Gas prices spike Here is a look at average gas prices as of Friday across several Colorado metro areas and at the state and national level.

Boulder-Longmont: $3.55 Friday, up from $3.53 Wednesday

Colorado Springs: $3.54 Friday, up from $3.51 Wednesday

Denver: $3.54 Friday, up from $3.53 Wednesday

State of Colorado: $3.58 Friday, up from $3.56 Wednesday

National: $3.78 Friday, up from $3.77 Wednesday

Source: AAA's daily fuel gauge report, which draws data from the Oil Price Information Service

As recently as Jan. 23, local motorists were enjoying low fuel prices that hadn't been experienced in more than a year, with the average cost of regular unleaded gasoline in Boulder sitting at $2.80 per gallon, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

The last time gas prices were below $3 before that, was in February 2012, according to the service.

But the good times didn't roll for long, as prices have quickly and steadily increased every week since, with regular unleaded sitting at an average of $3.56 per gallon in Boulder on Wednesday, according to the service. Over that same one-month period, the statewide average has climbed 73 cents, from $2.83 per gallon to $3.56, and the national average has gone from $3.31 to $3.77.

Nearby communities have enjoyed lower average fuel costs than Boulder, but have also seen a recent spike. Over the last month, gas in Longmont has gone up from $2.76 per gallon to $3.48 as of Wednesday, and Broomfield's average prices have jumped from $2.68 to $3.47

While prices have been higher in recent memory -- unleaded regular was going for $3.79 per gallon as recently as Oct. 3 in Boulder -- the spike has led some area residents to wonder, what gives?

Bruce Pfieffer, 60, is a Boulder resident who works in the finance department at the University of Colorado at Denver. He drives his Toyota Corolla from his north Boulder home to the Table Mesa Park-N-Ride before catching a bus to work, meaning he only has to fill up his tank every three weeks or so. For him, the spike in prices was especially visible when he filled up this week for the first time since January.

"I've been driving since 1968 and I've never seen gas prices jump that much in such a short time range in my life," said Pfieffer, 60, who for the past several years has tracked what he spends on gas on financial software on his home computer. "Seventy cents in less than four weeks. I expect it to fluctuate. I expected it to go back up again, but this much, this fast is pretty unusual."

Wave Dreher, a spokeswoman with AAA Colorado, said gas prices often spike at this time of year as domestic refineries do seasonal maintenance and prepare to switch over to summer blends of gasoline. But at the same time, Dreher said a slight rebound in the economy has more people on the road.

"Whenever the economy seems to improve or people are more optimistic the demand goes up, and there are more people chasing fewer gallons of gas," she said. "It basically comes down to good old supply and demand."

According to Dreher, things may get worse before they get better locally. She said Colorado refineries have yet to make the switch to summer brands, which will add about 10 cents per gallon.

"What we always see this time of year is a trend up," she said. "Typically, we hit the peak in May right before summer driving season, but last year it came in the middle part of April. We may have an earlier peak this year because the ramping up started earlier."

Boulder's Jennifer Shopland, 61, filled up the tank on her Lexus sedan Tuesday at the Shell Station on the corner of Arapahoe Avenue and 55th Street, where regular was going for $3.65 per gallon. Shopland said she works in Niwot and doesn't have much of a choice but to buy gas for her 14-mile roundtrip. Higher fuel costs are factoring in to her looming decision to buy a new car.

"My daughter's car broke, so I have to buy a new car," she said as she put a quick $20 in her tank Tuesday, noting she prefers to get gas at King Soopers where she gets a discount as a frequent shopper. "I'm thinking of something that gets good mileage."

Speaking of King Soopers, the grocers' gas station on the corner of 30th Street and Arapahoe was busy Tuesday afternoon. Dan Kingdom, 45, was among the motorists who took advantage of the shopper discount there, getting 5 cents per gallon knocked off the $3.59 base price.

"I'm just in the habit of coming here. It seems to be the best price in town," said Kingdom, who works in real estate and has to drive often for work.

"It seemed like we were getting to better prices and then it spiked again, so you're definitely thinking about it as your drive," Kingdom said. "I am more mindful of trying to get good, efficient use of my driving time."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or rubinoj@dailycamera.com.