilled his tank at least three times at the Shell on Monday. King said he covers his own gas, and the rising prices “take a big toll” on his weekly paycheck.
“I feel like the prices are really outrageous. And it hurts my pockets a lot, really,” King said. “I’m hurting, and I got a job.”
De Haan expects rising prices to have a ripple effect for consumers across Chicago. Uber prices will go up, and flights out of O’Hare could get more expensive this summer, he said.
Chicago tends to face some of the steepest gas price increases in the country, De Haan said.
“Big city, higher gas taxes, higher costs of doing business,” De Haan said. “It’s going to cause everyone in Chicago to dig deeper.”
Emily Close filled up her Toyota Corolla at the BP on California and Fullerton and said she felt “kind of held hostage” to the price spike. Close said she’s lucky she can still work from home most days.
“I think it’s up to us to try to use our cars less, if we can,” Close said. “I’m more concerned for people living in Ukraine than someone like me who has to pay a little more at the gas pump.”
Matt Hooks did a double take as he filled up his Nissan Rogue for $67; just a few weeks ago, it cost $45, he said. He’s thinking about getting an electric car.
“This is another wake-up call for that,” Hooks said. “And Putin sucks.”
Pulling out of the Shell in Logan Square on Monday, Jeffries had just about 2 gallons of gas in his tank. Over the weekend, Jeffries said he “risked it” and drove 10 blocks on an empty tank to see if he could get a cheaper price.
It was only a 20-cent difference. Still too expensive, he said.
“My car just stays low on gas now. Before, we didn’t have to think about it all the time,” Jeffries said. “We would just get it and go.”
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: