Saturday, January 17, 2009

I'm Sorry, But Public Transportation Isn't Going To Save The World

Here's a picture I took when I was out picking up some lunch in the big city the other day. Now I don't have any serious problems with public transportation, it's a good thing and it does get people from place to place. And we all do need to get from place to place. But what bothers me a little bit is some of the inane propaganda that goes along with it. Notice the Metro banner with the picture of the cars? There's four of them and they are all belching exhaust. And just in case you missed the ecologically motivated message here, the word Mean is spelled out in bold letters. Now to the right we see the big M logo for Metro with the word Green next to it. Unmistakable point. But you do know what this sign is hanging on, right?  It's a bus. A big old roaring diesel two piper in this case. So since when are buses Green and not Mean like those unfortunate cars? 

You'd think that the folks designing these Metro marketing campaigns would maybe get their situational irony on for a minute or two when they're cooking this stuff up. Or at least loosen their eyebrows.

Now I grew up in the New York megalopolis, and I rode public transportation since I was about 15 years old. And I have to be honest with you, the concept that buses and subways might be world saving Green technologies would have been lost on me at the time. To me they were what you took when you didn't have the cash for a cab. The buses smelled like exhaust, the subways stunk of incontinent derelicts (in summer the bouquet was particularly pungent), and they were noisy and crowded and you just didn't leap out of bed in the morning all excited about riding them. 

But now it is 2009, I live in L.A. County, and the big push is to take the bus. Or the train. The message is everywhere. And among the reasons given is that by riding public transportation you will somehow help save the planet from global warming, smog, melting ice caps and rising oceans. But I've got to level with you. Buses aren't going to save the world. Diesel is as polluting as gasoline, growing bio fuels requires petroleum based fertilizers, natural gas is a highly finite resource that isn't quite as clean as you've been told, and the electricity that drives those little trains? It comes from coal, oil, gas, and nuclear fueled power plants. None of which enjoy a happy reputation for being the salvation of the Earth's green trees and little creatures.

So yeah, public transportation is just fine, and I have even been seen taking it from time to time. Especially when I need to go to downtown L.A. But please, don't tell me that when I do I'm saving the world. By doing so you are making an absurd mockery of some of the very serious problems we're facing these days.


  1. I think they should all have algore's doomsday clock on the side of the bus!
    In fact, I think we should get John (Green) Buchanan to put up an algore doomsday clock at city hall!

  2. Green signs on buses? Isn't that a little like putting peace signs on AK47s?

  3. 50 seat bus, full of passengers = theoretically 50 cars not on road, kinda green, little bit maybe.

    Rod Diener