Current mood: grumpy
...so I will write a couple of blogettes. (Mini-blogs? Blog Lites? whatever...)
Bus tickets vs. the bus pass. My son has the bus pass to make his daily trek into the city to go to school, so I'm back to using tickets. I find this very limiting. With the pass, I don't ride buses, I ride the system. Transfers, double transfers, bike-to-bus-to-bike, bus halfway home ... Geez, those just don't seem so desirable when each time I get on, I'm essentially paying $2.60, the price of a single Zone 2 ride here in Pittsburgh. Just to ride two blocks is a Zone 1 ride, and even that's $2.00. Yeah, we need a "day pass" in this town. I'd pay $5 or whatever to ride all day.
Buying a motorcycle. I have an opportunity to get a 150cc Chinese scooter. It'd help on days when I would need to get back and forth at road speeds, as opposed to bicycle speeds. (Nearly every trip out is by bicycle these days.) I grew up on small-engine Hondas -- 70cc, 125cc, 175cc, 185cc, 250cc, at one time or another, mainly road-legal dirt bikes -- so I'd be quite at home on one of these little Chinese NST bikes. I look at all these hogs going by, even moderately large bikes like 750cc four-strokes, and wonder, why would I need all that power? I'm going to spend nearly all my time on two-lane, 35 mph streets, mainly moving my own carcass down the road. Back in summers between college semesters, I might pile 5,000 miles on one of those little Hondas, so I'd be happy as punch to zing along six miles of Perry Highway, getting 80 mpg. Again, though, standing snow might be a problem. Then again, maybe not. I do a little research and figure it out in the next four, five months.
Gas prices. Does anyone really believe gas prices are going to come down any significant amount? Yeah, they might dip below $4 for a time, but really, get used to it. I don't see prices EVER coming down, very much, for very long.
One more time, people: JFSD: Just Fucking Stop Driving! (The F-bomb intensive is put there on purpose to, um, drive home the concept that we truly are screwed unless we change our ways, and I do not care if you do not like it, "it" being either the concept or the F-bomb.)
Wind to hydrogen. This country has a lot of wind power not yet tapped. Wind is sporadic, though. Sometimes there, sometimes not. What it would be really good for is splitting water into elemental hydrogen, which can then be compressed and distributed like CNG (compressed natural gas), i.e., ethane, what comes out of your furnace or stove. (OK, properly, home gas is not compressed. CNG is used in natural gas trucks and fleet vehicles.)
None less than T. Boone Pickens, the oil man, thinks we should be harnessing the wind, big time. The entire state of North Dakota, it is said, has enough wind to power every home in North America, and one day last week the entire state was under a high wind advisory. Just think how much hydrogen can be made available with all that wind! It would take a few years to replace all the petroleum engines with hydrogen power, but it would also take a few years to construct all the wind plants needed to power them. So why don't we get started? Like now?
ZipCar. I'm wearing a ZipCar T-shirt. ZipCar is a modified car-rental operation in central Pittsburgh such that you rent a car for a couple hours at a time to run an errand, and bring the car back. You pay a couple dozen bucks a year for the privilege of being able to use a ZipCar, then $10ish an hour to actually use one. So, around town, you use the bus to get around most of the time, use the bicycle to go where the bus cannot take you, and if you really need to haul a bunch of stuff or people, you borrow a ZipCar. Free up THOUSANDS of dollars a year in not having to house and feed a private fleet of cars.
Bulldoze Cranberry, or they'll be the slums of 2040. Cranberry Township, in southwestern Butler County, about 15 miles north of me, is suburban sprawl on steroids. Since I-279 opened in 1989, making it easy to drive the 25 miles into Downtown Pittsburgh, they've paved over so damn many acres with strip malls, full size shopping malls, and subdivisions, it isn't even funny. Well, it's all about to die, as we head to $10/gallon-and-beyond gasoline. I said as far back as 1993 that I wouldn't take a house up there if you handed it to me with the mortgage paid off. I think the whole place should be bulldozed and the forest replanted. Sure those houses are beautiful, but they're the slums of 2040. In 2040, I will be 82 years old, and just might live to see how right I am. All the uppercrust and intelligentsia will have moved back into the cities, leaving the undesirable areas for the undesirable people, still owned by the people who own them now (because they couldn't sell them) but who moved back into the city (because they could no longer afford the commute). See how right I will be if we get to $25/gallon gasoline by 2015 and the slum-ness of those outer suburbs happens THAT fast!
Why else that is likely to happen is that the majority of those commercial buildings are not designed for long-term existence. Just along William Penn Highway in Monroeville, nearly every building that existed in 1982 when I moved there has been replaced, and none of those was more than 30 years old then. If all these strip malls built in 1999, give or take 10 years, ends up being in a less than desirable area in 20 or 30 years, but was not expected to last more than 20 or 30 years, they will all start falling apart, start looking like a slum, since nobody will be able to afford to replace them. Kinda like inner city slum areas now.
Here's the test: For any given property, if it was destroyed right now, would you rebuild? Maybe today you might, but as fewer people who live out there can afford to drive, the sense in doing so dwindles. The businesses leave, the buildings decay, and the place becomes a slum.
So, bulldoze Cranberry and all the other outer-ring suburbs, and replant the forest. It'd be doing us all a favor in the long run.
I drove through a slum today. Again in the Nucking Futs Department, I drove up Hazelton and Sherlock Streets in Pittsburgh's upper North Side today. Mgawd what a dump. People actually live there? The parts I was on, there are maybe 10 houses on these streets, and to look at the county website, are worth about $20,000 apiece, often much less. (Example: 2706 Hazelton, labeled "unsound", last changed hands for $210. That is not a typo.) Some of these houses look like they're about to sink into the earth. This is what happens when people take their lives and their money and move someplace else.
I may add to this, but right now it's getting late and I have stuff to do before I go to bed. So, good night.