The genesis of this blog comes courtesy of the horrendous traffic jam I got caught in this past weekend on my way home from San Francisco. At 6:30 p.m. on Sunday I was headed north on Highway 101, a main route to the Bay Bridge from the infamous Silicon Valley area, when the gridlock began at around the I-280 interchange. Tightly nestled in my fuel efficient Scion XD, I plodded along at a snails pace amid a sea of drivers seemingly content with the fate they had been dealt. Resigned to the fact that pounding the dashboard with my fist would do little good in terms of quickening the traffic pace, I resorted to jotting down my frustrations on an old napkin from Peets Coffee.

Here is what I concluded: Our dependency on automobiles in the U.S. has reach a level that is beyond unacceptable. And admittedly I am one of Northern California’s worst culprits, having driven nearly 30,000 miles this year alone. But before you cast your vote chastising me as America’s greatest hypocrite, please hear me out.

The biggest problem that many of us face in terms of getting to and from our desired destinations are a lack of efficient transportation options. By way of example, I drive nearly forty miles one-way to work each day; largely because taking the rail system would leave me with about a two hour trek.

So for our gas dependent society, burn baby burn (oil that is) continues to be the order of the day. And I happen to believe that declining fuel prices will ultimately have little effect on auto usage until alternatives and incentives are available to commuters.

I make this argument in the face of evidence that may suggest the contrary. According to a Harris Interactive Survey done in conjunction with the traffic data supplier Inrix, U.S. drivers are driving less in the face of rising fuel costs. Consistent with this are statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation which suggests that American’s drove 5.6 percent less, or 15 billion miles fewer, in August 2008 than in August 2007. This according to USDT represents the largest single-month decline in vehicle miles traveled in the history of this information being collected.

Unfortunately there is also evidence to suggest that Americans are growing wearing of the options available to them in their attempt to become more cost conscious and environmentally responsible. With public funds dwindling, many local and regional transportation agencies have been unable to ensure a sufficient supply of buses, light-rail trains and other alternative means of transportation to meet the burgeoning demand. Here in the Sacramento Capital region for example stories abound of commuters packed like sardines on buses and trains during peak rush hours.

Back to that gridlocked traffic I sat in last Sunday in San Francisco, what kept going through my mind is that in light of our nations dependency on oil, McCain and Palin may be on cue with their “drill baby drill” argument. Or should it have been “burn baby burn.” Only time will tell what the eventual verdict is.

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