15 February 2008

A Compromise on Global Warming

I talk about Global Warming from time to time. I think that it's bunk. Yes, the average temperature has risen slightly in the last century, but no more than it may have been expected to rise (or fall) on its own regardless of human activity. The temperature increases do not show strong correlation with the rise in carbon levels. And, to top it all off, there's no real reason to think that higher temperatures will be either unprecedented or a net negative to life on earth.

I could go on and on. I could write a book about it. But, it's been done already, quite a few times. If you're one of those people who still believe in anthropogenic global warming, please, study the issue. Educate yourself. The truth is out there.

BUT, if you're still not convinced, I've got a great idea for a compromise. Let's agree to support something that would greatly reduce carbon emissions and pollution, a win-win scenario that will have many other benefits as well. Let's create an effective public transportation system.

What's wrong with it now?

Everything. Public transportation is slow, expensive, inconvenient, and generally unpleasant. That's the reason that most people avoid it. People will choose to use public transportation in those few cases when driving happens to be even more expensive or slow (like New York).

Weeknights too!

Where I live, I see hundreds of cars sitting idle in traffic every weekday. The amount of gas (i.e., money) being wasted by this is offensive. There's also the wasted time (also "is money") and the quality of life impact that that wasted time results in.

Time and money aren't all, though. Commuters are frustrated and this causes them to take chances and drive more aggressively. This causes collisions and collisions often cause death. Shockingly often, in fact. If you like statistics, take a look at the NHTSA's fatality statistics. If you don't like statistics, I'll make it simple for you: with annual fatalities of about 15.1 per 100,000 people in the U.S., your chances of dying in a traffic related incident this year are about 1 in 6600. Compare that to your chances of winning the lottery. (In fact, you're more likely to die driving or walking to the store to buy a lottery ticket than you are to win the damned thing.)

Can we agree that a violent, early death is bad??

I hope so. So, let's reduce those deaths by making a usable public transportation system that people will use. Here are some ideas to get things started:
  • Subsidize it heavily with gas taxes. Public transportation should not be free. But, it should be very inexpensive. Every time some schmuck takes the bus instead of the highway, he's doing us all a favor. He won't be jamming up the roads and he won't be causing accidents. Save gas and lives. (And, pollution and carbon emissions -- whatever.) Since those in cars are reaping the benefits of reduced traffic, they shouldn't mind chipping in with a small(-ish) gas tax.
  • Make it faster. My experience with many public transportation systems is that they don't respect their customers and they don't bother to make the trains and buses run often enough. "Hey, you don't have a car? Then you better have 40 minutes to wait for the bus," seems to be the attitude of many systems. Here's an idea, use shorter trains and smaller buses and run them more often (a lot more often) so we don't have to stand around on the platform for half a damn hour.
  • ... And more convenient. Most systems need to be greatly expanded and built out. And, on the existing routes, they should expand capacity. Why should people have to stand up on the bus or train every single rush hour?
  • Make it cleaner. Clean is good.

  • Make it safer -- in fact and appearance. Let me be clear. I've been on public transportation many times. I've seen the guy with the hat and sunglasses and blaring headphones. And, the guy who needs a shower and randomly shouts obscenities to himself. You know, I got over it. ... But, my wife won't go near a bus and I wouldn't ask her to. If you want a middle class mother to ride public transportation with her children (and I do) then take the troublemakers and malcontents and kick their butts off. They're bad for business. (Duh. That's why you never see them in Macy's.)

I'm not a wishy-washy conservative. I'm not a moderate. But, I believe deep in the center of my reactionary soul that this is the conservative thing to do. The trick is to do it in the conservative way, which is to treat the riders of public transportation like the customers that they are and then to run public transportation like a business that actively seeks to keep its current customers happy and to get more people to become customers. (As opposed to the liberal way of telling people that they should sacrifice for the planet by taking an extra hour to get to work on a bus, standing up the whole time, and often being exposed to poor hygiene and mental instability! ... But, we're compromising, so that's not important right now.)

It's not just a conservative or liberal thing, it's a common sense thing. Stop complaining about traffic and think about traffic. Why do we keep sitting there like idiots? Our whole one-car-per-person-sit-in-traffic-for-hours model is impossibly broken. We all need other, reliable options to get around. One that won't kill so many of us. (And, will reduce pollution, if you're worried about that sort of thing.)

So, take a break from whatever other issue you've been thinking about and spend some time to support a change that will have a real and positive impact on your daily life. Let's fix transportation.


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