But we couldn’t get out of our cars if we wanted to…which we don’t.
That’s the conundrum out here in the land of the automobile. We’d all like to do our bit for the environment — and out-of-control gas prices awaken in us a fervent desire to save at the pump through the simple expedient of driving less — but while a leisurely Sunday meander down the coast aboard Amtrak is just fine, when Monday comes, we need our cars.
We need to be first in line at the pump (remember the gas lines of the late 70’s, cars lined up a hundred deep at 5 a.m., awaiting the arrival of the sad, slow-shuffling proprietor?), first off the freeway exit, lead car in the power lane and everybody look out! In the paper the other day, there was a letter from a concerned consumer suggesting that we go back to the draconian 55-mile-per-hour speed limit to conserve each precious pint, quart and gallon. What a dreamer.
The West is a mystery to those who live in the East. My daughter’s in-laws in Buffalo still don’t entirely believe that there aren’t Indians running wild out here. (Well, they’re right if you’re talking about Warm Springs)
But they have no conception of the how big it is and how spread out we are. Those who live in the urban enclaves such as Portland or Eugene might be able to ride the Max or bicycle to work, but for the rest of us that option is simply not feasible. It wouldn’t matter if they suddenly had a train every hour through my town, it still wouldn’t do any good.
The thing is that we just don’t have the public transit coverage they do in the urban area, it’s because even if we did, we wouldn’t ride it. Not that there is any danger of public transportation suddenly becoming popular around here.
I live close to work. By close I mean seven miles. I suppose that I could bike it. But I’m 56 years old and I really don’t want to ride in the rain. Even if I did, I wouldn’t want to take the time.
That’s the rub, isn’t it? The time. Public transportation, buses, trains, streetcars, no matter how they’re configured, run on their time, not yours. They’re there for people who have the time, or just don’t have any other choice. Who would choose to take the train to wait at a terminal to ride the bus to run an errand? Not me. I’ll just jump into my pickup, go and come back. After all, why should I spend time that I could be wasting on line sitting around a bus shelter wondering when the bus was going to show up, and hoping that today is Estonian Solidarity or Muslim Appeasement Day which would require the drivers to take sensitivity training instead of driving the bus.
No thanks, even when I visit Portland or Eugene I eschew the public transport, though I might make use of it if all of us taxpayers who funded it but don’t use it got passes.