Monday, June 15, 2009

A Transportation Gap?

We have all read the stories about the recent implosion of the American auto industry and the notices that were sent out to the various auto dealerships across the country. Between GM and Chrysler the total come to over 3,000. Who among us did not see this coming?

The competition between brand and models lately has become more of a difference of rebates and financing than quality and function. The autos offered provided less mechanical innovation and more size and flash and the dealers convinced the buyers that that was what they wanted. Very much the way that home builders built only a few basic styles and told everyone that they were the ones that were selling. Even when the hybrid autos (and highly efficient houses) appeared there were so few and they cost a premium price that the sales numbers could not match to usual models. Thanks to those who held out and waited for them (and higher fuel prices) the offerings of the automakers (and homebuilders) are beginning to change.

The local headlines of the past few weeks have declared that only a handful of Kentucky's dealers have received notice of their contracts ending, but have we only seen the first wave? According to the FHWA the vehicle miles driven in the US has fallen for almost a full year now, but strangely the total miles driven in Kentucky are on the rise. This may be the result of having to travel farther for employment in the more rural eastern portions of the state or the sprawling of the suburban areas of the population centers, but this will change as the price of fuel rises again. I doubt that we have seen the end of dealer closings.

In conjunction with the vehicle miles driven reduction is the loss of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund which pays for the government's portion (80%) of new highway jobs. I also feel that the balance in Congress will affect the way Kentucky will benefit in the future. The Democrats in power may try to coerce Mitch McConnell to compromise by withholding highway money and projects for our state and local jobs.

Today, I also read the American's are flying fewer miles for the thirteenth month in a row for both business and vacation travel. Here the decline is even greater than in auto miles in a year to year comparison. This may have an adverse affect on the Alltech WEG in 2010, and for that we have no contingency plans.

It may already be too late for Lexington and Kentucky to prevent some kind of transpotation gap from occuring in the near future. We have not planned for any structured mass transit(i.e. light rail, streetcars) nor have planned for greatly walkable cities and complete streets. We will also need to plan for the delivery of goods and freight by some other means than truck, if fuel prices get too high, as well as growing more foods locally.

What are you doing to close your transportation gap?

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