Soap Box

My very own cute little soap box!

Posts Tagged ‘gas’

Earth Day Rant

Posted by eemilla on April 22, 2011

In honor of Earth Day, I’m hopping on my soapbox and giving my Earth Day Rant about three things that drive me crazy.

My largest pet peeve related to shopping is when my husband buys a beer or a box of beer that comes with a convenient handle, and he has to literally argue with the cashier that he doesn’t need a bag; many cashiers claim it is illegal to allow him to carry the beer outside of the store without a bag (I’ve worked as a cashier in a few different stores, and I was never required to do this).  I also get irked at the assumption that regardless of the number of groceries or items one might have a bag is requisite; nevermind that I walked through the store carrying everything I am buying without the assistance of a bag or a basket or a cart.

Earth Fare both irritated and cheered me for changing their bag donation policy; for the longest time, if you brought your own bag OR didn’t use a bag, Earth Fare would either donate $0.10 to the charity of the month or give you a $0.10 discount.  I believe it was around a year ago, they reduced the donation to $0.05, and it is only applicable if you have a reusable grocery bag (not your purse or backpack).  I don’t mind losing the discount as I always donated it, but I do hate that Earth Fare won’t give up the donation unless I put my half pound of mozzarella in a reusable bag.  They cheered me when they began requiring a donation for paper bags and eliminated plastic bags altogether (thewebsite says the donation is voluntary, but it also says if you chose not to donate the $0.05 then they give you a cardboard box not a bag).  They also sell reusable bags near the check out and at most of the checkout lines at the South Asheville location.

Along with the annoyances I have to also applaud Target for giving a $0.05 discount for reusing a bag as well as selling cheap $0.99 bags at the front of the store and at every checkout lane.  My favorite grocery store, the French Broad Food Co-op, charges for the plastic containers in the bulk room as well as selling heavy duty cotton bags and more light weight less expensive bags like those at Target.

I wish all stores would encourage customers to bring their own bags and containers either by giving a discount or by charging a fee for the bag; I also want the Coop and Earth Fare to stop providing the really thin plastic containers that are not dishwasher safe.  One of my resolutions was to stop using to-go containers for leftovers at restaurants, but unfortunately, I have failed miserably.  On the upside, we are not using new bags in the produce or bulk department when we go shopping.  Following the example set my mother and my step mother in law, we are washing out sandwich bags and  the green bags we use for produce (which purportedly keep produce fresher longer, but I like because they are strong enough to be washed unlike the freebies in the produce isle).

Secondly, I don’t want to hear one more word about how much gas costs.  I, too, hate paying almost fifty dollars to fill up the gas tank; however, we pay much lower gas rates than the rest of the world, and we generally have a choice in which vehicle we drive.  There are also many well published tips to reduce your fuel consumption (combine trips, drive less aggressively, fill up after the sun is down, carpool, or don’t drive).

Before my pregnancy we were a one car household even though we both work full time jobs with different hours.  We were able to make this work because neither of us mind walking along a busy road without sidewalks or even much of a shoulder; we live about a 1.25 walk from the bus line; and my work commute is a less than two mile walk.  Sadly, the bus runs every 1.5 hours between about 6:30a (1st run out of downtown) and 5:30p (last run out of downtown), which means we couldn’t even use it for an early night out much less a night shift commute.  I should note that there is a night route but the closest stop is about five miles from the bus stop that is 1.25 miles from our house, but again most of the five mile walk is along a five lane road with several hundred feet of sidewalks interspersed with parking lots and grassy stretches (some of which are steep banks that are difficult to traverse).  While I could walk the almost two miles from my work to my home, much of the walk is along the same five lane heavily travelled road, but this stretch contains not one sidewalk.  Fortunately much of that stretch is through parking lots, but there is a stretch that is like a goat trail which leads to a vacant lot.  Neither are generally cut so the weeds can and do hide broken bottles and various other trash (I never encountered any used condoms!)  Please note that both stretches of road mentioned above have been a part of the city for years, but sidewalk construction hasn’t been anywhere near a priority for this part of the city.

