“The idea of a (carpool) registry is being used in communities across Canada and the U.S., with some success. It makes a great deal of sense to at least explore this as an option for our city.” — Gail Parks
Unfortunately, Ms. Parks just got edged out of council in the last election by a few hundred votes.
But three of our current councillors also wrote into the library’s election forum to voice support for the concept. In fact, Dianne Wyntjes was prescient enough to voice support for it in her campaign brochure.
Carpooling will initially have a tough slog in a place like Red Deer, but Chris Stephan (one of our new councillors) picked up on an important point.
He noted that if a car pool system comes about, it would first be utilized by inter-municipal commuters.
For example, in 2008, Pete (one of my summer students) was commuting every day from Rocky Mountain House.
The summer of 2008, you might remember, was when gasoline touched $1.35 a litre.
Now, $1.35 a litre barely registered on my radar, since my car gets 35 m.p.g. in town and my commute is only about 10 minutes.
But Pete really felt it in the wallet, so it wasn’t long before he found someone to commute with (as well as a vehicle that was a bit thriftier than his pick-up truck).
So it would make sense that when we finally decide to get serious about traffic congestion, we will do it in concert with municipalities like Ponoka, Innisfail, and Sylvan Lake.
And it would make sense to get it started now, rather than wait for gas to get to $1.35 again. That way, commuters would know ahead of time that such a resource exists.
Now, $1.35 might seem to be a fairly high price to pay for a litre of liquid energy.
But at some point, we will look back longingly to the summer of 2008, since it’s only a matter of time that we will be looking at much higher prices than that.
Consider that as I write this, oil costs more than $80 a barrel.
We might be able to live with that, but it’s also the case that most of the major oil-consuming economies are still operating at well below their previous pre-recessionary levels.
So every inch that they pull themselves out of recession simply brings more demand for oil.
And some of those economies are going at full throttle.
In India, for example, 200,000 new cars were sold just in the month of August. Compare that to 135,000 sold in Canada and remember that only about one per cent of Indians even drive. So countries like India and China have a lot of slack to take up and a lot of gas tanks to fill.
Trying to forecast what gas prices will be in Red Deer in five years time would be an exercise in futility.
But we know that all of the new sources of crude oil are going to be expensive: mining tar in Alberta, ultra-deep ocean drilling off the coast of Brazil, dodging ice-bergs in the Arctic, and dodging terrorists in Iraq.
So it only makes sense to get something off the ground that is cheap.
And an online carpool registry will be several magnitudes cheaper than the simply putting down more asphalt and concrete to facilitate our addiction to more and more (and bigger and bigger) single occupant vehicles.
Taxpayers love to complain. Here’s something that could very easily save some very big bucks. And people like Pete might have an easier time getting to work.
Evan Bedford is a local environmentalist. Direct comments, questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Energy and Ecology website at www.evanbedford.com