Thursday, January 31, 2008

Regarding "Addicted to Oil"

I read your post hacfred, and I agree with you on a lot of the topics. I am from Houston, actually Sugar Land, and I faced some of the same problems you addressed. When I had my internships in Houston, the offices are in downtown, and I'm living in the suburbs. First, I chose to live at home to save some money. I'd rather not pay something like $600-1000 for rent when I don't have to. Yes, I know this means that instead of possibly walking or biking to work, I'm driving instead. But instead of saying I'm addicted to oil or cars, I'd rather save some money.

However, I see your point on incentive, but I'll raise you. When I had to commute, I had options other than just driving the 30 miles to downtown. Sometimes a few co-workers and I would carpool to work. This can be a bit problematic at times with people having different schedules and even when a determined one is set, for people to show up on time. Not to mention riding with some people can be annoying, to put it nicely.

So another option which I took sometimes was the Park and Ride option. There are a few of these available, and from my experience, they're pretty efficient. There are multiple areas where you can drive your car and park it in a lot, then take the bus which comes every 10 minutes or so. This way, the individual cars' drive time is reduced, and maybe this can help with the environment and "addiction."

So while they are far and few between, the options are there, and I think we just have to make the conscious effort (easier said than done). And no steak for me, thank you. I'm a vegetarian.


Alix Broadfoot said...

I was in downtown Houston this summer with an internship, too. My family lives in North Houston. My father works downtown for BP Alternative Energy and so we'd take the park and ride in together (we were "bus buddies"!). I couldn't believe how many people don't use the park and rides in Houston.

Another thing, BP has a really great incentives for people to take the bus or drive energy efficient cars. They completely pay for my father's bus pass, or if you have fuel efficient car - based on some government standards they would give you a break on parking costs. I think more companies should use incentives like this to promote alternative transportation, especially the bus!

hacfred said...

Thank you all for your comments and I really appreciate the feedback. If anything this at least starts the debate. Indeed there are options and yes companies are doing some things to encourage people to use mass transit. Chevron pays your full bus pass and encourages car pooling. This last summer my wife and I did carpool and we try whenever possible to be more efficient. However, in my previous career (I'm switching careers from civil to petroleum) I actually wrote a thesis where the topic was modeling people's choice of transportation modes. Why do they choose one mode over the other and what can be done to make mass transit more popular. There are many things that can be done and several companies in Houston are already doing some things that really help. However, ultimately to make a change that counts (like we're learning the problem is huge so you have to find huge solutions) you need to change the notion of urban sprawl, you need to make inner city living more affordable and higher density. In addition, mass transit to work should be flexible. My office mate had to leave work at 6:30 every evening because afterwards buses run on a reduced frequency. He wasn't too happy about leaving "early" (when did 6:30 become early???) and he found that using the bus system was not a good option for him - yet he still used it. There are several pieces to the puzzle and mass transit is one of them but it still needs to come a long way before ridership increases to appreciable levels.