We decided that having a little one and not moving precluded us from remaining a one car household.  In the two and half years of being a one car household I can only recall a handful of times the bus was critically late, and at a cost of $0.75 per ride (if you buy the ticket book, but only $1 per ride if you pay singly), it is certainly cheaper than gas or parking.  Maybe one day we’ll return to being regular bus riders, but I cannot imagine hauling a stroller and all those baby accoutrements to the bus stop then on the bus then off the bus then all around town then repeat for the return ride.  Then again we never thought we could make do with one car for as long as we did.  Unfortunately, this will be the first Strive Not to Drive that I will not join in the past few years because it coincides with my 38th week of pregnancy.  I can only hope that you might decide to participate.

Rather than subsidize multi national companies that don’t even pay taxes on their billions in annual profits to begin with, we need a New Deal type program that gets the unemployed constructing sidewalks, repairing bridges, and building rail.  Public transit eases congestion, and for those of us that like to go out and knock a few back, it provides a much cheaper alternative to a taxi (which allows us to spend more money knocking a few back and eating a good meal).  Transit jobs cannot be outsourced, and public transit encourages private investment along its corridors much like roads.

Happy Earth Day.

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Oil spills and more roads

Posted by eemilla on June 19, 2010

From Governor Perdue’s weekly email:

North Carolina’s Response to the Gulf Oil Spill

Gov. Perdue on Tuesday joined officials from the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard to discuss the state’s ongoing preparations in the event oil were to reach North Carolina shores.  A briefing in Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh was held for state legislators and another session for local elected officials, local government managers and public safety officials from coastal counties.

Gov. Perdue stressed that experts, including the Coast Guard and U.S. Environment Protection Agency, believe there is only a remote chance that any oil will reach North Carolina shores.  If any oil were to reach North Carolina, the state is prepared.  North Carolina had a plan in place to deal with an oil spill long before the situation in the Gulf, and that plan is being updated to handle the current situation.  Gov. Perdue reminded participants that North Carolina beaches are clean and open for business this summer season.

“I believe North Carolina has the best emergency management team in the country. We have proven over and over we can handle whatever emergency comes our way,” said Perdue.  “No matter how small the chance that oil could reach North Carolina, my goal, as always, is for us to be prepared.”

Additionally, the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety has launched a web page dedicated to providing information and useful links regarding the Gulf oil spill.  The page is located at the department’s home page at www.nccrimecontrol.org and can be reached by clicking on the Gulf Oil Spill tab.

Support Grows for Mobility Fund

Broad-based and bipartisan support for Gov. Bev Perdue’s proposed Mobility Fund continues to grow across the state, as evidenced by the number of resolutions passed by local municipalities and other organizations. Twelve groups have already signed resolutions supporting the innovative transportation funding legislation, while four others are pending. They include the:

·         City of Goldsboro
·         City of Charlotte
·         City of Concord
·         City of High Point
·         Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
·         Durham Transportation Advisory Committee
·         Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Org. Transportation Adv. Comm.
·         NC Joint Regional Forum (League of Municipalities and the Assoc. of County Comm.)
·         Centralina Council of Governments (nine counties in the Mecklenburg area)
·         Cabarrus-Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization
·         North Carolina Regional Councils
·         North Carolina Turnpike Authority

The Carborro/Chapel Hill/Durham Metropolitan Planning Organization and the cities of Archdale, Rocky Mount and Thomasville have approved resolutions and expect to have them delivered soon.

The Mobility Fund was proposed by Gov. Perdue in her budget as a new way to finance projects of statewide or regional significance to help reduce congestion and improve mobility. It sets aside funding for priority projects, the first of which would be widening I-85 north of the Yadkin River bridge on the Davidson/Rowan County line.”

