What’s it gonna take?

I had to go to a meeting out-of-town yesterday, and as a result got to spend some time on I-95.  I kept my speed at 63-65 mph to try to save gas.  I expected everyone to pass me, and everyone did, with one exception.  A county schools maintenance van was going about 55 mph.  I guess they have their instructions to save gas, too. 

As a rule, everyone that passed me seemed to be going about the speed limit, which is 70 mph on that particular stretch of road.  That’s an improvement; it used to be, on I-95, the average speed was about 80.  But – there was still a handful, all in medium to large size SUVs, who blew by me like I was standing still.  One in particular, I remember, was one of the big Lincoln SUVs. 

Gas is averaging $4.02 around here; at my “cheap” station I paid $3.99 on Monday.  So my question is, what’s it gonna take to slow these people down?  How high does the price have to be?  Maybe there are some who will never slow down.  Maybe if you’re well off enough to own one of those Lincolns, gas prices are no object.  But you’d think (at least I’d think) at some point, the price would get the Lincoln owners’ attention.  Maybe we’re just not there yet.

I guess I could ask the same question of myself.  I have a 12 minute drive to work.  If I was to use public transportation (i.e., the bus), the trip from stop to stop would be 1 hour 15 minutes.  30 minutes of that is waiting for the transfer bus at the main station.  Instead of leaving the house at 9:15 am to get to work at 9:30, I’d have to catch the 8:00 bus.  The bus stop is only two blocks away, but there’s no shelter, so waiting for the bus in a thunderstorm would be a problem.  The situation would repeat itself at the end of the day; it would take me 1 hour 15 minutes to get home.  So I’d be wasting nearly two hours a day either on or waiting for a bus.

So, what would gas prices have to be for me to ride the bus to work? I don’t know, but a lot higher than they are now.  12 minutes vs. 75 minutes is a huge barrier.  If the buses ran more often than every 30 minutes, or had more routes, maybe the situation would be better.  But the buses don’t run more often or more routes because ridership doesn’t support it; and ridership doesn’t support it because there aren’t enough buses or routes. 

I can’t walk; it’s too far, I’d be a sweaty mess, and there’s the thunderstorm problem (a daily threat for 6 months of the year here in Florida).  I have a bike, but directly between my house and my workplace is the area of our fair city that has the highest crime.  And there’s still the thunderstorm problem, and in the winter it’s dark when I get off work.  So, no go on the walking or biking either.  And there’s no one to carpool with, at least not on a regular basis.

Therefore, I drive to work, by myself.  It’s not far.  I’m only putting about 7500 miles per year on my car.  I’m reducing the rest of my driving as much as I can.  I run all my errands together, or on the way to or from work.  I try to not drive at least one weekend day.  I’ve started walking to church, two miles each way; it’s good for me and the environment and my gas consumption.  I drop off church clothes in the choir room during the week on my way to work, so I can change on Sundays when I get there and not be a sweaty mess.  I could ride my bike to church, and I may do that at some point, but I like to walk.  It’s better exercise.

I guess everyone has a point at which s/he changes behavior.  I just wonder what it is for the people that are still driving SUVs at 80+ mph.


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