Last week the New America Foundation hosted a panel to discuss the rising cost of oil and different strategies for tackling the issue. Panelists touched on a variety of areas, from national security to “green jobs” to the growing need for transit-oriented development around employment centers. Most of the discussion focused on mid- to long-range changes and solutions, but one story in particular illustrated the pressing nature of our immediate oil crisis and the toll it takes on America’s families.
A couple in Maine both drive to their jobs, but the rising cost of gas has squeezed their budget so tightly that the gentleman has taken on a second job just to cover the cost of the gas he and his wife need to get to their primary jobs. The couple’s predicament paints a stark portrait of how long drives can impact families’ budgets. The couple is working more but they’re not getting ahead, at best they’re just treading water. If the husband couldn’t find a second job, would they have been forced to quit one of their jobs because they couldn’t afford the commute?
For Americans who can’t afford $3/gallon gas, public transportation options are becoming an essential way to reduce expenses. While the logical assumption would be that increased need for public transportation would lead to increased revenue and service, the opposite is happening. As many states face financial crises, local governments are cutting transportation services across the country. These service cuts lead to decreased ridership, which reduces revenue even further. Economic recovery in these areas is, in turn, slowed since cuts to public transportation often hamper workers’ ability to connect with employers.