Faced with ever-rising gasoline prices, more and more Americans are
cutting back on driving. We're taking shorter vacations and turning to
buses, subways, light-rail trains, motorcycles – even bicycles – to
get around town.
We are, that is, if we live in a city
like San Francisco, with its famous cable-car system and trolleys, plus
lots of bike paths and pedestrian walkways. Or New York, whose
venerable subways serve every part of town.
No wonder those
cities finished first and second in a survey by the
economic-development group Common Current, which ranked 50 U.S. cities
on their ability to cope with the oil-price crisis.
But those who live in Oklahoma City, Okla., which finished dead last, or nearby Tulsa, Okla., which was 49th, are not so lucky.
oil-rich Oklahoma and neighboring Texas, gasoline was plentiful and
cheap, and cities spread so far across the prairie that people scoffed
at the notion of building tracks for slow-moving streetcars. Folks in
that free-wheeling culture wanted to go where and when they wanted in
their powerful automobiles. They didn't want to ride smelly buses,
But you should hear these folks now. Tulsa's transit
manager told CNN.com, "You've got people coming out of the woodwork,
screaming for more bus service." Trouble is, the Tulsas and Oklahoma
Cities don't have the buses or express highway lanes on which to run
them. And most big American cities don't have subways.
in the auto-loving patch of America, carpooling – in which people take
turns driving to work – is catching on. Workers are setting up home
offices if their bosses allow it. Sales of gas-gorging pickup trucks
are down. And contrary to their conservative nature, some Oklahomans
and Texans are even muttering that it may take the dreaded T word to
bring mass transit to the land where the car is king: T for taxes.