Monday, August 24, 2009

Touring Everett and Bellingham on Washington's only State Supported Transit System

Last Friday I had the opportunity to travel from Downtown Seattle to Downtown Bellingham for $4 all on local transit. Last week, Oran over at STB reported on his even longer public transit trip from Seattle to Vancouver and it is well worth the read.

I took the ST510 to Everett where I had a meeting , where PSRC's 2040 transportation plan was being discussed. After that I had an hour to kill in downtown Everett. There i took some interesting photos of land use around their station area and other parts of downtown.

I then took the 90X from Everett to Mt Vernon Station. From there I took the 80X up to downtown Bellingham. Overall the trip from Everett cost $4 and took about an 1 hour and 40 minutes in traffic and it was a very comfortable ride.

Both on the connector buses and touring downtown Everett and Bellingham there were a lot of lessons learned both for transportation and land use.

Check out the photo album I created of the trip on the TCC facebook page. Lessons learned and commentary are posted in the captions of the photos.

The most important take away in terms of transit funding is that the State supported connector service that connects Whidbey with Mount Vernon, Bellingham and Everett is very successful. On my trip last Friday the Bellingham-Mt Vernon bus was nearly at capacity and both buses were busy. Last session the transportation budget injected roughly $300,000 of operating funds into the North Sound Connector service. It is great to see the state getting involved in financially supporting the operations of struggling local transit agencies. I would love to see the model, that has worked in the North Sound, of the state supporting transit operations expanded to other areas of the Washington!

WSDOT Claims partial completion of Cross-Base Highway

I am going to refrain from editorializing heavily here, but just as a FYI, WSDOT released a press release claiming that phase one of cross-base highway is complete.

WSDOT has built the start of what looks like a new highway but it is only 3/4 of a mile long and connects two existing roads. The messaging coming out of of WSDOT claiming victory is concerning and something that TCC will be keeping an eye on closely. Essentially WSDOT has connected Highway 7 to Spanaway Loop road with an extremely short highway, which is a different reality than building a brand new 4-6 general purpose freeway all the way to I-5, which is neither funded or something that the state can afford.

Here is their press release.

SPANAWAY – WSDOT will celebrate the elimination of a Pierce County chokepoint and the first new state highway section to be built in more than a decade during a ceremony Wednesday, Aug. 26.

State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond is expected to be joined by several federal, state and local officials Wednesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony where they will unveil the new highway sign for the first segment of the State Route 704 Cross Base Highway.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony details: 10 a.m. Wednesday, near the intersection of 176th Street South and Eighth Avenue Court South.

This first segment – about three quarters of a mile – improves traffic flow at the intersection of SR 7 and SR 704 with dual right-turn lanes from SR 704 to southbound SR 7 and dual left-turn lanes from northbound SR 7 to SR 704.

The first federal- and state-funded project – built for about $9.5 million – is part of an estimated $318 million planned six-mile Cross Base Highway that stretches east to west between Fort Lewis and McChord military bases, connecting SR 7 to I-5 in Lakewood. The remaining Cross Base segments will be completed as funding becomes available.

Stay Tuned for the response coming from the environmentally community in the next few days

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pedestrian Advocacy Flash-Mob Style

Ever wanted to be part of a flash-mob? Or you just want to make a statement about that oldest of transportation choices, walking? Then check this out, courtesy of our friends at Great City:

Hello friends!

I invite all parties to join me for a FLASH MOB-style performance at 1
pm, Saturday August 22, at Seward Park. You will be participating in
my project “Barefoot in the Park” (more information at the bottom of
this message). Performance will last approximately 15 minutes.

Extra credit: meet for a REHEARSAL at the event location, Friday
August 21, from 3 pm to 3:30 pm. Note: rehearsal is NOT REQUIRED to take part in the flash mob performance – if you come to rehearsal you will have a special leadership role. Rehearsal will be FUN and I’ll bring snacks.

How to participate:

Email me to tell me you are coming to the 8/22 performance, and also
tell me if you are coming to the 8/21 rehearsal or not

Meet up at the flash mob location . . . arrive before 1 pm so you
don’t miss out! You’ll be finished by 1:15 pm.

When you hear the bell and see the barefoot walking people begin to
move through the park, KICK OFF YOUR SHOES AND JOIN IN!

