Lack of transit literally hurts many Americans. The 40 percent of American military veterans who live in rural areas report much lower health quality of life scores than urban veterans. The Veterans Administration attributes this in part to poor transit to medical facilities. Lack of transit to after-school sports means that rural kids are 25 percent more likely to be obese. Studies have shown that when seniors can no longer drive their cars, they cease participating in society: Visits to friends and family fall by 65 percent; shopping and eating trips fall by 59 percent.
Our year-long report on how the Energy Trap impacts American families is now online. Please go there to see how your state determines what you pay. Also, calculate the cost of your car and commute. It all kicks off with this video from Darren Flenoy, who spoke with us a few weeks ago about his commute.
America's 20th largest bus service -- hauling 120,000 riders a day -- is profitable and also illegal. It's not really a bus service at all, but a willy-nilly aggregation of 350 licensed and 500 unlicensed privately-owned "dollar vans" that roam the streets of Brooklyn and Queens, picking up passengers from street corners where city buses are either missing or inconvenient. The dollar van fleet is a tantalizing demonstration of how we might supplement mass transit to include privately-owned mini-transit entrepreneurs, giving people alternative ways to get around, and creating jobs.
Every day--every single one of the seven days in the week--Darren puts on his security service uniform and drives to work. Monday through Friday he drives 82 miles round trip to a four-hour gig. Saturday and Sunday he drives about 90 miles to an eight hour gig. Every week that’s about 590 miles and $45 in bridge tolls--all for just 36 hours of work a week. Subtracting Darren’s commute costs from his income gets this: Every month he works 30 days, and more than half of these days--16-- simply pay the cost of getting to work.
With unemployment high and a poor economy, it’s obviously tough for recent college graduates to find jobs. The Energy Trap makes that job search harder—as many young adults return to live with their parents in the suburbs, they have to make commutes and cars that were comfortable a generation ago work with today’s gas prices and job market.
(I recently reported this for the New York Times' Fixes Column)
Brent lives in Albuquerque New Mexico and will spend $18,000 on gasoline alone this year. Every month, he’s spending $1200 on fuel for the truck and van he has for his two-person air conditioning repair business. More on that in a minute.
In hard times, sometimes unreasonable tradeoffs seem reasonable. Laura is a Georgia woman who works in a law firm and spends more than a third of her take home pay commuting 120 miles a day. She does this despite the cost on both her bank account and psyche--driving amidst trucks and frog-strangler storms makes her anxious--but considers herself lucky to have a job.
Megan is a 23 year old college student who lives in Cedar Rapids Iowa and commutes to Cedar Falls, Iowa every day. That's 120 miles round trip in her Honda Accord--about $400 a month in gas. She started commuting a few years ago when gas prices were lower because she wanted to live at home with her parents and she found she was driving home a lot while paying rent on an apartment. She was able to pay for the commute because she works 30 hours a week at a daycare facility.