Thursday, June 26, 2008

peace train

transportation is our thursday theme this week.

it is summer - and here in the northern hemisphere this is the season in which many of us like to be elsewhere. to be elsewhere means using some form of transportation to get from here to there! however, nowadays being elsewhere isn't as carefree and fancy free as it once was. now we have global warming, carbon footprints, and the high cost of gasoline to consider - not to mention the overall destruction of our planet and the extinction of all sentient life forms!! shit, it's almost enough to make a person want to stay at home -- or say f**k it and just carry on as usual!

as someone who both likes to be elsewhere but also would like our species (not to mention all others) be around to usher in the next millennium, I actually try to be mindful of my transportation choices. in april I celebrated my 2 year anniversary of being carfree - as a middle class individual who lives in the united states, in a city that is not new york, boston, chicago, or san francisco* being carfree is a unique status and is considered by others as something definitely 'beyond the pale.' -- yes, it is sometimes a challenge, however, I am fortunate to live in a city seems devoted to providing public transportation and I'm very satisfied with my carfree status. in fact, I'm even hopeful that because of the rise of gasoline prices, etc, there will be more folks embracing a carfree lifestyle and that we will see an expansion of public transportation offerings.

in the two plus years that I have been relying on the bus and train as my main method of transportation (outside of walking) I have seen a noticeable increase in ridership. I'm also seeing more folks who are combining various means of transportation - they are carrying their bikes on to the bus or the train.

one new addition to the personal vehicle scene locally is the smart car - these vehicles are a recent arrival to the united states. the first time I saw a smart car was several years ago when I was traveling in europe - I thought they were a perfect urban vehicle (for their maneuverability, fuel efficiency, and overall cuteness) - I'm quite pleased to see that they finally have made it to this side of the pond!

another new concept in many cities, like cleveland, are services like 'city wheels' - city wheels is a car sharing organization. since it hasn't hit the west side of town yet, I haven't done much research into its services or what it can offer me. however, I understand interested folks pay a monthly membership fee and they have access to a fleet of vehicles in which to use on an hourly or daily basis.

along with an increase in bus and train ridership, the other big change I've noticed is an increase in people riding motorcycles and motor scooters. the picture above I snapped wednesday while I was out and about. I talked with the gentleman riding the scooter as he asked me for directions - I told him he had a fine looking bike and asked how long he's been riding the scooter. he said he loved his scooter, has had it for a few months now, and that it gets 65 miles to a gallon.

when I worked at the public hospital here in cleveland I had heard tales about how in 'the old days' there was a train that used to bring folks right into the hospital from various parts of the city. this got me thinking about how up until the mid twentieth century trains and streetcars were once a ubiquitous feature of city life. I find it very interesting (and telling) to look at the history of the demise of streetcars. from all the things I've read I must say I do tend to side with those conspiracy theorists who see the fall of the railroad and the urban streetcar is a result of the collusion and greed of the oil companies and 'the big three.'

*these are all u.s. cities that are recognized as having superlative and extensive mass transit systems

peace train by yusuf islam (the artist formerly known as cat stevens)


Coffee Messiah said...

Nicely done. Living where we are there is no public transportation. After our trips to Seattle and spending time in Chicago in the subway, we keep thinking where we can move to rely on public transportation. I never minded the bus as kid from Daly City into SF and walked all the time.

Here, especially when we had our coffeehouse, people complained about crossing the street, less than a 1/4 of a block! You can only imagine the heartache in hearing this more times than a hello. ; (

Maybe people are waking up again, although it's too bad it took a smack on the side of the head!

The Trustees said...

Wow, what a nice post!

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm 4-1/2 years into my car free years and so happy about it. I'm lucky to live in a city that has such great public transporation, is flat enough to make bike riding easy, and beautiful enough to enjoy walking around.

We're also seeing the smart car phenomenon in DC.

As scary as it is to live at this moment in time when the age of fossil fuels is just about over, it's all for the good. You're one of the people helping everyone else turn the corner, away from going everywhere in a car.

I salute you!!

Sourire11 said...

Nice post!

One of the local news stations last night did a story on "what riding the bus is really like." the whole thing just ticked me off - they were very condescending about it. I take the bus every day without issue... it's nice to hear someone else does the same.

Steve said...

I love those smart cars. They're so adorable.

But I love being car-free even more. :)

d. chedwick said...

I don't own a car, but I live with those who do have cars so I have pretty much total access.

How do car-less people grocery shop for events like dinner party or Thanksgiving?! (I keep forgetting that store delivery groceries, but Still for families that have lots of kids who eat, it's nice to have a way to move groceries other than the bus.)

The public transport is terrible out in the country--to get to the Catskills from the suburbs I'd have to take a bus to NYC, then change for another bus to the mountains. I considered trying this, but it would take all day (well at least 5.5 hours) to go to a place 75 miles away.(& would cost over fifty bucks.) probably not a fun experience.

This bus system is slow and iffy. We really need a good rail system put back into rural areas. Amtrak has some electric trains running through PA (or they did anyway)

solar trains would be cool!

Today I saw a Senior citizen mover picking up people at the grocery store. But the driver didn't help them as the struggled with their bags. He was patient though. I'd never seen that vehicle before--it was a weird buslike thing.

d. chedwick said...

Still when I drive up to Montreal I will use far far far less fuel than if I took and airplane--I'd have to drive around for months to equal the amount spent to fly me someplace. I say Trains are the answer!

jude said...

a little mouse and a little cat always makes my day

tut-tut said...

Great post; lots to think about. Where would we be if the 50s/60s interstate highways monies had gone into furthering public transportation instead? We'd look a lot different, wouldn't we, as a nation . . .

jenclair said...

I'm delighted to see the increase in bicycles and scooters. We aren't too well set up for public transportation around here, but that could change, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

But those smart cars are "da bomb!" I think they might capture the public's imagination based on mileage and looks.

Great photos, Kim!

TheElementary said...

Coming from Ireland/Europe, public transport is so important to me. I think I've said this before on your blog but I miss it very much. It makes so much sense, environmentally, financially, and otherwise.
Seeing pictures of public transport evokes such a wistfulness in me. I don't understand the lack of it here. Some big cities have it but not everybody lives in a large metropolitan area.
Maybe time will change the call for public transport.
Sorry- it gets me riled up and I tend to talk too much about it. No more soapbox, I promise!!
It takes a great blogger to get me worked up ;)

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I still love, maybe even more, Yusuf/Cat. I thought his cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was brilliant. And man of God or not, he's still got killer mojo at nearly 60.

Gary said...

I read last night that the North Pole will be ice free by the end of the summer - this summer! Can you imagine? The effects of global warming are being seen even faster than predicted and it is so frightening. I still don't think most folks take this seriously or have altered their lifestyles in any significant ways to ameliorate the situation. So hats off to you!

I also think the smart car is adorable. I wonder what it's like on the inside.

WAT said...

Los Angeles is slowly facing the fact that gas prices are too high, and many of us here are now carpooling and stuff! It's quite refreshing! We're so used to being alone in our own cars, but much has changed! Maybe this is a good thing/wake up call for our car culture here to do something for our planet.

I love this line of yours by the way: "...would like our species (not to mention all others) be around to usher in the next millennium..."