EAST PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) – Gas prices in the Bay Area are racing towards pre-pandemic levels as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues and more cars and drivers hit the road.

“I just don’t understand how the gas can go up and people ain’t got no money,” said Prentiss McKnight. The 96-year-old says he lives on a fixed income in retirement and closely watches the rise and fall of gas prices, one of his biggest expenses.

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“I don’t see how people can afford gas going to and from work in their car. Because gas is so high. When people pay the gas bill, they ain’t got nothing left,” says McKnight.

Industry analysts say in the darkest days of the pandemic the demand for gas dropped sharply and so did the price. According to GasBuddy.com which track gas prices, the average per gallon in California bottomed out last April at $2.70 but has been climbing steadily ever since.

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Gas prices at a station in East Palo Alto on March 2, 2021. (CBS)

Gas prices at a station in East Palo Alto on March 2, 2021. (CBS)

“Yes, there is starting to be a lot of traffic on the roads. At the same time, there are a lot of people whose lives are very different than they were pre-pandemic,” says Professor Asha Weinstein Agrawal of San Jose State University.

Agrawal said it’s difficult to predict the long-term impact of the pandemic on the Bay Area’s traffic patterns. Many people are still working from home or have moved from the area, she points out.

However, commuters say it appears the brief break that we had from traffic and gridlock is coming to an end.

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“Six months ago, it was definitely lighter in traffic. You see a lot more traffic now. Around two or three (p.m.), University Avenue can get a bit neck to neck,” said commuter Brian Jenkins.