Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Oh, Boo Hoo
OK, I know I'm not being very nice by laughing so hard at the current "gas crisis." I shouldn't be laughing, I just got my first car, and now gas prices are nearing $5 a gallon!
But I just clicked on CNN.com and saw an item they have on there which was described thusly: "The record-high price of gasoline is putting a strain on American motorists - and spurring some to shift their habits. Here are their stories." Oh good lord. Their stories about finally thinking about their consumption habits?? The photo spot next to the item shows a running slidehow of presumably normal (white) Americans, some with rosy-cheeked kids in tow, staring poignantly into the camera. "Gas is so expensive!" They seem to be saying, "How could you do this to me, God??!!"
All I could think was: It's about time, sheesh.
Now, I understand that the U.S. is a car culture , and it's not most peoples' fault that they drive so much. There aren't many options, unless you live in a big city, for getting around without a car, and even in most cities, the options aren't very welcoming. I mean I should know, I've taken the bus at 11:30 at night from events in San Francisco; I know the discomfort of waiting in the cold for a bus that may or may not arrive, when all you want to do is be home and warm and in bed. I know the shady characters that you seek to avoid by staring at your shoes as you take your seat, knowing, just knowing, that they'll choose you to sit next to.
I know that people need to work, and buy food, and have a social life. And because we don't have the infrastructure that most countries have, of a decent public transportation system, and that though we have the technology to make cars that pollute less, for various reasons such cars are not available for the majority of Americans, and that we have to rely on the options we have, which in most cases, are gas-fueled cars.
I know all this. But I still find myself thinking "It's about time. Sheesh."
Maybe because I know there are options out there for ways to get around without a car, and those options don't scare me, I don't find gas prices an issue. And I have to admit that my self-righteousness kicks in when I see these overwrought news items about how people are finding ways to get around by driving less. It's about time!
Another item I saw reported that the ridership on Caltrain has jumped by something like 7%, and that there's standing-room-only on some commuter trains. It's about time!
Because these ways have been around for years! These are not new options! In the 24 years that I have been taking public transportation, nothing has changed. There are still the same BART and bus lines that I have been taking since I was 14 years old. And why has ridership been down in recent years? Because people haven't been thinking about the gas they're consuming. Even with a pointless, bloody war over oil, most people haven't cut back on their driving. But when it hits the pocketbook: Oh My.
I'm hoping that gas prices stay high because I finally see people paying attention. In my ideal world, this will mean that whoah, we might see some efficient public transportation being developed! And amazing, we might see alternative-fueled vehicles that actually come to fruition, and might actually be affordable for more people. And my lord, we might see more development of sustainable live/work communities that include easy walking or biking access to the places that humans frequent. Oh, and, wonder of wonders, we might even see people developing communities around sharing: sharing cars, sharing food, sharing knowledge, sharing lives. Wouldn't it be wonderful? And it might all be because dammit, we can't afford to drive everywhere anymore.
It's about time!