The fund is being considered by the General Assembly as part of the FY 2010 budget.

For more information about the Mobility Fund, visit www.ncdot.gov and click on “Governor’s Proposed Mobility Fund” under “Latest News.”

While North Carolina may have a disaster plan in the event the  oil or tar balls from BP’s spill heads our way, Governor Perdue doesn’t mention anything about offshore drilling off the North Carolina coast .  Many North Carolina residents still support offshore drilling, even after the BP fiasco.  However, Governor Perdue hasn’t issued a press release committing herself to any position either for or against.  In September 2009, she signed Executive Order 23 to study offshore energy (which to Governor’s Perdue’s credit does support wind energy), but since BP’s Gulf spill her press releases have been isolated to the response if any of the spill comes ashore in North Carolina.

The irony comes in the next paragraph were the “mobility fund” is once again promoted; as I stated last week, I have no problem with the increase in vehicle registration fees, but the emphasis on where the funds will go is my problem.  Building more roads eases congestion for a few years, but as long as the population grows the decreased congestion will quickly return to its previous levels just across more roads.  I haven’t spent much time in Raleigh and its outward belts, but I did live in Atlanta for a year in which I witnessed eight lanes congested on I85 and I285 as well as the local roads (e.g. Ashford-Dunwoody, Peachtree, Hammond Dr, Roswell Rd) from 7 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 6 pm every weekday.  The long term solution is to decrease the number of single occupant vehicles.  Mass transit provides that option as well as providing jobs that cannot be exported.  I’d love for Buncombe County and the City of Asheville to support Governor Perdue’s Mobility Fund with the caveat that public transit receive priority over increasing the road supply.


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Governor Perdue has it wrong on mobility.

Posted by eemilla on June 14, 2010

Over a week ago, Governor Perdue spoke in favor of increasing car and light truck registration fees in order to fund highway improvement projects like widening congested road and other transportation projects.  Her emphasis is on expanding highways not reducing private passenger vehicles on the existing roads by increasing public transit, and frankly I am angry.  I don’t mind the proposed five dollar increase on my vehicle registration; I do mind public transit following widening roads as the goal of the mobility fund.  Many studies support her remarks about congestion crippling business and productivity, but many studies also support that widening and building new roads is a short term fix.

Please yell it from the roof tops that this is poor, short-sighted, backwards thinking policy.  Please, Governor Perdue, get on the bus (or better yet, the high speed rail connecting Asheville with Charlotte)!


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Strive Not to Drive 2010

Posted by eemilla on May 17, 2010

Although I don’t recall if last year’s Strive Not to Drive challenge began on a Saturday, I was perplexed by the decision to begin on a Saturday considering Sunday is the one day of the week that Asheville Transit does not run.  Are the organizers trying to encourage participants to think about options other than transit, or is their goal to highlight the absurdity of thinking of our transit as a viable alternative to a vehicle when its coverage (both in time and territory) is severely limited?  Regardless, I joined the pledge.

Sadly, I repeated last year’s mistake by oversleeping (Sunday nights at the Hanger rock!)  My plans are to walk to work tomorrow and Thursday; for Wednesday, I’ll forgo the car for both the morning and evening commutes, and on both Friday and Saturday, we will both forgo the car.  Last’s year event pushed me into more morning bus commutes; even though I feel ridiculous riding the bus for all of a mile, it saves me much sweat and allows me enough time to change into work attire before the office opens.

Wednesday night is our main issue; the last run from downtown to our bus stop is at 5:30.   Route 36 runs much later, but it stops about five miles short of our stop (I think I may have mentioned a few times about the lack of sidewalks especially south of I40).  While it is true we could bike it, my fitness level would render me a bit unsafe.  I understand that bus fares do not provide a significant source of revenue, but our household would be more than happy to pay more money for evening rides to help fund expanding service.

Get on the bus!

