John Spezia: Change our habits
Our transportation system is the lifeline to our community. In our valley we receive almost all of our food, energy, products, services and tourist dollars directly or indirectly via our transportation lifeline as well as the highly valued personal mobility of our vehicles.
Because we are so dependent on the transportation lifeline to bring in supplies and resources, we are extremely vulnerable to the cost of energy and availability of the fuel that runs our community. You may remember the OPEC oil embargo of the mid-1970s, when lines at gas stations were blocks long, or two summers ago, when gas was $4 a gallon. Americans reduced the number of miles they drove by 5 percent, and prices for goods and services increased.
So, what are the solutions?
First, we can do nothing and wait until we are between a rock and a hard place and then react. Americans are very good at getting themselves out of jams, although the pain, suffering and loss of a generational future are high prices to pay for such traumatic experiences.
Second, we could find a technological fix that allows us to have our cake and eat it, too. It is short-term and does not consider the impacts to future generations nor the impacts to other places and people on our planet. Hybrids, clean coal, natural gas, hydrogen and bio-fuel for your personal vehicles all sound great at first glance, but when you dig a little deeper the impacts for these techno-fixes have many problems.
The last approach is to change our own personal habits. This probably is the most challenging and difficult because most of us don’t like change. To be honest, this is not as drastic a change as some might portray it. Yes, you can still have your vehicle’s mobility, but the result of reducing your vehicle use can be economic savings, less stress, a little more time with family and friends, a happier employee, a more profitable business, more community time and a healthier, active lifestyle.
The community has endorsed, for a second time, the Circulation and Mobility Plan in 2004 that would go a long way to solving many of our transportation and energy challenges. Some of the main components of this plan are a timely and convenient public transportation system, land use policies to prevent sprawl, a nonmotorized trail system, incentives to reduce traffic and an affordable housing or rental component to reduce the drive until you can afford the mortgage payment or rental cost syndrome that plagues our valley.
A transportation system that is tied to the source of unsustainable and problematic fuels is a challenge in our valley because of our climate, geographical isolation and elevation. But we can meet this challenge by becoming more efficient in our energy use and transportation strategies and by being more self-sufficient in our food, products, services, transportation and energy sectors. Shifting our economic focus to one that is locally oriented will result in an economy that is more independent, resilient and self-reliant and a community that can weather the economic and political influences we cannot control.
Please join us at the Steamboat Transition transportation panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center to continue this discussion.
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