The Metropolitan Transit Authority in Los Angeles announced that last week’s ridership on the commuter rail was the highest they’ve ever recorded.
Gasoline prices eclipsed $4.50 at many stations around the city.
United Airlines is raising coach fares as much as $90 and re-instating nefarious minimum stay policies.
Free music festivals in local parks are reporting record attendance, as people look for entertainment and family recreation closer to home.
Several friends, seeking guidance, have inquired how our family manages with one car, two bicycles, and eight legs.
By many measures, the fuel crisis is evolving into a catastrophe, a catalytic event that might eventually trigger a paradigmatic shift in the way we live. Thousands of folks have been forced to park their cars and find an alternative method of transportation. And yet. But still.
While all this is transpiring, old habits die hard. Megabus, a company offering ultra-low fares to San Francisco and other regional destinations, announced that they were pulling out of the LA market for lack of riders. Many buses would depart with fewer than 10 passengers. Thousands — tens of thousands — of my fellow citizens still drive SUVs on freeway commutes, on visits to the grocery store, just about everywhere. These otherwise sane and reasonable folks aren’t exactly clueless, but “enlightened” isn’t the first descriptive word that comes to mind. Perhaps when gasoline goes to $6 a gallon a new consciousness (about entitlement, about the environment, about wastefulness) will jump on their running boards, over their walnut interiors, and into whatever part of the brain governs good judgment.
Only when potable water, nutritious food, and consumable energy are treated like precious commodities, not disposable afterthoughts, will our society have a chance to mend the damage we’ve inflicted on our world and on ourselves. But our ongoing economic worries (and outrages) have inspired a constructive start to at least thinking about how to conduct ourselves differently. It’s a slow and painful process, but one that we’re forced to endure sooner than later. Perhaps we’ll collectively discover in our austerity measures that less is indeed more. One would like to fantasize that we’re getting there.