Friday, August 12, 2005

Don't Want To Get Gas?

As a life-long supporter and rider of public transportation, and a person who has been car-free for the last three years, I watch the higher fuel prices with some amusement. I think that it is further proof that we need to develop more systems of public transportation, especially in suburban areas and smaller, regional urban centers.

Living in the suburbs is almost as bad as living in a rural area. You almost need a car. In the Chicago suburbs, the state of affairs is better than it is elsewhere with the PACE bus service. The schedules are, however, limited and they are worse on the weekends. To go long distances involves many transfers and the schedules are somewhat flexible.

I believe that it should be possible for people in urban, suburban and exurban areas to move around, attend to their obligations and live life without a car or the burdens therein. People work to support the cars that take them there. This is a waste of resources and time.

How can it be done? There are two cities of moderate size that have come up with an innovative solution from the past. The cities in question are Portland, Oregon and Kenosha, Wisconsin; the solution is streetcar systems.

Check out Portland's system here.
Check out Kenosha's system here.
Also, check out the website of Light Rail Now.

These systems operate in the same neighborhoods as busses, but at lower cost and with better utilization of energy through the use of alternative fuels or electricity which stretches all of the fuel budgets, providing safe, reliable transportation at a cost savings to the user.

Also, it would not be a bad idea to offer people incentives on taxes for regular use of public transportation (like they do with alternative fuel automobiles). It would give people reason to ride and not drive and pass on an incentive to the people.

This is not even accounting for cities with "legacy systems" that changed routes or equipment from old, pre-WW II systems. You see, my friends, most cities of any size had a streetcar system that served and was used by millions in the years before the Second World War. Some of these systems lasted until after World War II, but they slowly died until Pittsburgh ran its last line in 1999. That leaves only San Fransisco and Boston's Green Line (or portions of it anyway).

For more of this history, check out Jon Bell's wonderful page on light rail and transit systems, their history and future.

Leave the car at home. Take the train, bus, streetar, ferry or whatever. You can be confident that you are making a decision to help the earth, save some money, really get to know your hometown and encounter your fellow citizens in a meaningful and real way. Some of the most interesting experiences that I have had involve riding public transportation.

So, to quote the late great big rock star Wesley Willis, "Get on the city bus."

1 comment:

Frema said...

Streetcars would be awesome! I'd feel just like I did riding the train that wraps around Great America as a kid. Man, I loved that thing.

Public transportation was something I loved about Chicago. I could read, sleep, sleep, sleep....