At the peak of America's COVID-19 response, shelter-in-place orders kept much of the country home and, consequently, demand for gasoline down. Yet some parts of the country bucked the trend of less-frequent fill-ups by averaging more frequent visits to the gas pump, with some regions stopping for gas even more often—many of them presumably tempted by prices as low as $0.62 a gallon.
According to a study by navigation app GasBuddy, Americans' average number of trips to the pump fell from 4.5 monthly to 2.8 between the dates of March 1 and May 31—a decrease of more than a third. But that aforementioned cheap gas drew many people back to stations for frequent fill-ups, especially in the Great Lakes region, where half of the country's biggest lockdown-period gas guzzlers were located.
Topping the Midwest for lockdown fuel consumption was Chicago, whose residents averaged 6.5 stops at the pump per month. These stops, however, were usually for small top-offs, which kept Chicago out of the top 10 for total fuel volume purchased. The only city to fill up more frequently was Dallas at 7.2 visits per month, and it had company from its two Texan mega-city sisters Houston and San Antonio, which were close behind at 6.4 and 6.3 monthly visits respectively.
Unsurprisingly, major tourist destinations dot the other end of the spectrum, with cities such as Las Vegas, Memphis, San Francisco, San Diego, and Detroit all appearing in the bottom 10. Some of these cities' home states enforced some of the longest stay-home orders, keeping tourists out and nonessential workers at home, which limited the number of people out on the roads, and thus, gas consumption.
Municipalities that lifted their curve-flattening measures first tended to buy more fuel than those that approached reopening more cautiously, with Dallas residents filling up twice as often as Las Vegas residents on average. One significant example of this was Birmingham, Alabama, whose stay-home order expired April 30, leading to its residents buying a 31 percent greater volume of gas from March through May than those of Los Angeles, California. Per the Los Angeles Times, LA County's shelter order may remain active into the summer, so the West Coast's thirst for fuel may not rise again until after gas prices have.
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