Transportation calls for new solutions

Traffic tends to be a state or municipal issue during elections, but I often try to link traffic to the status of our economy, our consumerism culture, and gas prices in particular.

I’m under the impression that Republicans and Democrats alike really abhor seeing nearly $4 per gallon fuel at the moment. Both candidates have given their solutions of putting the country’s eggs into many baskets of new energy sources to bring supply back up. After all, market forces determine fuel prices. More supply and less demand means lower gas prices. Lower supply and more demand means higher gas prices. It may be simple ECON 2100 economics, but it appears that the latter is our current situation.

The candidates clearly have their plans for increasing supply. But what about decreasing demand? Many Tech students are from the Metro Atlanta area and have to experience a long driving commute every day to class. Thanks to the relatively flat Georgian topography, it has been immensely inexpensive for suburbian sprawl to displace residents further away from their Atlanta workplaces. Cities like Houston and worse, Jacksonville, also have large land area and plenty of commuters.

Construction further hinders commuters from reaching their destinations. The 14th Street Bridge will be finished “soon”, but another bridge must be on the agenda. Another kind of project must be next on the list. Citizens are still purchasing large vehicles. Even though I talked my own parents down to a Volvo station wagon, it still takes up a lot of space on the road, on top of having only mediocre fuel efficiency.

The driving standard in Georgia is extremely low, and there is always an accident somewhere during rush hour. With all this said, is it too much to ask to raise the difficulty of the driving test in Georgia? You almost have to be a pro in Europe. I get the feeling that the United States respects its automobiles more than Europeans, and thus should have higher standards for its drivers.

Taking all these factors into account, many commuters appear to be stuck in traffic for nearly an hour. The drive from Gwinnett or Fayette County to downtown Atlanta can take one hour or more. Wouldn’t commuters rather be working that additional hour, or be at home with loved ones? Many commuters are spending 1/24th of their workweek dedicated to sitting on their butts, further promoting a sedentary lifestyle.

But best of all, we don’t need an alternative energy source to accomplish this. Buses, trains, light rail, and subways can all run on petrol, among other current energy sources. Atlanta needs a long-term transportation solution to end the picture of “SUVs stuck in gridlock traffic for an hour a day.”

While public transportation tends to be a left-wing solution, I try to remain bipartisan by stating that private firms can also provide mass transportation. For example, there are private shuttle companies that can pick up air travelers from their homes and bring them to Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

While I praise Eisenhower’s Federal Aid Highway Act for mobilizing the country westward to strengthen our economy, I scoff at Hummers, Excursions, and all SUVs east of the Rockies. Every time I go to Paris, I look forward to riding the metro—it is the best. I know that public transportation systems have become a potential target for terrorists recently. While the personal autonomy over an automobile is a luxury, the high-volume grid subway of New York is also a luxury.

Still, faster commutes will bolster the economy by boosting the morale of the workforce and providing for longer work hours or rest hours. Whether it is by making MARTA’s bus system more attractive, or providing a light rail connecting Downtown to Midtown and Buckhead, Atlanta needs a long-term solution to its traffic problem.

Countries like France and Germany complain about workdays that are one hour too long. I’m complaining about the same thing—our workdays, too, are one hour too long.