Nancy Shore is the Director of Ann Arbor’s getDowntown program. A graduate of U-M (M.S. Social Work in Community Organizing), she is resident of Ann Arbor and a committed advocate for sustainable transportation. Nancy will be blogging about why Curb Your Car Month matters, the need for public transportation in SE Michigan and more.
Post No. 4
In the short term... in the long term
I’m sure I’m not the first to say it: We have to do morelong term thinking when it comes to sustainable transportation. Especially in Metro Detroit.
Right now, gas prices are exceedingly high. McCain and Clinton are talking about cutting the gas tax. Everyone is feeling the pinch.
And people are actually starting to change their behavior. The other day, I was talking with Michelle Romano Rockwood, who works for MichiVan. MichiVan runs the vanpool program for the State of Michigan. Currently, the University of Michigan has over 80 vanpools. And Michelle is completely swamped. When gas prices start to reach a certain level, people start looking for alternatives. And the funny part is, Michelle says that once someone gets into a vanpool they find they really enjoy it.
So, I guess what I am saying is this is not the time to encourage people to drive their cars more. This is a golden opportunity to get people to think about alternatives,and to push for new ones.
Every day, tens of thousands of people commute from Wayne County to Washtenaw County. The only option they currently have is to drive. And cutting the gas tax will not create a rail system from Ann Arbor to Detroit.
This is the time when Ann Arbor,Washtenaw County and Metro Detroit need to seriously think about a long range vision for sustainable transportation. Because, at the end of the day, that’s the biggest problem with our most popular mode of transportation: it is bad for the environment.
What we are doing today will certainly impact future generations. Now is the time to decide to no longer depend on gas guzzling vehicles to get us around. Our community is extremely talented and I believe we all want to live in a place where we can get around with ease. Building more highways is not going to bring about true change. Building a system with express buses, bike lanes, sidewalks, and a rail system and more can do just that.
In the short term, we may be negatively impacted by high gas prices. But if we decide on a short term fix, and just keep driving along, we might just run our planet (and our community) into the ground.
I know this is a bit extreme, but our environmental situation is extreme. And if we knew that we had the power to preserve the earth for future generations but decided not to for the sake of personal convenience, wouldn’t that seem a little short sighted?
And what is interesting about all of this is that curbingour cars is not about personal sacrifice. It’s quite the opposite.
Imagine a future where you can walk to work and on the way home you grab a loaf of bread from the local bakery for dinner. Imagine a future where you can hop on a train and eat at a really good bbq restaurant in Detroit and not have to worry about that second beer. Imagine a future where our children can walk and bike to school and learn about nature along the way. Imagine a prosperous economy buoyed by a clean, safe environment where everyone can move around with ease. Isn’t this the future we want for Metro Detroit?