Mass Transit Offers Economic Relief

Too often the proposed remedy for reducing traffic congestion is to increase highway capacity by adding more lanes, constructing more bridges and building new roads. Funds are provided annually at state and local levels and occasionally through federal bills. Without much deliberation or opposition, the money is used to expand and upgrade existing roads and cut new ones. Ask yourself this question the next time you have a clog in your kitchen or bathroom drain:  Should I install bigger pipes or reduce the amount of matter flowing through at once? I’m confident that the majority of us would immediately resort to the latter solution while announcing to all the occupants in the house, “don’t clog the drain with too much (insert appropriate matter here) at once!” I would think that this simple idea could be applied to a problem of greater negative consequences than clogged pipes or a wet floor. Too many single occupancy vehicles creating bottleneck nightmares also increase the demand for fuel. News flash: fossil fuel supplies are finite. At some point in the future, the supply will be even more limited than it is today, potentially causing more wars and costing more money, while demand perpetually increases considering the rate at which people buy cars. On practically every continent, owning a car is fast becoming a reality for the masses. Places like India and China, who are much more populous than the US, are building smaller and cheaper cars to expand their markets. It is preposterous to imagine a belt of asphalt that connects all the continents but the length of roads covered with tar could wrap the earth several times. While the number of cars on the roads increases, so do the costs of road maintenance. Fewer cars would mean less usage leading to a reduction in those costs.

Build and Persuade

When transit is available and reliable, ridership is substantial because it’s simply a better option in many cases. For example, driving into the Central Business District (CBD) of any locale is a costly annoyance. Finding a place to park will cost energy, time and gasoline in addition to the cost of the parking itself. Why bother with the stress if you could take a train into the city that stops a few blocks from your destination? According to a map, the northeast, specifically the state of New York, has the highest gas prices in the nation. Not surprisingly, the northeast also records some of the highest usage of transit. Gas prices and ridership have a tendency to experience a direct relationship. However, Michael Melaniphy, president of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), notes that the tipping point of gas price is around $4 per gallon. That is when the number of transit riders experiences significant increases. More practical transport options should be available, enabling people to make wise choices about when to drive and when to take transit.

At a time when a change in the climate is undeniable, the environmental costs and benefits are many. One such benefit of an increased use of transit is less pollution. I visited Los Angeles recently and saw for myself the haze that hovers over the city. Several people agreed that smog poses a very dangerous threat to the health and quality of life for people. Fresh air leading to fewer consequential and costly illnesses would be positive inputs to a healthy citizenry and economy.

Finally, I’m not advocating that everyone should get rid of their cars and take the train, the bus, walk or bicycle to work. However, many in the US recognize the importance of transit. From coast to coast, citizens across the nation have consistently supported ballot measures in favor of transit initiatives. Whether in Los Angeles or Virginia Beach, what is left is more political will in the investment and development of mass transit. Instead of spending money on the extraction and refinement of crude at any volume or cutting new roads that end up just as congested, those resources should be used for other deserving, beneficial programs and transportation initiatives.


U.S. Geography of Personality: The United States of Mind? « Cultural Geography « GeoCurrents

One expression of geography is the study of people and places and the impact they have on each other. The impact of the environment on humans is made obvious in this article from GeoCurrents. The maps show evidence of the hidden influences that surface through human behavior and attitudes based on place. While we as humans insist on subduing the earth and shaping it to fit our needs, we forget the bidirectional flow of effects. Cold climates will make you uptight, too much asphalt and concrete might make you apt to have schizophrenia just as economically depressed environments. Click on the link below for more in depth coverage.

U.S. Geography of Personality: The United States of Mind? « Cultural Geography « GeoCurrents.

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