A Simple Solution to the Gas Crisis

Jun 29, 2008 by

This solution is so simple, I’ve been waiting for an elected official or news agency to begin pushing it. You can get your gas cost down to $2 a gallon. You can even drop it to $1.34 a gallon or as little as $1 a gallon. And pretty much everyone in the U.S. could do it … tomorrow.

Just carpool. Period.

I’ve read how Beijing plans to cut pollution during the Olympics in half by placing restrictions on driving. They are basing their restrictions on the last digit of the license plates. If your plate ends in an odd number, you get to drive one day, even numbers the next day. And if they want to get to work on that driving off day? They have to get in a car with someone else.

As Americans, we have languished for too long in bigger and bigger cars, driving solo for the convenience of being able to run our errands on our own time. If we all changed our habits to schedule our errands on a single day of the week, we could carpool the other four. Sure, it’s not always convenient … as a faculty member, I have an extremely flexible schedule. Some days I only have to be at school for 3 hours. But I’m carpooling. It doesn’t hurt me to hang out on campus and get more work done there. It does require a little more planning. Some days I have to get up earlier in the morning or stay later in the day, but you know what? I’m doing my part.

And what’s with all the parents driving their children to school every day? And the high school students who have to drive themselves. If there is school bus service in your school district, use it. School buses are the ultimate carpool. I rode the bus to and from school until my Junior year. Then we had a 4-person carpool – and when it wasn’t convenient to carpool, I rode the bus. Okay, so it’s not cool to ride the school bus. Well, cool has become expensive. Riding the bus is, however green.

This is where my husband chimes in and says … but I have to stay late at work some nights, and I don’t want to inconvenience a carpool. Maybe its time Americans stopped working all those unpaid extra hours. Maybe your carpool can all stay late one or two (scheduled) nights a week. Maybe they can go work out at the gym while you stay late at the office, picking you up after their workout.

I’ve read these dumb letters to the editor and email spam saying that we can have a “large impact” on gas prices if we all refuse to buy gas for one or two days. That’s B.S. In order to not buy gas for two days, we would all stock up before the boycott. Then we’d all rush out to buy gas the day after. We wouldn’t make the least dent in the gas market.

What we really should be doing is making a pledge to find a carpool. If all of us began to carpool three days a week, I imagine we could instantly cut the oil consumption in the U.S. by as much as 10%. The more people in your car the better.

That’s how we say – we’ve had enough.

It’s what we should have been doing all along.

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  1. Robert

    Are you sure that riding the school bus is “greener” than individual families driving their kids to school? When you factor in the low fuel efficiency of a school bus combined with the pretty large distance it has to travel each morning and afternoon, it’s not obvious that you’re using less gas than if each kid had his/her parents drive them to school.

    According to WikiAnswers, the fuel efficiency of a bus with automatic transmission is around 5 mpg. I would imagine that the length of the daily bus route will vary widely from district to district, but it’s a lot longer than the route that I take in the morning dropping my girls off at school. All I do is go to one school, then another, then to work; a bus has to do a depth-first search of each kid’s residence and pick up every single one. And when I was a kid, the bus had to go to the elementary school first, then the junior high, then the high school, so high school kids got an extremely non-optimized route, traveling about 3-4 times the distance of just going straight to the high school.

    The trade-off is that a bus can carry about 65 kids whereas I can only carry two, but with such low fuel mileage and such large distances caused by non-optimized routes, I wonder if buses really come out ahead in the end.

    More pragmatically, both my kids are in preschool, so there’s no buses, period.

  2. Robert

    I meant also to say that if parents in the same neighborhood conspired to carpool their kids to school each day, that would be better than either buses or individuals driving. I live in the ‘burbs and everybody has a minivan; put 6-8 kids in a van that gets 25 mpg and drive an optimized route, and it’ll be better than a bus. (And more cool and less scary.)

    And if the government wanted to get involved, it could give tax credits for parents who are doing this, because they’re saving the (government-funded) school system money.

  3. Jenny

    Our school is starting a walking school bus system. Voluteer parents are the “bus drivers” at the front and back of the line of kids walking to school. You meet at the “bus stop” near your house and walk with a group of kids. Safety and convenience and less gas (and their plugging the exercise benefit as well!). Too bad the one bus route they are implementing is not on our side of the school. I’ll continue walking with the kids. I know most parents are just too scared their kids will get kidnapped so they drive. Or they get up too late.

  4. Maria H. Andersen

    @Robert – it’s a good point. The gas mileage on a bus is pretty lousy. I wonder, though, if individually driving children teaches them to be adults that do not use public transportation?

    I learned a lot of valuable lessons by riding the bus and using the public transportation in my town.

    @Jenny – do you think the world today is really a more dangerous place than it was when we were all kids and would walk to school or ride the bus?

    More and more lately I feel like we live in a culture of fear that is keeping us from living normal lives. I wonder if there are statistics that show an actual increase in the number of kidnappings today vs. 20 years ago.

  5. Tom

    I’ve been riding my bike to work everyday (it’s only a mile one way) so I ride a total of 4 miles since I come home for lunch too. It’s nice in someways, but a pain in other ways like arriving at work all sweaty. But it definately saves me trips to the gas station.

  6. Joel

    Boy, this “husband” you speak of in your post seems like a total jack-ass. How did one so intelligent and lovable as yourself end up with such an insufferable cretin??

  7. Topher

    Amen, sista’! There was a story in the Kansas City Star last week about the strain currently impacting the bus system here. Many of “the regulars” are really mad at all the new riders because many busses, especially those from the ‘burbs, are now standing room only. I was excited when they guy I bought my ’91 Camry from said he got 36 mpg. I just filled up for the 2nd time, and figured it to only get around 26 mpg. We live close to a bike/run trail that ends right by my office. It’s a 14 mile round trip, and when the weather’s bearable, it’s fun to hop on the bike and see all the funny looks I get when I wheel it into the office.

  8. Pop

    Well, you struck a cord with this post! I have used the city bus system for 22 years. As the price of gas has been creeping up (or should I say leaping up), I have noticed not one additional rider. I do go in early (6:30), but there appear to be plenty of others going in at that time (one person to a car). And, good heavens, they are reading, shaving, talking on the phone, combing their hair, etc., at the same time. At least if they carpooled, they could do that some of the time without being the driver too.

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