May 012010

This blog started out by recommending that everyone take Chris Martenson’s Crash Course in economics (see tab at the top of the page). I recommend it again for anyone who hasn’t taken the time to read Chris’s arguments as to why we are in such a deep economic pickle that it will take years to recover. There are books and books and multiple articles on the web explaining and analyzing why this happened. I think the simplest answer is that, as a country, we quit making things and fixing things. The “bottom line” became the most important factor in corporate decision making which prioritized short term rather than long term thinking.

Short term thinking affects everyone. This week’s decision by Whatcom County voters to turn down an upgrade of the transit system is a good example. The vote was extremely close but the desire to not pay yet another tax won the day. This is understandable as people are hard pressed to pay their bills. I can’t speak to the arcane details of what WTA had planned but it seems to me that in a world of Peak Everything, we will need stronger systems of public transportation.

Buses primarily serve the young and the poor but in the future we all may need to ride them more frequently if gas prices increase dramatically or shortages occur.

I’d be curious to know what the bus vote was on Lummi Island. One would expect that 100% of islanders would be in favor of buses for Whatcom County citizens. We seem, as a group, to be strongly in favor of public transportation for ourselves so that our “way of life” (ability to go to Bellingham with one person in a private auto any time we please) won’t be affected. Surely, islanders would be willing to pony up a few dollars a year so the way of life of people who don’t have cars won’t be affected either.

The citizens of Whatcom County decided to keep their costs down by not upgrading public transportation. What would happen if they got to vote on the ferry?

I think that Lummi Islanders should be strong proponents of public transportation across the board. And, it may be more important, in the long run, for some carless employee in the suburbs of B’Ham to be able to get to work downtown by bus than for one of us to get to Costco or to work by private auto.

Preston L. Schiller, a former Lummi Island resident, has co-authored a book on sustainable transportation systems that looks very interesting: An Introduction to Sustainable Transportation: Policy, Planning and Implementation. “It addresses the clear differences between what environmentally oriented sustainable transportation comprises in comparison to the conventional or “Business As Usual” approach that dominates most transportation planning and policy—and leads to our current difficult situation. It ranges from walking and bicycling through motorized modes of all types; freight, passenger, on land, sea or air.”

One hopes that the County Council would spend significant amounts of time discussing and planning for sustainable transportation systems. Instead, they are apparently spending considerable time on the issue of where developers might put future developments that we don’t need. (See Weimer’s blog here).


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