Gas is expensive. That’s a no brainer. Most people are bemoaning the increased prices in gasoline and pushing the government to do something about it. However, I don’t have a problem with expensive gas. Now before you go and accuse me of being one of those people who doesn’t drive and takes public transportation or walks everywhere, that’s not me. I drive to work everyday. Yes, you read that right. I live in the same city in which I work and I drive to work. It’s about a mile and a half each way, but I drive. Why do I drive? Easy. I’m lazy. I don’t like mornings. Driving gives me the opportunity to sleep a little later. Why don’t I just take the bus you ask? Another easy one. The bus is not convenient in Providence unless you live downtown or live and work on the same bus route. Susan takes the bus everyday for a couple reasons. The first is that we live on the same bus route as the one that goes to Brown. The second is that there’s a waiting list for a parking space at Brown, which would cost $400 per year and would likely be the same distance as if she walked halfway to work. So long as she’s working at Brown, she will never drive to work. If I could easily take the bus, I would. But I can’t. I don’t walk because I live and work on a hill, but there’s a valley in between and a 4 lane “super highway” is the only reasonable route to walk. I also sweat a lot, and we have a ridiculous dress code at work (one that no other college I know of has). Now that the PC gym charges, I can’t just stop there and take a shower at work. It would take me about half an hour to walk to work, it would actually take me a little longer to take the bus.
Now, why is $4 (and rising) gas a good thing? Because it forces people and the government (federal, state, and local) to rethink things. Public transit ridership has increased greatly across the country. People are moving closer to work. More people are telecommuting when possible. All this adds up to less pollution, less congestion on the roads, and less suburban sprawl.
With all of this, there is good reason for people to petition their local and state governments to increase public transportation options and increase the money they spend on public transportation. Local governments should enforce good urban design and help create walkable neighborhoods. There is no reason that the United States should not have a quality extensive, inexpensive railway network across the country connecting all the major cities. People in Europe travel almost exclusively by train, public transportation, walking, or bicycles. It all depends on how far they’re going. There is no reason people in the United State shouldn’t be doing just that. However, we do not have an extensive railway network. We do not have the extensive public transportation options of Europe. Aside from our major cities and some smaller village centers, we do not have walkable neighborhoods. The 50’s and 60’s and the new “American Dream” of white pickett fences, expansive lawns, and large houses in the suburbs killed all of that. We have taken cheap gas, something Europe has never seen, for granted. We are now paying the price of the suburban dream.
Time has a great article called “10 Things You Can Like About $4 Gas”. It’s worth a read. Maybe I’ll attempt to ride the bus to work sometime this summer. If it’s not as bad as I expect it to be, perhaps I’ll do it all the time. In the meantime, I’ll continue to drive. I have stopped coming home for lunch to save some gas.