Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How Everything Transportation Ties Together

I've found myself frustrated this year with the kids' activity schedule and locations. It seems like everything has conspired to keep us from being able to bike to anything. Many of the locations we have to go to are either on the far fringes of town (7 - 10 miles from our house) and/or on the opposite side of town from the next activity that we need to get to.

I can't help thinking how in the future fuel prices may affect businesses that choose to locate on the outskirts of town, forcing them to reconsider closer-in locations. I'm sure it's economically more feasible right now for them to rent or buy on the fringes, but as more of their customers simply can't make the drive, perhaps that will change. One bright note is that our karate dojo, where we spend an awful lot of time these days, will be getting a direct bus route. They're building a big bus stop for the "EMX" (express) bus right in front of the dojo. That's good news because since they relocated last year they moved from a 3.5 mile easy bicycling trip for us to get to the dojo to an 11 mile difficult and much more hazardous ride.

As the kids get older, the old location would've been something they could've biked to themselves, largely on bike-friendly streets and bike paths. The new location involves riding through some of the most bike-unfriendly streets in our area. Sadly, though they put in a beautiful new bike bridge crossing the interstate (making the bike commute easier and safer), they chose to end the path in the back of a big shopping mall, along streets with tons of people zipping in and out of parking lots. So although we could get most of the way there on bikes, the last mile would be something I wouldn't want the kids to be navigating on bikes (the last time I rode down that road on my own bike, I was almost struck twice). So the bus will be a good alternative once the line is completed.

I do worry though because so much of our bus funding is tied to gas taxes. While that sounds like a terrific way to fund public transport, the reality is that when gas prices go up and people can afford to drive less (and some people can't afford to drive at all), the funding for public transportation takes a dramatic nosedive. The last time gas hit $4 a gallon here, they started cutting bus routes! Clearly, we need a different approach to funding public transport so that as we begin our transition from a 1-car-per-person approach to a conservation-minded approach, people have options.

1 comment:

Walt said...


Ease of transportation has always been a good thing for business. The crux, I think, is to separate the availability of transportation and the social costs of transportation into two separate issues.

I other words, we want to keep our ability to move around easily. What we want to get rid of is the pollution and traffic, not the transportation itself.

Remember that the businesses do not pay the extra cost of customers having to drive to outlying locations - the customers do. Therefore in order to justify the higher costs of locating in town, the business has to either be able to charge higher prices, or gain enough extra sales to show more net income. So, the customers have to show that they value businesses in town by patronizing them, even if it costs a little more.

As an aside, isn't it interesting that having transport networks that allow (non-retail) businesses to locate in outlying areas and provide jobs there is seen as good, whereas having networks that only encourage people to use them to travel long distances to their jobs is seen as bad?