CATCHING UP WITH THE WORLD
Our price per gallon is still much lower than what people in other countries are paying. In Europe they are spending the equivalent of $6-$8 a gallon. We've still got it easy in comparison but then they also have more public transit options than most of us in the U.S. have.
Here in Maine we have virtually no public transit. There is a Amtrak train that runs south from Portland to Boston but other than that forget it. Our state government is still spending the vast majority of our transportation funds on building more and wider roads. That won't do anything to help us deal with the steadily rising cost of gas.
Old timers in Maine talk about the days when they had trains connecting virtually every town in the state. You didn't need a car to get around. Then after the car was invented the automobile industry bought up most of the trolley systems across the country and shut them down so that people had to rely on the car.
I just can't imagine how people driving big fat trucks and SUV's can afford to put gas in them anymore. It must cost $100 to fill the tank. How long can they hold out at those prices before they have to get rid of their gas guzzlers?
How long will it be before most people can't afford to put gas in any kind of a vehicle? And when that day comes how will they get to work?
Years ago, in 1980, a friend and I started an organization in Orlando, Florida called The People's Transit Organization (PTO). We were urging Central Florida governments to stop spending all of our transportation money on roads and instead expand the public bus system and put light rail throughout the region. They told us we were nuts - people love their cars they said. We got a list of the 25 busiest traffic intersections in Orange County and held large signs at these spots for months. The signs said: Tired of Waiting at this Light?, Price of Gas Out of Sight?, We Need Mass Transit Right? We got a great response from the public and soon the politicians were putting pictures of themselves standing at the city bus station on their campaign brochures. Within a couple of years the City of Orlando doubled their bus system. Their public transit system there has grown dramatically since, though still not good enough to meet all the current demand.
We've all got to start talking more about the need for public transportation in our communities. We are hearing alot of stories about senior citizens who can't afford to drive a car anymore as they live on fixed incomes and worry just about paying for their heating bills or food. There are working people that can't afford to get to work. They need someone to advocate for them.
People in the peace movement could do a better job of connecting these issues. We should talk about how public investment in mass transit will help reduce the need for endless war for oil and will also go a long way in helping relieve some of the current pollution that is helping to cause climate change. Imagine the jobs created as we re-connect states like Maine with rail systems again.
We are long overdo for this kind of change.