Maybe the horseless carriage wasn’t such a great idea

The last I saw the going rate for gas in Decatur was $3.55 a gallon – actually $3.56 if you notice the .9 behind the .55. Anyway, it got me to thinking, always dangerous, of what we can do to relieve some of our pain. $3.55 GasI’ve tried to think of ways I could cut down on my driving but I’ve quickly come to the realization that in Decatur, as in most mid-size cities, we are totally dependent upon our personal vehicles to get from point A to point B and back again. America simply has a lousy mass transit system, or no system at all, for the majority of the country. Europeans are decades ahead of us in mass transit. Besides the fact that it may become too expensive to travel very soon we’re also hurting our environment. The Earth can only take so many carbon emitting vehicles and that’s it; there’s only so much oil in the ground, only so much corn we can grow for ethanol, only so many wars we can fight for oil until we blow the entire planet up – we simply need cars that don’t require a combustible engine to power them – we need something else.

If I had a large enough piece of land I would seriously consider buying a horse! I could picture myself driving around town with a horse and buggy. It would get me where I needed to go – though a little more slowly than I’m used to but heck, it’s better than walking! As much as I’d love to have a horse and have been looking for any excuse to buy one, I’ve tried to think of other more realistic means of transportation to reduce our dependence on our vehicles. I went back to the past again and thought of the electric street cars that once zipped through Decatur. You know, right now, those don’t seem like such a bad idea! The problem is we are so used to our freedom. I don’t want to arrange my life around a bus or street car schedule, I want to hop in my car and go whenever to wherever I please – I’m spoiled that way like the rest of America. I don’t want to walk or ride a bike either. Let’s face it, we’ve been spoiled but if gas hits $5 a gallon or higher, a very likely scenario, we’re screwed!

The United States is decades behind Europe in mass transit – very few Europeans drive. Their cities are equipped with mass transit systems to take them throughout their cities and beyond. They have modern passenger trains that can reach 200 miles an hour and above. It makes our Amtrak look downright prehistoric in comparison. We need to invest some major bucks into modernizing our transit system. We also need to pour some major bucks into developing vehicles that don’t require fossil fuels or ethanol. We need a technological revolution to save our economy and our way of life. I don’t know what the answer is because I’m not a scientists or an engineer but I know doing nothing isn’t an option any longer, that is, if we want to have any place in this world’s economy besides being the laughing stock.

4 Comments, RSS

  1. Sue Barnhart April 26, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

    hey Kris, Champaign and Bloomington both have bike racks on the front of there buses and Bloomington has extensive bike trails/routes – THROUGH town all over. I believe Champaign does too – or at least they did when I lived there in the 80’s. I also know I heard on pbs radio that bike routes are a part of their transportation plan. We have many roads that are not even bike-able not even a sidewalk on many major routes. I sure would like to see that change to give us the option of taking a bike instead of a car without taking your life in your hands!

  2. haywired

    haywired April 26, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

    I agree. Decatur streets aren’t too hospitable towards bicyclist. Many of our major roads (Pershing, N. Water, N. Oakland, Lake Shore, 22nd Street) don’t even have sidewalks – let alone bike trails. We couldn’t walk or ride bikes if we wanted to – unless we’re suicidal!

    I’ve tried to think of ways to cut out driving my car but there isn’t any practical way! The closest store is a gas station and what good would that do me? Instead of buying $4 a gallon gas, I’d be buying $5 a gallon milk, $2 candy bars and $10 loaves of bread.

    Adding new sidewalks throughout the city wouldn’t only help with getting from point A to point B, it would also make our community feel more like a community. It’s a whole different experience to walk or ride a bike through a neighborhood than drive through it. A lot of the nonsense that goes on in many of Decatur’s neighborhoods would end if people came face to face with it everyday. Nobody would stand for the crime, litter and neglect.

    Oh, and I would like to commend those in the city organizing and volunteering their time picking up garbage throughout many of Decatur’s inner city neighborhoods! Good things happen here too! Blogs (and bloggers) just have a way of pointing out the bad in society but I’m well aware the good far outweighs the bad!

  3. Sue Barnhart April 28, 2008 @ 2:52 am

    Those cleanups have been GREAT!!! What a difference has been made. And it is so wonderful to have the help of the entire community. Jo Caulkins (Dan’s wife) has been the organizer and many many many have helped and voluteered time and food and advertising and support of the project. I hate to start naming them all because there has been so much support for this I’m afraid I’ll leave someone out!

  4. Sue Barnhart April 28, 2008 @ 2:54 am

    700 students helped!! Just unbelievable the support this has gotten.

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