Each household spends 19 percent of its expenditures on transportation, second only to housing at 32 percent, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey 2003-2004 conducted by the Department of Labor.Assuming that transportation costs mean mostly gasoline, Americans are spending around one-fifth of their money on it. It is no surprise that rising gas prices have also led to rising voices of complaint. Gas is a big deal around here.
Besides the facts that the United States is suffering a shortage of refineries and the global market is currently unstable, the switch to a more earth-friendly gasoline cocktail is also responsible for the high gas prices, according to The Seattle Times.
When trends beyond citizens’ control, such as the ones mentioned above, greatly inconvenience their lives, people should think of alternative options over which they do have control. What can an individual do about such a vast problem?
The Seattle Times also reported that the Environmental Protection Agency mandated an additive move from MTBE, a chemical compound used in gas that can pollute water, to the cleaner ethanol. This transition has shut down some refineries in order to make the conversion.
OK, so it may be a bit inconvenient, but it’s all for a good cause, right? Maybe.
You may have noticed that your car needs to be refueled more often than before.
Here’s some information that might help you understand: Consumer Reports tested the new mix, called E85, on a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe Flexible-Fuel Vehicle. The results showed that its overall gas mileage dropped from 14 miles per gallon to 10, highway driving from 21 to 15 mpg and city driving from 9 to 7 mpg.
Why? Ethanol has significantly lower energy content than gasoline, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and consequently, more E85 needs to be burned to generate the same amount of energy as gasoline.
Now gas is more expensive, and cars need more of it.
My proposal is this: Why not give public transportation a try?
There is a reason Americans spend so much money on gas; they are extremely dependent on their private means of transportation. By age 16, Americans are driving, and by their senior years in high school, driving their own cars. But how else would they get around? The locations of places they want to go are usually spread out, and there is no useful system of public transportation at present time.
However, a good system of public transportation does not simply develop itself. There must be a demand. With almost everyone owning cars, a demand for an effective public transportation is unlikely.
So, create one.
I am not suggesting the idea of abandoning all private vehicles and immediately jumping on buses and trains. But if everyone on campus started by taking The T – which, by the way, is free with your TCU ID – to the store instead of driving the whole two miles, there would be significant amount more money in your pocket and much less pollution in the air.
If you take a few minutes to look up bus routes, you may find that you no longer need to drive to some of your favorite places. Another bonus – no parking problems.
Starting an effective system of public transportation for a place where it is almost nonexistent is a huge step. But all huge steps start with little ones, and TCU is a great place to start.
Saerom Yoo is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Pusan, South Korea. Her column appears every Thursday.