Reining in our automobile usage while living in the suburbs is starting to feel like trying to stay sober at a whiskey tasting: even if it’s possible, it seems counterproductive; contrary to the spirit of the endeavor. Still, we need to make the effort, for both practical and philosophical reasons.
The most obvious benefit is economic, of course: fewer miles driven will reduce our fuel expense and extend our vehicle’s service life. There are other tangible reasons, though. The closer we can stay to home, the better we’ll get to know our neighborhood, and we will help reinforce existing community ties as well as create new ones. Also, if society suddenly takes a turn for the apocalyptic, long-distance transportation and delivery of goods and services is going to take a big hit.
The philosophical and ethical considerations contain the idea of community-building, especially considering the incident with the stranger at our doorstep, but they extend beyond that: to how we live on this finite planet, how we treat those more vulnerable to the whims of fortune, and how we see ourselves as both citizens and consumers. Let’s face it: as radiation from Japan makes its way to the coast of Oregon, and ash from Mount St. Helens made its way around the world, we’re all in each other’s backyards now.
It’s not going to be easy, though. My wife would need 90 minutes to take a bus the 6 miles to her college campus, at $1.70 per trip. If our driving cost is 25 cents per mile, we save both cash and time if I bring her up there and go get her, 15 minutes each way, on the two days a week she needs to go. Public transportation isn’t supposed to work like that! It should be an appealing alternative, better in some tangible way than driving. More expensive and less convenient? That’s two giant steps backwards.
There’s more to the story, but it’s past my bedtime and I want to make sure this post goes out by Monday morning. I appreciate everyone who reads this and I’m trying to be more consistent with my updates. If you like this blog, tell a friend! (Telling me won’t hurt either.)