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Climate Change

Posted by eemilla on October 15, 2009

The facts supporting climate change have been widely reported across numerous media outlets; I wanted to post this to add one more blog to the list in support of making drastic changes to our lifestyles.

Climate change is just one of the many ills our society suffers because of our addiction with fossil fuels.  Looking for purportedly cheap coal, we send fellow citizens to work in coal mines; once the vein dies or becomes too expensive, we raze the mountains and dump the top into the surrounding valleys creating wastelands in lieu of forested habitats.  Those stream beds supply someone’s water somewhere in the chain are then filled with poisons and waste from the mining, and during rainy years like this one the fills can create huge landslides (which if it doesn’t kill you isn’t covered under a homeowner’s policy).

Our love of the automobile has lead us to build massive expanses of blacktop.  The power of the car has allowed us to move further and further from work and commercial centers which leads to more traffic congestion then demand for less congested roadways.  The fuel for these vehicles will not last forever, and even if it did, its exhaust is killing us.  Furthermore is the fuel worth the national security risk; what would the economy do if for whatever crazy reason OPEC decided to stick it to us tomorrow?  Public transportation was squashed by domestic automakers, and many people still argue public transportation will never be self-sustaining (thanks for a good jab, Doug Gibson!).  Funny how the sweetheart lease deals we make with big oil doesn’t impugn them.  However, as our population grows the stress on the current roadways will increase while the demand for housing increases, and no one wants to live near the noise and smell of major roadway.

Our food is tied closely to energy prices because almost everything Americans eat is soaked in oil starting from the time the seeds are delivered from Monsanto to their drive to your home in plastic bags in the back of your car.  If you are eating processed foods then you have even more oil on your hands not to mention the spare tire around your middle.

Even if our elected officials refuse to act, we can each do something small like grow some food, bring your own boxes and bags to the store, do without the car, or insulate your home.  These little things when compounded will help, but a phone call or email to elected officials can’t hurt.

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One Car Household Week 40!

Posted by eemilla on June 5, 2009

Frankly, I am a bit shocked that we have made it this far without seriously thinking about buying another car.  We have not had one conversation about even looking at cars aside from some day dreaming in which we get some fast and nimble little car that I can haul ass up and down back country roads (and in this fantasy I could so without endangering anyone, getting a ticket, or  wasting gas).  From the onset my honey has sacrificed the most by riding the bus and walking more than I have, but this week I have walked and/or rode the bus in five out of eight commutes!  My calves are singing in that good muscle building way, and I like to think I am getting less winded than when I started around Strive not to Drive.  Another benefit is that the stress that builds in my shoulders, arms, and wrists from typing all day seems to disperse by the time I get home; I don’t know if it is the endorphines or increased blood flow, but I certainly appreciate it.  I even walked home in the rain and stayed dry (although I have yet to try Beth’s bubble umbrella idea).

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Strive Not to Drive results

Posted by eemilla on May 15, 2009

Overall I fared better than in previous years, but I only walked home three out of ten opportunities.  Today I blame the weather, but Thursday I no good reason other than the snooze button.  I also forgot to bring the camera so I could complain about the dearth of sidewalks, but I guess I will have ample opportunities as I hope to continue walking more.  My goal is to actually have both of us commute some way other driving at least one a week.  With gas prices on their annual summer up swing and swim suit season fast approaching, we should have plenty of reasons to leave the car parked.

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One Car Household Week Twenty-Two

Posted by eemilla on January 30, 2009

We are fast approaching the half year mark, and I am so amazed about how easy this has been.  In honesty, I must say my husband bears the greater burden.  Now that we are not suffering from the bitter snowless cold, I plan to resume my Thursday treks home.  I actually walked past three other pedestrians in the neighborhood, and I also felt like an old lady as I wanted to yell at a few cars to SLOW DOWN as they whizzed by me.  Although I spend much time complaining about the dearth of sidewalks, I must say I do appreciate the good long stretch of new sidewalk on my amended route.  The sad and inefficient note about this stretch is that they had sidewalks already, but no one had bothered to maintain them so they became a part of people’s yards.

