Magazine article The Christian Century

Running out of Gas

Magazine article The Christian Century

Running out of Gas

Article excerpt

Observers of American life have long wondered what it would take to disrupt our love affair with cars. It turns out that $4-a-gallon gasoline might do the trick. Last year for the first time in 28 years, Americans drove fewer miles than the year before. Automakers can no longer sell their highly profitable but gas-guzzling SUVs. And across the country, mass transit systems have seen an increase in ridership, in some cases a dramatic one: ridership is up 11 percent in San Antonio, 17 percent in Baltimore and 28 percent in Seattle, according to the Associated Press. Summer driving plans are being altered. "Park and ride" lots for commuters are full.

Ironically, just as Americans are ready to park their cars and climb on a bus or train, many mass transit systems are financially squeezed. They have to absorb the higher fuel prices while also dealing with aging tracks and vehicles. Mass transit is heavily subsidized by state and federal governments, and government funding has remained flat in recent years.

So here is an opportunity for creative public leadership. Now is the time to refurbish and expand bus routes, light rail lines and passenger train service. Investing in mass transit is investing in a major public good--something good for the environment and good for the quality of life. …

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