All ages are welcome.

“Barefoot in the Park” is choreographer Alex Martin’s contribution to
the “aLIVe” exhibition event. aLIVe (“LIV” stands for Low Impact
Vehicle) is an amazing exhibition of designs for new vehicles taking
place on Saturday, August 22 in Seward Park, Seattle. The Low Impact Vehicle project rethinks our transportation system by focusing on the
human body. Right now, we design our street grid around 40 ton trucks,
but what if we designed around our bodies instead? for more

While you are in the park, you can also enjoy the other exhibits of
“aLIVe”, experience the concurrent “Healthy Parks, Healthy You” event
sponsored by the Parks Department (including live music for the whole
family), wander the trials through the old-growth forest, or take a
dip in Lake Washington.

“Barefoot in the Park” begins with a manifesto:

The ultimate low impact vehicle is the human foot, perfected through a
million-year design process to carry the human body across the surface
of the earth at slow speeds perfectly calibrated for work, play,
conversation, and the enjoyment of life. Walking while wearing the
footwear of your choice is a time-honored method of commuting,
exercising, and enjoying the outdoors, and pedestrian corridors are a
part of every smart urban plan for the future.

But “Barefoot in the Park” goes one step further, to explore a radical
and happily ridiculous proposal: the surfaces of our city should be re-
designed to provide, along every major thoroughfare, a Barefoot
Walking Lane of soft native ground covers adjacent to the traditional
impervious sidewalks, curbs, and bicycle lanes of the future. Living
barefoot outdoors is a quality-of-life enhancement that is an option
only for humans living in remote wilderness areas. How long will
urban dwellers wait before we rise up, throw off the concrete
shackles, and demand a re-design of the street to include a Barefoot
Walking Lane, allowing us to move through our city the way nature
intended, on our feet . . . our bare feet?

Join a flash mob of barefoot performers & pedestrians at 1 pm at
Seward Park in the “aLIVe” exhibition. This is a performance &
participatory walk, open to all ages, devised by choreographer Alex
Martin. Kick off your shoes and experience first-hand the joy of
barefoot walking and help us promote the bare foot, our most radical
low impact vehicle!

Exact location: from the main road entrance to Seward Park, take a
left and meet up on the lawn. The location is just East of Lake
Washington Blvd, North of the traffic circle at the main entrance, and
South of the swimming beach area & pottery studio. You will see the
“aLIVe” exhibition of invented vehicles, please make yourself at home
and listen for the bell at 1 pm!

I encourage you to use alternate means of transportation such as
walking, biking, taking the bus, or carpooling with your family,
friends or neighbors! I do not recommend walking barefoot from your
home to Seward Park, since the Barefoot Walking Paths have not
actually been constructed yet.

Alex Martin
(206) 355-8426 mobile

More bad news from East of the Mountains

On Tuesday, we linked to an editorial from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin about the local transit agency, Valley Transit, facing 25% service cuts.

Here's a link to a couple of articles originally published in the Tri-City Herald about service cuts and fare increases planned for Ben-Franklin Transit, the local agency serving Benton and Franklin counties.

As Andrew mentioned the other day, agencies around the state, not just King County Metro, are facing profound cuts in service at a time when ridership has been trending upward and when our state has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its number one source, transportation. Some agencies, including Ben Franklin and Walla Walla have remaining sales tax capacity that voters could approve (the state caps sales tax for transit at .09%, many of the medium and smaller transit systems are collecting .06%). However, in several areas, especially border counties like Walla Walla and Clark (C-tran), additional sales tax increases are not politically realistic.

These realities raise the question, yet again, when will the governor and state legislature step up and start treating public transportation like a meaningful part of the state's transportation network? Bus and rail transit can play a huge role in increasing people's mobility, thereby allowing the state's population and economy to grow in a sustainable manner. And for a lot less money than it will cost to meet that demand through new highway lane miles. But to do so, transit needs some combination of increased local funding options and direct state funding. Both require action from the legislature. Olympia, the ball is in your court.

Missed our August Transportation, no Need to Fear, Find it Here!

Earlier in August we held our final regional transportation town hall forum. Thank you to all of the panelists for the engaging discussion and thanks to everyone who attended.

