Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Silver Lining To High Gas Prices

When a forest fire burns out of control, not only does it burn grass, shrubs and trees, it takes out cars, homes and even lives. The damage is incredible and the personal loss can be devastating. Yet from those ashes lives begin anew, the enriched soil, wet from winter rains blossoms with wildflowers and hopefully, those that build homes there do so with care, caution and respect for their environment.

The same can be said for gasoline and our global environment. The amount we consume combined with a society and economy that is addicted to oil has made prices skyrocket. We never really cut enough "brush" back from our homes in the form of clean energy (like wind and solar) and now it is hurting us in our pocketbooks. Though in this fiscal mess, there is promise on the horizon.

From The NY Times:

Some cities with long-established public transit systems, like New York and Boston, have seen increases in ridership of 5 percent or more so far this year. But the biggest surges — of 10 to 15 percent or more over last year — are occurring in many metropolitan areas in the South and West where the driving culture is strongest and bus and rail lines are more limited.

Here in Denver, for example, ridership was up 8 percent in the first three months of the year compared with last year, despite a fare increase in January and a slowing economy, which usually means fewer commuters. Several routes on the system have reached capacity, particularly at rush hour, for the first time.

“We are at a tipping point,” said Clarence W. Marsella, chief executive of the Denver Regional Transportation District, referring to gasoline prices.

That tipping point could possibly turn our national car culture into a transit society. Instead of building our homes in forests that burn every year, we might just start respecting our local, and consequently, our global environment.

The more people use mass transit, the more we win as a collective society. Instead of wasting money sitting in traffic, handing it over in fist-fulls to the oil industry and polluting our planet, we can invest in more and better transit systems. As the Times points out, people are starting to get it and if these ridiculous prices continue, we might have hope for the future.