Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Let's Defuel America

Streetsblog is reporting on Chrysler's plan to defuel America. If you plan on driving a lot, you should just go ahead and sign up for a brand new Aspen and get their Pricelock program. By locking the price at $2.99/gallon for 3 years, Chrysler will encourage its owners to drive more, thereby making fuel more expensive for everyone else.

It will also deplete America's energy resources at a faster rate than it would if Chrysler owners just let the market decide. I wrote at length about the supply and demand issues involved last month just after Senator Clinton urged a suspension of the gas tax.

One of the phrases which I did not use was moral imperative. Throughout that post, I talked about the value of each gallon of gasoline. Since oil is a finite resource, we will run out of the recoverable bits of it one day (although it will stop being cheap long before then). Therefore, I think it is appropriate to say that we have a moral imperative to use alternatives every chance we get.

As I have pointed out many times on this blog, everyone in America benefits when transit wins a new convert. Senator Coburn, one of Oklahoma's Republican Senators, is blocking a bill that will fund the Metro, even though the local jurisdictions have proposed a match of funding. According to Mr. Coburn, funding the Metro is the same as "stealing from our children."

On the contrary Mr. Coburn, transit funding is not stealing from our children, it is crazy gimmicks like Chrysler's and the proposed suspension of the federal gas tax that really steal from our children. Every time someone here in Washington choses the Metro over their car, they leave several gallons of gasoline for the rest of America to use, and that includes Oklahoma's children. They have a particularly raw deal--after all, Oklahoma doesn't have any rail transit alternatives, so they have to drive all the more.

And the good news is that we've finally managed to get people to ride transit. Seats are filling up and oil consumption is going down. Remember America, every time you choose an alternative mode of transportation over your car, you extend the deadline before which we must either come up with alternative fuels and/or redesign our society.

You also reduce the price of oil. I'm sure you've all seen the chain email that goes around encouraging Americans not to buy gas on a certain day in order to drive down oil prices. It doesn't work. At least it doesn't work if you still buy the same amount of oil. It does, however, work if you choose not to drive on a given day. So America, do you really want to stick it to the oil companies? Do you really want to hurt the terrorists? Do you really want to drive down oil prices?

Then take the train or bus.

Do your part to help ensure America's energy future. I know that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have assured you that there is no need to sacrifice, but the truth is Americans are already sacrificing. They are cutting back on charity, they are cutting back on driving, and they are cutting back on spending. Go on, help out your fellow Americans--it's easy. I'm not asking you to give up your car, just give it a try and take the subway to work one day.

And Chrysler, if you really want to refuel America, you'll hand out transit passes with your new SUVs.


Glenn said...

As a long-time devotee to the cause of public transportation, I really enjoy reading your blog. Concur with your entry of May 20 encouraging people to take transit if they want to truly reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. Perhaps I'm a radical, but I actually hope oil prices Do Not return to the $1-2/gallon level, as the only thing that will urge Americans from their cars is the search for cheaper alternatives. Period.

I'm excited about all the dicsussion of the Silver Line extension to the Metro. Since Metro also continues to revisit plans to build a line down M Street/Mass. Ave., I could see that M Street metro and Silver Line shaking out is as follows:

The new Silver Line would be built in phases.

Phase 1 is the construction of the metro out to Tysons and the Airport. This will require the re-alignment of the Blue line, as discussed in your blog and outlined by Metro.

Phase 2 is the construction of the new east-west line from Rosslyn to Stadium/Armory, down M Street and Mass. Ave. In my estimation, the Blue line will eventually be re-aligned permanently over the Yellow Line bridge, with only the occassional train running through Arlington Cemetery and Rosslyn to Downtown.

There are other alternatives, however. The Silver Line could replace the Blue Line entirely on the Virginia side of the Potomac, running from Dulles to Rosslyn to Franconia. This would require riders from Dulles to change trains to reach downtown, and no doubt building some track in Rosslyn to allow the Silver line to "turn right" and head south down the current Blue Line towards Franconia.

I'd personally like to see the Silver line extended southest from East Falls Church to Alexandria (Van Dorn St.), running along Rt. 7/Leesburg Pike. This would provide the beginnings of a "ring line" around DC. In this scheme, the Silver line would be built in 2 phases; Phase 1 as outlined above, and Phase two to connect EFC to Van Dorn. I would then follow that up with connection of the Silver line to a "Purple/Pink Line" (from your proposals), a ring line around the north of town, running fom EFC roughly around the Beltway clockwise, across the Potomac to Grosvenor, and contining to Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrolton.

Finally, a third proposal for the Silver Line would avoid Rosslyn altogheter and create an all-new Potomac River crossing at Spout Run from Georgetown, and run along US-29 in Arlington to EFC, never sharing tracks with the orange line and heading out to the Airport. This line could be set up as an express line, avoiding all of the Virginia Orange Line stations entirely, and stopping in only G-town, Convention Center, and Union Station inside the District.

Another alternative that might merit consideration is "splitting" the Yellow line, such that alternating Yellow trains terminate in Franconia and Huntington. The Blue Line would begin at King Street and run through Rosslyn to Downtown, but would be a "reduced-service line" (fewer trains) in order to accommodate the Silver & Orange traffic from Rosslyn to Downtown. I guess I just don't like the idea of splitting the Blue AND Orange lines as outlined in the Metro proposals.

Regardless, the possibility of building the M Street subway is a distant one, which is why I think Metro should give more thought to twin-termini on the Yellow line instead of splitting the Blue and Orange lines.

Thanks for entertaining my thoughts, and keep on pressing the cause of mass transit - there are those of us who are fully "on board"!

Brady Dorman said...

Great blog. I cringe every time I hear that stupid Chrysler / "Refuling America" commercial