In case you didn't attend it, no fear, Seattle TV taped the entire event, which can be found online right here.


Stay tuned for upcoming Friday Forum announcements where we will hold similar conversations around the region!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Island County passes .3% Sales Tax Increase for Island Transit

Last night was surely an action packed election night in the Puget Sound area.

In the North Sound Island Transit successfully passed a .3% sales tax increase for Island Transit. Island Transit was facing 35% cut in service is they did not attain this new revenue. This will bring their total sales tax up to the maximum allowed by the legislature, .9%.

This is an impressive win for transit. The folks who ran the campaign highlighted an S.O.S (Save our System) message, and that is exactly what the voters of Island County did, demonstrating that public support for transit in Washington is not limited to large urban system. Rural systems like Island transit provide an invaluable backbone for their community.

Congrats to the folks with the S.O.S campaign who ran a successful measure and to Island Transit who will continue to serve Island County residents with quality!

Results on the election are here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Walla Walla Union Bulletin Calls for no New Sales Taxes for Valley Transit and More State Funding for Transit

The Walla Walla Union Bulletin printed an editorial yesterday discussing the financial perils of the Valley Transit System. The editorial in full can be found here and it is well worth the read.

A few observations:
-This is another sign that the financial crisis of transit agencies is not only a problem with the State's larger urban systems. In our post-Eyman work all transit agencies rely on the sales tax and the sales tax revenue is crashing in 99% of the counties statewide. If Island Transit does not pass their sales tax increase today they will be facing 30% cuts and Valley Transit faces 25% cuts if they do not find new revenue. These are small rural systems that will literally be cutting service from entire communities in the face of the funding crisis.
-The editorial is harsh on the option for increasing Valley Transit's sales tax authority. This in unfortunate because right now that is the only viable option the legislature has allowed them to turn to in order to maintain their service.
-On the other hand, it is good to see that Eastern Washington editorial boards in rural areas understand the value of transit service and I couldn't agree more with their closing paragraph:

When the state's economic situation improves the Legislature should put more money into public transit around the state

Friday, August 14, 2009

ST Ridership Snapshot

Sound Transit released a snapshot of some ridership numbers in their CEO report today:

Ridership report

Through the first six months of 2009, total boardings on our Sound Transit trains and buses was up 4.3 percent over the same period a year earlier. Looking just at June, total boardings were up 1.7 percent compared with June 2008. However, our average weekday boardings were down slightly in June. The increase in total boardings is largely attributable to one additional weekday in June 2009.

Looking more closely, the June numbers show that the average weekday boardings on ST Express buses were down very slightly. Tacoma Link continued to be a bright spot with average weekday boardings up by 9.5 percent while Sounder commuter rail ridership was down 11.6 percent in June, compared to a year earlier. Sounder ridership is particularly sensitive to changes in gasoline prices. Last summer gas prices were nearly $4.50 a gallon, while this summer prices are closer to about $2.70 a gallon.

Also, just to let you know, early ridership on Central Link is going very well. We’re averaging about 12,000 riders a day and estimate that ridership will increase to about 21,000 a day by the end of this year. By the end of 2010, we expect Central Link ridership to be around 26,000 to 27,000 a day.

It is good to see that total boardings continue to grow over last year. I think their analysis on the price of gas about a slight drop in Sounder ridership makes sense, not to mention the economic downturn. I wonder why the Tacoma Link's ridership continues to grow even during the recession and the decline in the price of gas. Perhaps it is due to less available or more expensive parking in Tacoma's Downtown? Other ideas?

Happy Friday Everyone.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Second Train to Vancouver is Coming August 19th

Celebrate the Primary Election by taking the second train from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. This is a overdue and exciting breakthrough for intercity rail travel on the Cascade Corridor. It is crazy that the Canadian Immigrations stalled this process at all. Regardless I am glad to see the deal finally came through! Passengers will now be able to ride from Portland to B.C. on one continuous train.

A full release is here on the WDSOT Site:

Live Blogging the Seattle City Council Transpo Committee Meeting on Metro Funding

TCC staff are here in attendance, and speaking, at the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee's special meeting on Metro Transit funding shortfall.

First up: Kevin Desmond, Metro Transit's General Manager.

Desmond is presenting the Executive Kurt Triplett's plan for addressing the funding shortfall.