Speaking of public transit and government waste, I wanted to give thanks to Doug Gibson over at Scrutiny Hooligans for his great comeback: “When did I-40 start making a profit?”  How can public transit be profitable if we live so far from everything and we don’t pay tolls?  How much sense does it make to spend millions on a parking deck then charge one dollar an hour to park there with an eight dollar per day maximum?  The newest downtown parking deck was estimated to cost $12 million dollars for 650 parking spaces, which breaks down to over $18,000 per space.  The notice doesn’t mention if this lot will be like the other decks that give the first hour for free, but I assume being closest to the courthouse this will not be an option.  

I think the economic stimulus will push us in a new direction as far as our transportation priorities fall; gas prices will rise again as oil is not a renewable resource, and the demand for transit will increase.  The Asheville Transit System seems really interested in listening to its ridership; hopefully, more service will arrive before Strive Not to Drive.

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Rainy Day Bus Stop

Posted by eemilla on November 14, 2008

Please do not think I am complaining about the rain; since we are in the midst of a multi year drought, I refuse to complain about the rain.  I am, however, complaining about the city expecting it not to rain.  At least we have the bus service, but I do not believe there is a single covered bus stop on the entire route six.  As the two examples below show, not only is there no shelter, trash can, or bench, but one cannot even avoid the deep mud puddles when getting on the bus.  Please either provide more service or show some love to the existing riders on the especially unloved route six.  I must note that I am not a dedicated bus rider, and I am fortunate enough to have the car for inclement weather commuting days.

* I would like to note that we are just passed the eleven week mark as a one car household in spite of the less than ideal alternative transportation options.

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So much to celebrate!

Posted by eemilla on October 12, 2008

We have accomplished six and a half weeks of being a one car household.  I am so proud of my honey for bearing most of the sacrifice, although I am jealous of his thinning waistline.  A few days ago we even left the car parked in the carport all day long as I rode my much improved bicycle, and he took the bus.  Thanks so much to Asheville Recyclery; however, please do not be fooled by their website: they are located behind the French Broad Food Coop at 90 Biltmore Avenue in southern downtown Asheville.  Although my dry-rotted nubby mountain bike tires have been replaced by slicks, my saddle is the most uncomfortable piece of plastic in existence, and my gear shift has a mind of its own.  I will ameliorate these issues and become a brave bike commuter along the quite dangerous Highway 25A (aka Sweeten Creek Road).  Additionally, I will continue to ride the bus on the weekends to get downtown to grocery shop even if I do have difficulty reading the schedule correctly.  Due to my idiocy, I was able to walk a few miles from the North Asheville library to Greenlife lugging a backpack full of cognac, brandy, capilene and socks from the Ski Country tent sale, an Andrew Jackson biography, my grocery shopping bags, and a purse with a hand on the fucking cooler (for the groceries that were not to be).  I walked all that way (and believe me for someone as sedentary as myself that is one long fucking walk) because I cannot read the bus schedule, so I guess I paid a physical stupid tax today.  

The other reason for our celebration (which we will postpone due to us both suffering from nasty early season colds) is our second wedding anniversary.  I agree that two years of married bliss doesn’t really deserve a grandiose celebration, but come January it will be ten years we have shared.  I met this wonderful man on my birthday, and we shared French toast at IHOP after seeing some punk band at a bar that doesn’t exist because it either went out of business or someone drove their car through it.

I didn’t really think of myself as the marrying type, but I love this man.  I really wanted to stand in public and say it; I wanted to profess my undying love in front of our family and friends.  It was so wonderful, and I love being married to him.  I don’t feel that anything really changed from our cohabitating or living in sin days, but damn, I love calling him my husband.  

The only thing that sucks about being married is the constant query of where are the kids?  I will leave that for another post.

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