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Record gas prices: 21 straight days

Average at the pump tops $3.94 a gallon, with 11 states and D.C. above $4. But crude futures are on the downturn.

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By Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer

When did you first start saving money?
  • Before I turned 18
  • In my 20s or 30s
  • After 40
  • Any day now

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Retail gas prices hit record highs for the 21st day in a row, motorist group AAA's Web site showed Wednesday.

The nationwide average for a gallon of regular unleaded rose to $3.944, up 0.7 cent from $3.937 Tuesday.

Meanwhile, crude oil prices retreated into the $126-a-barrel range Wednesday after dropping almost $5 a barrel from intraday highs to settle at $128.85 on Tuesday.

Crude oil hit record high prices last week above $135 a barrel, raising concerns that the march higher at the pump may not be easing anytime soon. However, if the price of crude continues downward, consumers may see gas prices come off their highs in the coming weeks, providing much needed relief.

Gas prices have been pushed to record levels in the past year on the back of record oil prices. As the price of crude oil has more than doubled, gas prices have increased by almost a quarter.

The AAA survey shows gas prices are up more than 9% from a month ago and more than 23% higher from year-ago levels. The average price for gas has passed the $4 a gallon mark in 11 states, as well as in Washington, D.C.

The most expensive state for buying gas is Connecticut, where a gallon of regular unleaded costs an average of $4.215, according to AAA. The second most expensive state is Alaska, where a gallon of gas costs $4.18.

The least expensive state for purchasing gas is Missouri, where a gallon costs $3.756 a gallon on average. The second least expensive state for gas is Wyoming, where a gallon runs $3.762 a gallon.

The climb in gas prices, which have steadily risen over the past three weeks, comes amid the start of the summer driving season, which unofficially began Memorial Day weekend.

In the face of surging prices, however, consumers are cutting back on the number of miles they clock on the road and using mass transportation when it is available.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it has seen ridership increase 4.5% this year over last year. Basic fare for a bus or subway ride in Los Angeles is $1.25, while, according to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gas is $ $4.085 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area.

The Regional Transportation District in Denver reported a record number of passenger trips - 97.76 million - for the year ended in February, up 13.1% over the year-earlier period. Daily passenger boardings for the system's light rail operations reached 67,893 in February, up 8.7% from a year earlier.

In San Francisco, Bay Area Rapid Transit has seen a ridership increase of 7.4% between this year and last year.

"Ridership is determined by the cost and convenience of commuting," said BART spokesman Linton Johnson. "Gas prices probably have the biggest role in that formula now because they're high but bridge tolls, parking, and congestion all play a big role."

Ridership on Utah's public transportation system has risen 9% year-over-year as of March. Washington D.C.'s Metro weekday ridership came in at 771,811 in April, up slightly more than 4% from the year before.

CNN's Jennifer Rizzo and Karina Frayter contributed to this report.  To top of page

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