I saw this article in the New York Times today, and thought I’d mention it as a kind of part 2 of my commentary on high gas prices (see my post from a year ago here, although prices have continued to rise I don’t think my sentiments have changed a ton). I’ll let you read the article yourselves, but the basic synopsis is that with gas prices at all time highs, public transit systems are seeing record breaking ridership. It appears we might be near the “tipping point” where prices are high enough to convince people to train, bus, bike, or walk-it. Of course biking and walking won’t show up in these statistics, but you get the point.
The article contained one thing I’d like to quote:
The increase in transit use coincides with other signs that American motorists are beginning to change their driving habits, including buying smaller vehicles. The Energy Department recently predicted that Americans would consume slightly less gasoline this year than last — for the first yearly decline since 1991. [emphasis added]
Think about this. In 1991, I didn’t have an email address. I couldn’t even type very well. I listened to mix tapes on a Sony walkman (90-minute Maxell XLII tapes of course). MTV still played music, and we would see the release of both Ten and Nevermind that year. Kurt Cobain has now been gone more than a decade, and we have iPods, blogs, the interwebs, and instead of walking to my local record store I download albums from iTunes. But with all of those amazing technological advancements we came up with nothing to make our transportation-related energy use more efficient. In fact, we just kept using more and more. Just think if transportation saw the same step increase in technology that the walkman did. As tough as high oil prices can be for people, how many decades have people been making rational arguments for higher fuel economy, increased public transportation, and decreased dependence on fossil fuels? Just for argument sake, let’s say since the late 1970’s. And what have we done? If we would have heeded those warnings back then, when gas was $1.25 a gallon, perhaps it never would have reached this point.
Oh, and even with a cheap-o 9 year old car I still pay less for gas now that a medium-sized SUV driver did in 2000.
UPDATE, thought I’d add this clip from the 1999 Simpsons season.