Rethinking transportation

Transportation issues deserve some thought as students enter the real world.

As the school year winds down, and another class of students enters the so-called real world, we’d like to call attention to the topic of transportation. It’s a vital part of our lives, yet it’s often overlooked. As we begin to build the future, let’s do our best to make wise choices.

Choosing wisely doesn’t necessarily mean trading the SUV for a hybrid – although Mother Nature would thank you for it – nor does it mean everyone should bike everywhere, rain, sleet or snow. Good decisions can be made in a number of ways, small and large.

A good place to start is mass transit. It’s efficient and it opens up the Twin Cities for those without a car, or for those with a tight budget. Unfortunately, most people will abandon mass transit when they start making any money at all because, let’s face it, driving is more convenient.

But it comes at a high price. We use more natural resources, increase pollution and perpetuate suburban sprawl, among other negative externalities. Instead of adding to the problems, let’s try to solve them. Each of us should invest in mass transit, even if only by using it more often.

We can also improve the situation by thinking about transportation differently. We should recognize that good transportation doesn’t boil down to what car we drive; in many cases, how far we drive is more important. Living far from where we work or attend school is an example of this. By choosing to live far away, we make a transportation choice without even realizing it.

Of course, transportation is not always the paramount concern. Living in a safe community, in a community with a small population or other quality of life concerns usually trump the good transportation ideal.

It’s important to live in a safe community just like it’s important to live in a clean environment. Our best bet comes when we strike a balance between these important considerations. Let’s not continue to do things that hurt the environment simply because we can afford to.