I filled my tank at a gas station in Santa Monica last week and the price was $4.09 for a gallon of regular. Ouch.
But the more painful that things become at the pump, the more our political and business leaders will finally realize that they need to take steps, and soon, to wean us from our self-defeating oil jones.
I’m not just talking about promoting conservation and offering incentives for people to buy hybrids and stuff like that. I’m talking about some radical thinking that could finally ease the epic commutes that are wasting so much time and fuel.
“Studies show that you only need to take 5% of cars off the road to make a difference,” said Sarah Catz, director of UC Irvine’s Center for Urban Infrastructure. “I remember the 1984 Olympics. I could just sail down the 405.”
These days, it’s an Olympic event simply getting to work.
American drivers spent 4.2 billion hours stuck in traffic in 2005, according to a recent report from the Texas Transportation Institute. That’s about 38 hours per driver, or nearly an entire workweek.
The institute estimates that all this congestion resulted in 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel, or about 26 gallons per driver. Factor in lost productivity, and you have an economic hit to the nation of more than $78 billion.
The only realistic answer I see to runaway fuel costs is to get us off the road more quickly. And that means cutting our commutes.
Let’s take advantage of what we have (a rapidly growing broadband data network) rather than waiting for what we don’t (a world-class, totally convenient public transportation system and cars that get 75 miles per gallon).
Photo by sundstrom.