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The impact of gas prices in Los Angeles

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Gasoline prices continue to surge, especially in California, which has some of the most expensive gas in the country. From member station KQED, Saul Gonzalez reports on how drivers in the Los Angeles area are coping.

(SOUNDBITE OF GAS CAP OPENING)

SAUL GONZALEZ, BYLINE: What's an easy way to start a conversation in LA right now? Just ask people about the price of gas - like Susan Bamoot (ph), who's filling up at a service station for six bucks a gallon.

SUSAN BAMOOT: So I think it's ridiculous.

GONZALEZ: Bamoot is an on-set medic for Hollywood film and TV shoots, a job that keeps her in her car a lot.

BAMOOT: Well, yeah, because we have different locations when we shoot productions, and I have to be there. So, I mean, I go through at least 125 bucks a week on gas versus before, it was maybe 60 bucks a week.

GONZALEZ: Although she has a Hollywood job, Bamoot says she and her family have a blue-collar lifestyle. Now they're looking for every opportunity to save money to help pay for gas.

BAMOOT: It's awful. And it takes a big chunk out of my pay.

GONZALEZ: Where are you finding some extra savings?

BAMOOT: By not cutting my hair (laughter) - yes. And, you know, we don't go out to eat, so we just cook at home.

GONZALEZ: And just kind of making sure you take no unnecessary trips because you're driving so much, probably.

BAMOOT: Oh, absolutely. I go nowhere else unless I absolutely have to.

GONZALEZ: At another gas station a few miles away in Hollywood, Lester Doulset (ph) is filling up his old BMW. High gas prices have got him thinking about his next car.

LESTER DOULSET: You got to start thinking about getting a Tesla. You got to start thinking about getting a hybrid. My friend just recently got a Tesla, and in the past four months, he's spent $140 on charges, which is nothing compared to gas.

GONZALEZ: But buying a pricey electric vehicle isn't an option for low-wage immigrant workers...

(SOUNDBITE OF LANDSCAPING EQUIPMENT RUNNING)

GONZALEZ: ...Like residential gardeners, whose incomes depend on driving to work sites with their equipment.

ROSA MORGADO: (Speaking Spanish).

GONZALEZ: That's gardener Rosa Morgado (ph). She says she and her husband drive about 2 hours daily round trip. They live inland but commute to clients' yards in affluent San Marino.

MORGADO: (Speaking Spanish).

GONZALEZ: Morgado says she and her husband are struggling with all kinds of price increases now, from food to gas to rent. She'd like to charge her clients more to cover her increased fuel costs but is afraid of losing business.

MORGADO: Some people, yeah. But I don't know. Some people don't like to pay too much.

GONZALEZ: California's governor, Gavin Newsom, has promised to help drivers. Here he is in March.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GAVIN NEWSOM: It's clear we have to go farther. And that's why working with legislative leadership, I'll be submitting a proposal to put money back in the pockets of Californians to address rising gas prices.

GONZALEZ: Newsom's proposing giving drivers a gas debit card worth $400, but the idea has stalled in the legislature.

Back at the gas station, Susan Bamoot says a few hundred dollars from the state won't help her much.

BAMOOT: That's a short-term Band-Aid. We need to fix this.

GONZALEZ: You just want some kind of help to come from somewhere.

BAMOOT: That would be nice. That would be nice. It would be great to go get my hair cut.

GONZALEZ: On this day, Bamoot is only filling up her tank halfway for 50 bucks.

For NPR News, I'm Saul Gonzales in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF JHENE AIKO SONG, "B.S.") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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