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Carless Unaffected by Gas Prices

June 28, 2000

CHICAGO (AP) _ Jerry Marcoccia is part of a relatively small _ and, these days, merry _ band of people in Chicago who are watching the gas crisis from the sidelines.

Marcoccia, a 43-year-old U.S. Department of Agriculture program analyst, knew the gas situation was serious after telling his father recently that he was happy he doesn’t own a car.

``For one of the first times he didn’t say, ’You’re crazy,‴ he said.

In their offices, homes and on the bus or train, those without automobiles are following the woes of Midwest drivers paying nearly as much for a gallon of gas as they pay for a gallon of milk.

``I always thought of a car as a way to lose money,″ said Joe Sylvester, 32, who sold his car in 1994 because he found he didn’t need it living and working in Chicago. With gas in Chicago selling for more than $2 a gallon these days, he said, ``Now it’s even more so.″

And there are other rewards.

``When you’ve been the butt of jokes by your car-driving friends who mock you and say it’s your fault they couldn’t find a parking spot because they had to pick you up, it is kind of nice when they start whining,″ said Suzanne Bish, 30, a Chicago attorney. ``You can say, ’See, if you didn’t have a car like me ... .‴

Sylvester sympathized with the plight of people who rely on their cars, like the taxi drivers he tips a little more generously these days. But he’s not as sympathetic for others.

``I sometimes see people on TV standing by their SUVs complaining about how much it costs to go to work,″ he said. ``That’s kind of humorous.″

What strikes Allison Harmon, who hasn’t had a car in the 2 1/2 years she’s lived and worked in Chicago, is that with all the complaining about gas prices, buses and trains don’t seem any more crowded than they did before gas prices began climbing.

``That’s been kind of discouraging,″ she said. ``You would think people would be driving less and using public transportation. But I don’t see that.″

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