Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another One Rides the Bus

I live in an area where public transportation is nonexistent.

Oh, we have a regional transportation authority that runs intercity buses and semi-regular routes through Idaho Falls, a city of 55,000 a half hour south of our town of 1,200, but there’s nothing that approaches regular bus service.

We do a lot of walking around town. Our kids ride their bikes to school. We walk to church, the store, the post office.

I commute to work. I have to; I work 178 miles away from home, round trip. I drive my truck 7 miles on way to the bus stop, then sit on that bus for 1 ½ hours each morning and each night because to drive that route is inexcusably expensive. I’d go through a tank and a half of gas a week. Driving to work simply isn’t an option.

Nobody outside of the federal workers who have the right to take our buses has that privilege where I live. Mass transit, in all its planet-saving glory, isn’t economically feasible.


There’s always a yet.

Folks who live in the big city want to increase our gasoline taxes, because, well, they have mass transit systems. Increase the gas taxes, they say. That’ll get people out of their cars and onto public transportation.


Not where I live. I figured it out. A trip to one store – one store, mind you – in Idaho Falls (where we do our grocery shopping; don’t ask us to do it locally because if we do we can spend, on average, an additional $70 to $100 a month on food) would cost us, for one person, upwards of $30. One trip. And take half a day. And require lots of luggage to carry our food; we buy in bulk.

Not going to happen. We will drive. Even if gas taxes go up ten cents a gallon – the figure I hear bandied about the most – it’s still cheaper and more convenient for us to drive, carbon emissions be damned. Because given our scanty population base, any national gasoline tax levied for the funding of mass transportation systems ain’t gonna come to us. It already barely trickles here.

Then I look at states like New Jersey, where the governor killed a $2.7 billion (their portion, the total tab, from New York and the feds, more like $8 billion) because the state just can’t afford it. All that to get a mere 22,000 cars off the road a day. That’s money well spent?

The City of New York, by the way, is eliminating public transportation routes as they increase prices for their dwindling service. This is their third price hike in two years.

In many cases, I’m sure even with the price hikes, what the folks in New York are being charged is a bargain. I know I enjoyed the convenience of the metro systems in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Paris. But a system of that magnitude is just not economically feasible where I live. So to assume that an increase in gas taxes is going to push me onto public transportation begs the question: Do I have public transportation to be pushed onto? I already use a bus to get to work, and I pay for the privilege. Don’t assume I’ll forego gasoline to put money into public transportation which, in its present form, is incredibly inconvenient. Yeah, more money in the system, more ridership, would make the option more palatable. But that’s putting the cart before the horse – they’d get more riders now if their routes were more convenient.

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