This is the key slide from Desmond's presentation.

There are about a dozen or so folks here, organized by the Asian Counselling and Referral Service, holding up signs to show support for preserving the 42 bus. The 42 is the route that most duplicates the alignment of the new light rail line on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave (the 48 also serves the MLK Jr. corridor). In the face of these numbers, it's going to be difficult to retain service already served by a combination of speedy light rail and frequent local service on the 48 route.

One of the big criticisms of Metro is that it's a highly inefficient operation and they need to get their act together. Desmond notes that the final Performance Report will be published in September and will identify an array of issues from planning and scheduling to technology issues, to financial efficiencies to fare strategies and whether the trolley bus system is sustainable in the long run. Metro is likely to start implementing audit recommendations almost immediately.

Desmond reports on 3 key objectives that guided plan: (1) long-term sustainabality; (2) preservation of as much current service as possible; and (3) positioning the system for a strong rebound if/when the economy recovers.

Action items in Triplett plan (details here): (1) Defer bus service expansion; (2) substantial cuts to the capital program; (3) Non-service related cuts; (4) Property tax swap to raise some new revenue; (5) Tap operating reserves to minimize cuts; (6) 25 cent fare increase in 2011; (7) Use up fleet replacement reserves; (8) implement performance audit recommendations; and (9) 9% across the board service cuts.

Rapid Ride service will be preserved, albeit with some implementation delays, but most of the rest of Transit Now plans will be suspended until the economy recovers and/or new revenue is raised.

A key audit efficiency is likely to focus on a reform of the scheduling process. Not sure what that means.

The 9% reduction means a suspension of 310,000 hours by the end of 2011 and as many as 585,00 by the end of 2013. Some of those cuts be administrative and scheduling efficiencies. Desmond is clear that route productivity is not the determining factor and that the cuts will be proportionate. Productivity within the route will, however, be examined to seek out scheduling efficiencies.

In response to a question from Councilmember McIver, Desmond is clear that serving light rail in SE Seattle will remain a priority. In other words, there will be no disproportionate cuts impacting the light rail corridor in SE Seattle.

Cuts will be suspensions not the cuts that would be restored according to the 40/40/20 policy.

Desmond makes an important point. Some of the "lifeline" routes are served by only one or two buses, so you can't just cut frequency a bit or here or there like you can with Routes like the 7 or 358. You either have that bus on the road or not. So, cutting service 9% on these routes will mean, for example, terminating service at 7pm or cutting Sunday service. Cuts on the higher frequency routes will come from fine tuning schedules.

Next up: Kurt Triplett
Triplett mainly making himself available for questions since Desmond presented his plan. However, he does make the point that Metro will do all that it can to remain nimble and be ready to respond to new funding possibilities or an uptick in sales tax revenue if/when the economy recovers.

Rob Johnson, Transportation Choices Coalition
Rob is pointing out that this is a national problem. According to a recent American Public Transportation Association survey of transit systems around the country, more than 80% of transit systems across the country have seen flat or declining revenues from local, regional and state funding sources. Of those systems, 89% have raised fares, cut service or both. Among those systems reducing service, 65% have reduced off-peak service while nearly half (48%) have reduced geographic coverage. Systems around the state, Pierce, Intercity in Thurston, Kitsap, Spokane, C-Tran in Clark County and others are facing big service cuts in the next couple years.

Rob also points out that it will be impossible for us to achieve the City of Seattle's or the state's greenhouse gas reduction goals without a massive increase in transit service. So, environmentally, we can not afford massive cuts.

Rob wraps up by urging all the interests around the table and other interested parties to work together find more revenue tools for transit from Olympia.

Jon Scholes, Downtown Seattle Association
Jon speaks to the value of transit for downtown commerce. He makes some pretty strong hits on the 40/40/20 policy which, as he notes, is not a policy utilized in any other county policy area, not human services, not other transportation services. Finally, Jon points out the need for another revenue source for transit and offers MVET or increased weight fees as options. Of course, any new source will require legislative approval. That's the rub.

Comments/Questions from Council Members and Members of the Public
McIver points out that if Seattle is going to absorb a substantial amount of growth under GMA, we need transportation resources to serve that growth.

