Thursday, December 3, 2009

Please Support More Transit - Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Cars are getting more expensive to maintain, or even to buy. Gasoline prices will eventually outprice most of us who are low-income.
Right here in Cuthbert, GA, we are in Region 8, the most economically depressed set of counties in GA. By the 2000 census, 60% of renters can't afford a car. There are no jobs much here, except to work on the farm; young people flee to the cities leaving the under 18s, the disabled, and the retired.

Transit is desperately needed in our Southern cities, to alleviate pollution and reduce the carbon footprint. If you've never ridden a Greyhound or city transit bus like MARTA, I suggest you read my articles that I post here from Examiner.com, and get acquainted with the process. Start and stop traffic is murder on your car, and it is much cheaper to take a Greyhound between cities and use public transit in them. Don't let fear of the unknown stop you. When in an unfamiliar place, don't do things you wouldn't do at home. There are reports on various areas of Atlanta and other cities available online, but crime rates aren't the whole story. Most crime is opportunistic -- being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Leaving CD's out on your seat of your car. Acting like a tourist. Not keeping your purse or wallet out of easy reach of the pickpocket. What you see on the news is unusual. It's not the norm, or it wouldn't be news.

Using transit for your commute can save you some serious money. Just parking in downtown Atlanta can set you back $3-5 or more, depending on if you're charged by the half-hour or by three. A MARTA Breeze Card round trip is less than that [single use]. MARTA Trains are the most efficient way to get around Atlanta inside I-285. It's faster than driving. Start-and-stop driving takes its toll on your brakes and drive train, not to mention the transmission. Just taking the buses and trains for a trip or two a week would make a dent in your budget. Many employers have Guaranteed Ride Home programs, so if you have an emergency, you can take a cab - for free! -- as long as you're getting your discounted transit card for your paid bus/train trips from your employer. Xpress is a comfortable commuter bus service from 12 metro Atlanta counties, and it offers vanpool and Guaranteed Ride Home programs. Many major cities large and small offer programs such as these. Transit is a bargain, and can be very safe, as long as you take the time to know your destination. You can be a victim of crime, whether in the big city, or in a small rural farming town. If you want to know more about your particular neck of the woods, ask a local policeman. They can tell you where is safe, and where is not. Your street may not be as safe as you thought, or safer. Drugs are not a low-income problem, they are everyone's problem. Crime doesn't know county or city borders. Many Atlantans move to Gainesville, GA not realizing there is a serious gang and drug trafficking problem there! Moreso than anyplace in Atlanta.

Don't be scared to take public transportation. It's cheaper than driving. It's a great way to get around with a little planning, if you don't own a car. If you do, you can supplement with public transportation and free up a little money. It adds up. Mostly, it helps the carbon footprint, which is a little step towards living greener.

Support transit and commuter programs. Attend transportation 'town meetings' in your area. Transit agencies are remarkably responsive to their riders, or prospective riders. Ask your Representatives and Senators to support our severely underfunded transit agencies. I believe the time is coming soon when transit and intercity transportation will become profitable again, as it was during and before World War II. When it gets too expensive to drive as much, transit will grow. The time to plan for that time is now.

What about our highway system? I saw a US Dept of Transportation Report in 1999 that was the Projected Transportation Outlook for 2030. I worked in an academic library and we subscribed to these reports. It predicted gridlock in every major city by 2030, even if programs were in place in 1999 to expand transit, ridesharing, vanpool programs, creative programs like mopeds for rent in downtown areas, shared car programs, bicycle commuter programs, you name it. Of course, funding didn't happen for much of this, so we are in worse shape in the US.

Look at Germany. It and most of the EU has the most efficient railway system in the world. Few people need to drive. Electric cars are common because gas is twice or three times what it is here. Yes, Europe isn't as big as the US, but if you look at the transportation system we had in the 1940's before the family car became a given, we had a very efficient shared-ride system. This is the way things are going, like it or not. But, there are many more of us than during WWII. When enough of us have the frustrations of commuters in Atlanta, GA for example, more of us will be clamoring for transit. 2030 isn't that far in the future. New Yorkers have embraced shared rides - it's so expensive to park there, people take trains, buses, and taxis.

The very nice thing about taking public transportation is the ease of it. You can read or just enjoy the scenery out the window, or just plan your day or daydream. You don't have to worry about your foot hovering over brake or accelerator.

Teens are much safer on public transportation than driving - think about it - my daughter is learning to drive, kicking and screaming. We always took buses, so she wants to do that instead! Picture a group of teens on public transportation. They can talk, share headphones on their MP3's, and use their cellphones - quietly. Picture that group driving and using cellphones while doing it. Which venue do you think is safer?

My 14-year old starting getting groceries on the bus for me. She had a cellphone, courtesy of my ex, so i didn't worry. Anyplace she went that was further away from home - like the library - I just had her call me when she left, and in some places, we stayed on the phone together until she walked in the door. I taught her the basics of how to take the bus without me, and when I wasn't able to get out of bed, she was able to help me out with shopping. Maggie enjoyed it so much, she volunteered. Because of public transit, I could let her go shopping when she got a little birthday or Christmas money. I could send her to the store to get a forgotten item, or to get something for herself [I always let her get something for herself when she got groceries]. She always loved to go to the library, and she could go read the things she couldn't check out, and bring home a stack of books, even if I couldn't physically go with her. Mind you, I loved the library, too, but being disabled and unhealthy has its limits. My disability didn't have to keep her at home. Maggie was mature enough, I could trust her with the Food Stamp card, and later, with my checkbook. She learned a lot from those trips, from the mechanics of taking the bus directly to someplace, to transfers and getting places by a certain time [or, getting home before dark].

There's my picture of public transportation and how it fits in the great grand scheme of Infrastructure. Please, join me in letting Congress know how badly our country needs it, before gas prices get any higher. I've noticed large increases in the past couple months.

Posted via web from Dannis' Posterous From DanniStories

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