Low gas prices are great and not-so-great

Happy New Year! It’s an even happier New Year at the gas pump. While the low gas prices are good news for most of our wallets, some things in society take a hit.

The incentive to advance alternative energy technology is reduced when prices are low at the pump. When gas prices are low, why invest and research other ways we can power our lifestyles? Honestly, now might be the best time to increase alternative energy investment and research while expanding incentives to get new folks into the game.

As history shows, low energy prices do not last forever. After the shock and awe of future higher prices, consumers tend to get serious about ditching the SUV in favor of smaller, more efficient cars – which include those that run on electric energy. Why not be as prepared as possible when that day arrives once again?

The incentive to utilize public transportation might go down when energy prices are low. Why take the bus or train when you don’t have to pay much at the local gas station?  I confess that I like to take advantage of public transportation to take a holiday from the Atlanta metro area’s abysmal traffic – no matter what the gas prices are at the time.

Speaking of utilizing public transport, I had to go to work while being “carless” one day. My daughter dropped me off at a rail station in the morning which is about eight miles from my home. Later in the day, she was too busy to pick me up when I returned to the rail station after work. My suburban county has a good bus system, so taking that bus was my only option to get home. No, I will not take a cab or use Uber.

In the late afternoon, I patiently waited for a county bus after a 30 minute MARTA train ride which is still good after operating in the Atlanta area for over 35 years. Indeed MARTA has had its challenges over the years, but despite that, I cannot complain about their service and quality. Yes, I have experienced few bad incidents over the years, but overall, it’s a good train system. After boarding a Gwinnett County bus, I was treated to a decent ride, but one which featured a number of stops. The stops are obviously a necessity, but still, quite annoying. Still, I give kudos to the Gwinnett County bus system for nice buses operated by good folks.

I arrived at a bus stop about a mile and a half from my home – one hour later. Remember that my home is only eight miles from where this county bus originated. With all of my work gear, I insisted on walking to my home. The entire return trip home from work took me two hours.

Add my return home trip to my daughter’s 10 minute morning drive and the 30 minute MARTA train trip to work, I commuted for two hours and 40 minutes on that day. Sorry if anyone disagrees with a fact that I’m about to write here: that’s pathetic. The Atlanta metro can and should do better when it comes to transportation. After that trip, I must say that the Atlanta metro has and continues to drop the ball on planning and development or lack thereof which has led to where we are these days.

So, what does all this have to do with low gas prices? Plenty. Again, low gas prices will only incentivize citizens to put more cars on the road which this area never needed and does not need in the future. That’s the bad part. The good part is that low prices are fantastic for our wallets which means that consumers can re-allocate saved dollars for other things in life. The economy expands in good ways like hopefully creating jobs and improved quality of life. In the short run, low gas prices help out a lot of people who have to use their cars because of the fact that there are no alternative transportation choices in their areas.

There are no easy solutions here in the Atlanta metro area, but at the end of the day, it looks like there will be happy days at the pump, but quite honestly, not on the road.


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