Transportation scalawag, Paul W. Locke, urges re-opening labor contracts as the answer to the problem.

Michael Taylor-Judd: supports idea of seeking more revenue but is opposed to proportionately of cuts. Focus on cuts on the least productive routes, he says.

Chuck Blair: urges capping wages at $100k and a more entrepreneurial approach to transit services, whatever that means.

A representative of the Vashon/Maury Island Community Council is here to talk about passenger-only ferry service and busses to meet the ferries. She also urges more revenue.

Paul W. Bechtel from Amalgamated Transit Union warns against cutting maintenance hours too much. He warns that cutting maintenance too much will lead to a loss of reliability that will scare away riders. He urges cuts instead on the amount of night and weekend service.

A resident of SE Seattle is testifying against cuts in the number of bus stops and service cuts in SE Seattle. She calls for cuts instead on the SLU Streetcar service.

A Metro operator is now making a quite moving speech about maintaining service and how cuts will hit the poor and disabled the most - the people who most need the service. He also notes the impacts on air quality from fewer buses and more cars on the road.

Kurt Triplett is responding to some of the previous criticisms of the proportionate cuts by explaining that he was trying to preserve as much service for as many of the types of riders who depend on transit service - the transit dependent and the commuter. He urges both kinds of riders to see their common interests in having more revenue coming into the system and more service provided.

A woman representing the Asian/Pacific-Islander communities is now speaking. She argues that the cuts are in fact affecting the vulnerable and people of color disproportionately. She points out the reallocation of service hours for SLU Streetcar. She also urges preservation of full 42 service, as well as all other SE Seattle routes.

More speakers are coming up to urge full preservation of the 42, 48, 7, 106 and 107 routes through the Rainier Valley.

Tacoma News Tribune: "BIke Lanes are a Key Element in Complete Streets"

The Tacoma News Tribune printed a great editorial today about complete street, bike lanes, and traffic calming in North Tacoma.

It is a worthwhile read and it is encouraging to see the TNT get it right again on transportation issues.

The messaging around quality of life, public health, and climate change is right on:

For instance, within the next several weeks, bike lanes will be added to South 12th Street between Sprague and Union avenues. To accommodate the change, the eastbound two lanes will go down to one lane.

Critics of such changes often ask why capacity should be taken from motorized users and given to bike lanes when there aren’t that many bicyclists. One reason is that cyclists may be avoiding a particular street because it’s so dangerous. Build bike lanes and more people likely will be willing to venture out and use them, perhaps even switching from cars to bikes for at least some of their transportation needs.

From a quality-of-life perspective, making that choice available is important. Fewer cars means less pollution. More people riding bikes means healthier residents. Little wonder that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is a key supporter of the Complete Streets concept.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Burien TOD

Last week I had the opportunity to tour some great transit oriented development in Burien.

It was a very good example of what a suburban city can do in order to create compact, walkable centers. The city partnered with King County to build a new town hall and county library right next to the spanking new Burien Transit Center (with frequent bus service to downtown Seattle, the airport and South King County).

Down the Road from the new transit center and town hall are a bunch of historic restaurants and shops on the street-front as well as a brand new big mixed-use development.

It was an impressive look at a walkable revitalized suburban downtown. I put pictures of the tour up on the TCC facebook page here. Check them out.

Burien is also doing a Transportation Benefit District in November to build some new bike trails.

Monday, August 3, 2009

American Public Transportation Association President to Present Award to Intercity Transit Tomorrow in Olympia

Bill Millar,The president of APTA, will join many transportation leaders from around the region, including our very own Rob Johnson, for an exciting day in Olympia tomorrow as they present intercity transit with a national award as the best transit agency of its size!

Here is the full release, it looks like it will be a great day:

There are several newsworthy transportation-related events occurring in the capitol city this Tuesday, August 4:

Transportation panel breakfast – 7:30-8:30am. News and photo opportunity. Approx. 40 community leaders expected to attend discussion about the issues, challenges, status and relevance of current public transportation funding on federal, state and local levels. Guest panelists include national American Public Transportation Association President Bill Millar, federal governmental affairs transit representative Dale Learn, Washington State Director of Public Transportation Katy Taylor, and the Executive Director of Seattle-based Transportation Choices Rob Johnson.

