There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Friday, June 6, 2008

Signs of the times

I rode to work today on the bus with a guy who works at a Shell gas station. Think about that. In the future, will the ability to buy a tank of gas be another measure of the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots?

CNN offers a calculator that lets you figure out how many hours you have to work to fill up your car's gas tank. For instance, a person making $9 an hour needs to work nearly seven hours just to pay for 15 gallons at $4 a gallon, according to's gas calculator. Sort of a gas freedom day.

Times like this should be Sacramento Regional Transit's heyday. RT needs a proactive campaign to increase public awareness of the benefits of leaving your car at home and leaving the driving to RT. (Does anyone else remember Greyhound's ad campaign?) Such a campaign would go a long way toward building the pool of support necessary to push back against the Evil Transitator's effort to skim off transit money in order to backfill holes in the state budget. Helping people to appreciate the value of transit -- saving money, saving the planet, saving your mental health -- would also pay dividends when RT takes its expansion plans to the voters.

Now is the time to act.


Brian Goldner said...

I'm sorry...but shouldn't the real divider between the haves and the have-nots be the ability to buy the car in the first place?

i suppose that maintenance is pretty expensive too. All I know is that if I was struggling to make money (and I will once my college loans come out of forbearance) that i wouldn't want to spend thousands of dollars a year on a car unless i could sleep in it too.

John said...

I agree that living without a car is the goal. But having been raised in Los Angeles during the height of its freeway building, auto-centric years, I have an inherent fear of being completely carless. For me, going from one car per adult to one car per two adults is a realistic near-term goal. Of course, that presupposes everyone is married or at least sharing expenses.

Mattie said...

I've never owned a car in the 23 years I've lived in Sacramento. The lack of car expenses allowed me to buy a house on a fairly small income. I can get nearly anywhere on weekdays via RT or walking, but at night I'm stuck at home. I think more people would be able to live without cars if RT provided reliable, comprehensive service at night.

John said...

Mattie, I'm very impressed that you've made it 23 years without a car. I can imagine doing that in San Francisco or Oakland. Certainly there are lots of places on the East Coast where people never need to learn to drive. But Sacramento? That's really amazing.

Brian Goldner said...

the NYTimes has an article on areas most affected by gas prices. Urban areas actually tend to be better off due to higher incomes and alternatives to driving, while the rural poor are the worst off