June 19, 2008

The Addiction Spiral

Yesterday W. proclaimed that the cure to the US's oil addiction is to frantically search for more oil (in places like national parks, forests, the wilderness, etc. that have until now been off-limits to this sort of thing), while simultaneously "portraying Republican lawmakers as imaginative and forward-looking" for supporting the addiction. As I've said before, surreal. The main aim seems to be to scramble around for ways to make gas (temporarily) cheaper rather than to break the addiction by making it less central to daily life. All around me here there are increasing calls to reduce public transport funding, often enough as a result of there being less money available for it because gas prices have gone up. No one here spends much time talking about a unified Bay Area transport authority or extending BART so it's useful or articulating any sort of vision for public transport as a cure to oil addiction. No, we just (at best) witter on about more fuel-efficient cars (not a bad short-term idea, but then you should have seen the huge idiotic hybrid SUV on sale up the road the other day…); more commonly, we rage on and on about how the little people are victimised by the predictable consequences of an unsustainable lifestyle most of us actively chose and supported.

I live in a large metropolitan region that's a natural for public transport (and in many ways has some of the best public transport in the US), but in reality it's also a case study in how not to do public transport, and is in danger of losing what little it already has. Public transport is simply not an option for the vast majority of commuters in this region, and that's the result of explicit planning over the past fifty years to make that so. Public transport here (where it exists at all) is run by a set of Balkanized and under-funded authorities that (at best) only grudgingly cooperate with each other (to get the trivial distance to my main San Francisco digital imaging service shop from where I live I need to use three entirely separate transport authorities who do not coordinate schedules, let alone honour each other's tickets — and these three agencies are generally thought to be among the most cooperative in the region; the trip can take hours if the stars are misaligned), and who are forced by political realities to do whatever they can to cut back on services and to got to war against the other agencies.

Bush's solution? More of the same until the addiction kills us. Now that's forward thinking!

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