National Award presentation to Intercity Transit - 11-11:30am. Great photo and interview opportunities: presentation of nation’s top transit award to Thurston County’s Intercity Transit as well as speakers U.S. Representative Adam Smith, Washington State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, FTA Regional Administrator Rick Krochalis, and others. Many quotable people (both speakers and audience members) will be available.

Community event & celebration - 10:30am-1pm. Photo and interview opportunities. Present will be many community leaders, bus riders, transit stakeholders, representatives from Sound, Pierce, Intercity and Mason transit systems, electric car advocate Plug In Olympia, bike/ped programs, Sustainable South Sound, etc. Event location is on the north side of the Intercity Transitt transit center, 222 State Street, adjacent to Franklin and Olympia Ave. in downtown Olympia.

Town Hall Part III: Join Us for an All Star Town Hall on the Puget Sound Region's Transportation Future

TOWN HALL: Visioning the Puget Sound Region's Transportation Future
Part III - Perspectives from the State and Federal Level

It has been a busy summer at Transportation Choices and as we head into August, the grand finale of our Transportation Town Hall series is quickly approaching. In May, we heard from an expert panel on some of the challenges facing the region on the transportation front. In June, we discussed a few exciting opportunities to address those challenges. In August, we're pulling out all the stops. Join our all-star panel of legislators and policy staff for a discussion on what it will take at the federal and state level to address our transportation challenges. Get an insight into their vision for the region's transportation future and find out what their plans are to make it happen.

Join us for a special discussion with our panelists:

Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, 10th Legislative District, Chair of the Washington State Senate Transportation Committee
Representative Judy Clibborn, 41st Legislative District, Chair of the Washington State House Transportation Committee
Sheila Babb, Deputy State Director, Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Jennifer Ziegler, Executive Policy Advisor on Transportation, Office of Governor Christine Gregoire

WHEN: Friday August 7, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
WHERE: Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall, 5th Avenue between Cherry and James St. (please note change in venue)

As always, feel free to bring your lunch.

This townhall series is brought to you by
Transportation Choices Coalition, Futurewise, WashPIRG, Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Transit Blog, Feet First, Commute Seattle and Zipcar

This is one TCC event that you DO NOT want to miss!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

What will the world look like when a gallon of gasoline is $8 or $18?

One on my favorite pop economic books is freakonomics.

I have the NYT Freakonomics blog on my google reader. Often times they put some interesting free market based transportation related inquiries and posts on their blog.

I came across one of those this morning, which is well worth a read. It is an interview with the author new book called, "$20 per gallon; How the inevitable rise in the price of gasoline will change our lives for the better".

The Author, Chris Steiner looks at how the reality of paying $8-$18 dollars per gallon of gasoline in the next 8-25 years will drastically change our every day lives. He looks at the everything from the food at resturants, how kids get to school, and the types of cars we will drive (or won't drive) in this new financial reality.

Here is the full post. It is WELL worth the quick read.

A couple of parts I thought were the most interesting:

How will kids get to school now?

By the time gas has reached $18, most people will live in places where density dictates that schools be grouped closer together, putting them within an easy walk or a brief bike ride.

What car’s in my driveway now?

At $18, you won’t have a driveway. There will be a whole generation of Americans growing up without cars at this point. They’ll live close to schools, close to new train lines, and close to places like restaurants and grocery stores. Electric cars will make an impact, but they won’t come in with the pricing power nor the volume to prevent massive changes in where we live and how we live.

What’ll be the new hot job field?

At $18 per gallon, a new way of efficient living will have settled in across much of the developed world. What we’ll still need, however, is what we always need, in fact: civil engineers. As our world transforms from one built around the car to one again built around the person and forms of mass transit, civil engineers will reshape society and the way we move and the way we live.

I might have to go out and buy the book. One thing I question is how $20 per gallon gas will dictate new technologies for buses? What will happen to many of our transit systems that still rely on diesel buses to more the vast majority of people (I think today hybrid buses only get 6-7 miles per hour)?

I guess the moral of the story is buy houses/condos in compact urban areas, enjoy your dream cross country road trip while you still can, become a civil engineer, and eat some delicous sushi now because soon it will be a thing of the past. Oh yeah... and buy your kids good road bikes instead of new cars in order to prepare them for the future.