Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Keystone Problem

Erratic posting lately is due to a trip to Brockton yesterday, and another day trip to Portsmouth today. Tomorrow I have to go to Lowell. These excursions all happen mostly over commuter roads, and I can tell you that in spite of the price of gasoline and reports that MBTA ridership is up a bit, the congestion is the same as ever. The state and federal governments just got done spending $16 billion to fix the whole mess by burying the interstate under the center of Boston and adding bridges, tunnels, and service roads all over creation but you already know what happened -- as soon as there was more pavement available, it filled right up. It still takes a half an hour to move a mile and a half from Sullivan Square to the exit to the Callahan Tunnel on I-93 South, all day, every day.

This happens because right now, people don't have much choice. A lot of them live in places that don't offer an easy trip in and out of town on mass transit. Others -- like me much of this week -- need to have their vehicles with them for business. And, if they all decided they couldn't afford the gasoline any more and tried piling into public transit, that wouldn't work either, because getting on an MBTA train is already to know what it's like to be trash in a compactor.

Well, we just won't be able to live this way any more. The Long Emergency has already started, but we've squandered the past couple of decades and it may already be too late. If President Obama is going to pull our asses out of the fire, this is where it will have to begin. Instead of spending that $16 billion on highways, we should have built a mass transit system for the 21st Century, which is what a few of us said back in 1984 but of course, nobody was listening. Now we're going to have to spend that money all over again, but we don't have it any more. And that's just the beginning of what we need to do.

It's a good sign, obviously, that Obama told the truth about his two opponents' disgusting race for the bottom on the gasoline tax, but he's got a lot more truth to tell us. I don't say he has to do it before November 4, but on November 5, he'd better start talking.

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