Monday, June 20, 2005

One of the reasons that I have really enjoyed going carless (except for the motorcycle) for the last year.

From the Star Tribune's Op Ed:

Editorial: Less driving/It's a way to save big money
June 20, 2005

It should come as no shock: Rising gasoline prices have hit people hardest in sprawling cities that are heavily dependent on cars, and affected people least in compact cities that offer more options for getting around.

The lesson for federal and state governments now engaged in the transportation debate should be clear. Bigger transit systems and wiser land-use planning can cushion people against growing volatility in the world oil markets while saving a bundle of money.

An average family in a spread-out, auto-oriented city like Houston, for example, spent $4,286 more on transportation in 2003 than a similar family in denser, transit-friendly Baltimore -- and that was before the big spike in gas prices earlier this year. These figures are part of a new study released this week by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, which advocates for balanced transportation investments.

The study, based on figures from Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that a typical family in Minneapolis-St. Paul spent $2,473 more on transportation in 2003 than a similar family in Portland, Ore., a more compact city with an extensive and growing transit system. In other words, the Twin Cities family donated almost $2,500 to the oil companies that the Portland family got to use for other things.

It borders on lunacy for Minnesota's governor and Legislature to continue cutting transit service, raising fares and failing to make a long-term commitment to expand the system. Forcing Minnesotans increasingly to suckle at the spigot of "big oil" isn't good for the family pocketbook or the regional economy. Nor is it best for solving traffic congestion, air pollution or dependence on foreign energy sources.

Congress, now finally on the brink of new transportation legislation, should allow states more flexibility in spending federal dollars on non-auto projects. It should also increase transit funding, retain its commitment to reduce air pollution and encourage new land-use patterns that minimize driving.

We should begin coming to terms with reality. The Big Gulp era of gasoline consumption is ending. In the early 1960s, Americans spent 10 percent of their incomes on transportation. Now, 40 years later, on a sprawling landscape with far more cars, far more driving and incomes beginning to decline, Americans spend double that share -- 20 percent. That trend cannot be sustained.