Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Kumbaya Watch – Today is Earth Day, and in honor of Mother Earth, Jenny and I carpooled into San Francisco this morning. Actually, we carpool to work nearly every morning, not just today. Just two blocks from our house, cars from the neighborhood and nearby Montclair stop and pick up passengers at the bus stop for the ride into the city. Drivers save the $2 toll and a long wait at the toll booth by going into the car pool lane with 2 other passengers. Riders like Jenny and myself save the $2.25 bus toll via casual carpooling.

Being the tightwad that I am, I’ve calculated that we annually save over $500 apiece by carpooling to work every day. And that doesn’t even include money saved for tolls, gasoline, parking and wear-and-tear on our vehicles, which I’ve conservatively estimated to be another $1000 per car annually. With savings incentives like this, one might think that carpooling is de rigueur here among our environmentally-conscious, liberal citizens. In reality, carpooling is not very common at all. According to RIDES, a Bay Area commute planning service, more than 9 out of every 10 vehicles traveling into San Francisco every morning hold only one person—the driver.

If cost savings of $1500 annually isn’t enough to convince liberal commuters to carpool or leave their cars at home, then how can we ever expect to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Some liberals think that the best way to decrease fuel consumption is to have our government force automobile manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency standards. Just what would this achieve? From an economic point-of-view, it would reduce the cost of commuting by auto, and thus drive up the number of single-passenger commuters. The result: more traffic jams, longer commutes and hardly a dent in demand for gasoline. Think of all those idling engines, waiting in an even longer line to pay their toll. At least they’d use less gas when idling!

The immediate answer to reducing our dependence on foreign oil is simple: drive less, take mass transit or car pool. This requires a self-motivated ($) change in behavior, not government intervention. Jenny and I have nearly tripled the efficiency of Bay Area automobiles (and fattened our wallets, too) by not relying on the government and merely changing our behavior. Why can’t Bay Area liberals do the same?


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