Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not dead, just on vacation

I tell you, I had reams of brilliance lined up to put on paper (well, on screen), and then I went on vacation for two weeks. Honestly, if you had to choose between Greece and blogging, what would you pick? Yeah, I thought so.

Anyway! I returned to the Northwest to the news that Iowa was underwater, you shouldn't eat tomatoes, and gas had well over topped $4 a gallon. That latter bit is the focus of a number of articles in this week's Sightline Dailies, a newsletter from a think tank in these parts.

Anyone might have predicted some of these outcomes from rising fuel prices: people want to live closer to where they work (including yours truly, though since I drive a Prius the Seattle to Tacoma commute is still more expensive in terms of time than of money), and they're taking out their grief about gas prices on convenient targets (for those of you outside the Northwest: in Oregon, by law a gas station attendant must pump your gas--you'd think this would make things more expensive, but on my last trip through Oregon gas was still cheaper there than in Washington or California). At long last, Americans are driving less.

Having just returned from a city with a well-functioning transit system (Athens, despite its many and storied inefficiencies, has a lovely subway that will take you to the nearest major port AND to the airport, and our troubles with its bus system were purely our own), I have to wonder if Seattle will ever be able to say the same.

In the meantime, I'm just glad that when the time came to buy a new car, I got a hybrid. I'll be even happier when I'm living walking distance from work again, as I was during the first several years of my professional life.

That's what really interests me about this: that the cold hard reality of money, not the harder to define but arguably more important quality of life issues inherent in spending a good chunk of the day in our cars, is what is making people rethink where we work, how we get around, and how we live.

Just don't abuse the pump jockeys. It's not their fault. (I'm not convinced it's the Bush administration's, either, but that's another post.)

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