Saving the Environment


Some thoughts on saving the Valley Beautiful

                There is much talk in Washington these days regarding means by which America might save its economy and its environment.  I have a modest proposal that would contribute to both efforts.

                We should establish a mass-transit system in northeast Tennessee.

                The system, at first, would consist of buses and, later, of electric light rail lines.  This system would transport those who work, shop, or have other reasons to make frequent trips to Johnson City, Kingsport, or Bristol allowing them to leave their individual cars or trucks at home or a convenient commuter lot.  Commuter parking areas would be easily and cheaply established at various points in each of the upstate counties, thus allowing for shorter drive time from home to wherever the bus can be boarded.  A parallel system could be built between the three cities allowing for public transportation between them.  Each city already has a working bus system within its limits and a bus terminal from which one can get pretty much anywhere in the city. 

                I have no idea how many people drive – one or two in a car – to and from Johnson City from Erwin each day, but I have to believe there are a great many.  I am one of them.  Just to keep it simple, let’s imagine that 100 people, driving cars that average 20 miles per gallon, drive 20 miles each day to and from a job at ETSU.  Collectively, they would consume 100 gallons of gas per day.  If the same 100 people rode two buses, each getting 6 miles per gallon, they would collectively consume 6.8 gallons of fuel, thus saving 93.2 gallons per day or 466 gallons per week.  Even assuming the cost of the bus was about the same as the cost of gas, the savings in wear and tear on our autos would be significant, the reduction in exhaust gases would be enormous, and the pain felt in Saudi Arabia would be downright heart-warming.

                For a few years, at least, the bus system would be flexible enough to allow us to study patterns of use, preferred routes, and so forth.  It would also give us time to build (using the median between lanes of the freeway system) a light rail system of electric trains.  That would get us off petroleum and into sustainable energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal) for much of our daily travel.   

                Of course there would be some “downsides” in this proposal.  It would reduce tax collections (both sales taxes and motor fuel taxes) by quite a lot.  Legislatures and Congress would need to figure out how to replace those income sources.  It would require that we Americans become much more careful in planning our days and travels.  But I imagine that most of us would benefit from having to think, plan, and walk more than we do now.



One Response to “Saving the Environment”

  1. TL McKinney Says:

    Regarding the replacement of income sources displaced by the implementation of a mass transit system (a staple of any large city or economically-interconnected geographic regions): enforce sales tax collections.

    As far as I know, there is no action on the part of the counties to identify and address illegitimate businesses that operate without a business license and collect sales tax but completely fail to report or grossly underreport to government entities and the Department of Revenue. They effectively “hide in plain sight,” and not even under the table…

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