A Better Answer to High Fuel Prices

By Mary Nelson 4-30-2008

Recently, both President Bush and an oil company spokesperson, speaking to the rising gas prices, pushed for building more refineries and upping the production of oil here in the States. No mention of exorbitant oil company profits. No mention of our need to drastically reduce use of cars and gasoline, to change lifestyles. No mention of the working poor who are stuck without public transportation to jobs remote from their inner-city or inner-ring suburban homes.

Reducing dependence on the automobile will mean a lot more than raising fuel efficiency standards for cars and buying more efficient automobiles. It will need a change of lifestyle, removing frivolous car trips, using public transportation, and changing the priorities of government transportation funding. Only about 25% of the transportation dollars in most places now support public transportation, and it is hard to find public transportation to many jobs in the suburbs. The highway and automobile lobby have been effective on the national and state level. We've got to change that with loud and strong voices for public transportation.

One has to allow more time to get places using public transportation--perhaps a good thing to slow down our rushing lifestyles and get more exercise getting to and from. My elevated train route is a microcosm of society: suited suburban riders with neighborhood service workers, elderly and young, white and black, Hispanic and Asian. The trains are refreshing "bumping into" places where different people mix and find common ground in talking about the most recent delay, laughing at the antics of a child, and rolling our eyes at some loud cell phone talker.

Would that more sermons, writings, and our voices push elected officials for more and more available public transportation, for the sake of equity, for community, for our health. We would all be the better for it.

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