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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Vehicles

I had a revelation while standing at the bus stop (for half an hour after the bus was scheduled to arrive, I might add) yesterday afternoon. I was standing at the curb, watching all of cars and vans and trucks drive by. Whenever the traffic light stopped them, I could peer into the front of each car. With almost every single car, the only occupant was the driver, with an occasional single rider in the passenger seat. Meanwhile, every car I saw could have seated a minimum of four people.

Then it hit me: why can’t everyone ride-share? I don’t mean neighbors or coworkers; I mean picking up hitchhikers, total strangers who need to go in the same direction you are already driving. I guarantee that at least 90% of those cars could have taken me at least halfway closer to home than I was while standing at that corner in Oakland. Even a few blocks would have been helpful, because when my ride planned to turn in another direction, I could have simply gotten out of the car. Furthermore, all of those cars were going in the same direction. Imagine if all of the drivers had all been inside one vehicle?

I suppose that is the idea of buses: to allow people going in the same direction to share the same vehicle. However, as Americans, we are loath to give up our cars and the freedom they provide. Yet, if we all shared rides, imagine how many fewer cars we would need. Imagine the gas—and therefore money—we could save. Imagine the pollution that would be prevented. At the very least, imagine a world with no more rush hour!

I guess living in Europe has made me a huge advocate of mass transit. It is simply more efficient in terms of moving many people with fewer vehicles on the road. It is comparatively cheaper, and it makes people less lazy—your destination is almost never five feet away from your bus stop; it usually requires walking at least a block or so. No one riding a bus or train ever experiences “road rage,” nor are passengers generally impatient unless their bus/train is late. On a bus, you are not constantly waiting for a light to change or trying to switch lanes to pass a slower vehicle. In fact, although a bus may reach your destination in a greater amount of time than it would take to drive to the same location, you actually save time by being able to multitask on a bus. (Although, some people do try that while driving their cars. Hence, why many states have outlawed talking on cell phones while driving. Reading, however…not advisable, even if it is legal. And what about “interactive” reading? That’s called texting, probably a more dangerous activity than actually talking on a cell phone.)

Also, through the influence of many of my friends, I am becoming—if not a full-fledged activist—at least more environmentally aware. While I am not to the point at which I would completely change my lifestyle for the sake of environmental conservation (I need my air-conditioning!), I don’t mind doing what I can, especially when it causes no inconvenience to me. Case in point: ride the bus and carpool whenever possible.

Besides, like I am sure you know, I am the queen of multitasking. How would I ever get all of my reading done if I were driving a car for 50% of my day?

3 comments:

Gordon said...

One of my fellow PSC students at WUStL declares that the train from St. Louis to Chicago is the secret to getting all his grading done. He goes to Chicago frequently anyway, so, although he has a nice, fuel-efficient, small car and there is certainly never a shortage of friendly demand for a ride to Chicago, it's worth it to him to pay for a ticket and get six hours each way to mark papers and exams from the classes he's TAing.

Incidentally, when I lived in the DC area, I used Metrorail and Metrobus to get most everywhere, especially back and forth between home in Hyattsville and work on the other side of the city in Tysons Corner. (Look them up on Google Maps if you like.) I never, ever used the time for anything productive, though (well, save reading the newspaper most mornings). Rather, the Metro was where I came out of my shell a little and had some real, engaging, unstructured human interaction (read: it's where I talked to, for lack of a better term, pretty girls — although far from exclusively). It remains amazing to me how much people, for the most part, really seemed to enjoy having that contact on the train either early in the morning or when returning home. I get the sense that that was an "only in Washington" experience which the patrons of other American subways would not be nearly so helpful in reproducing.

The latest trilogy, if you will, of posts that you've produced was neat to read all at once. There are so many different issues in play in the food one, especially. Hrm.

Kelly said...

I went to a Red Sox game in Boston. It was a trip sponsored by my company, so there was a group of 50 that went on a tour bus. We got there incredibly early and took the T away from Fenway to Government Center. On the way back, the train was PACKED with people in Red Sox gear, going to the game.

I did notice, too, that there weren't very many parking lots surrounding the stadium. I just think that Pittsburgh is quite different from most other cities. Parking is ample and somewhat cheaper than in larger cities.

Kelly said...

actually, in dc, there is a problem of 'slugging' i think it's called, where a bunch of people stand on the side of the road, and people driving into town pick them up so they can go in the hov lane.

there's been no recorded incidents, yet the police are Not Happy with this.

crazy, ain't it?