With High Fuel Prices Bikes Are In And Planes Are Out

bike in trafficThe high fuel prices this summer are having major effects on the United States’ mobile population: Cities are beginning to see real increases in the number of bicyclists on the streets and significant cuts in scheduled airline flights. Newsweek reports that bike friendly cities such as Portland, Oregon have had major increases in the number of bike riders as commuters look for alternative methods of transportation. The city has experienced a 24 percent increase in the number of bikers on certain bridges this May over the same month last year.

While the increasing number of (non-carbon-emitting) bicycles on the street is a positive consequence of high gas prices (aside from the occasional confrontation between aggressive bikers and motorists), high fuel prices have begun having a negative impact on some communities as airlines begin drastic cuts in scheduled flights to smaller markets. NPR reports that small airports such as Monterey, California, Butte, Montana and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida are beginning to see airlines cancel numerous flights and even discontinue service altogether.

Some lawmakers are responding to these cuts in service by suggesting increasing government subsidies for these flights, through the preexisting federal “Essential Air Service” program. Proponents argue that subsidies are necessary to keep smaller and more remote communities afloat and that arguments against the subsidies are "elitist" and are geared against small-town America.

While it is unfortunate that it may no longer be economical to have frequent flights to smaller airports, I think that arguing to subsidize the airline industry in this way is incredibly misguided. As fuel becomes more expensive, subsidies would only prolong the inevitable. Investing in expensive and inefficient airline routes is contrary to the direction the market is moving and would undermine funds that could more appropriately used to bolster public transportation systems and enhance the nation’s infrastructure to better accommodate cyclists (which is clearly the direction that the market is moving).


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August 13, 2008 at 4:16 PM Yokota Fritz said...

Thanks for linking my Flickr photo.

Interestingly, I was just reading this morning about efforts to link Monterey, CA to the Bay Area commuter rail network. The regional transportation authority already owns the rail right of way, and one of the major hindrances is lack of funding. Funding for commuter / passenger rail seems like it might make more sense than continuing to subsidize the local airport in Monterey.

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