Wouldn't it be cool to pilot rural transportation solutions that have benefits for those living at any income, as well as the community as a whole, and our environment?
Getting from home to work is a huge cost for the rural workforce. It is directly related to housing issues because it affects how much of our income we have available for housing and other basics. As gas costs continue to rise this will only become more of a factor.
Cars contribute to environmental degradation and affect Global Warming in many ways, but tendency of lower income families to use older model, less efficient cars, is particularly problematic. Buying a Prius is not an option for most people.
Some tourist-based communities in the US such as Sun Valley, Idaho, have resorted to bussing in their workforce from outlying areas, sometimes as much as an hour each way. However, in north Tillamook County and south Clatsop Counties, hemmed in by mountain and ocean, even the communities that we traditionally think of as less expensive are now facing high housing prices and a serious shortage of workforce housing.
More importantly, not having affordable houses close in to jobs is destructive of the very fabric of a healthy community - particularly one like ours in which is already diverse and is actually attracting young people - both those who have grown up here and want to stay and those who are moving in.
Parking Requirements set by local jurisdictions are a significant barrier to the construction of affordable housing.
Each residential parking space costs $25,000 or more in land and development costs, which is either borne by residents or requires greater public subsidy. In urban areas parking garages costs are even greater, often $30,000-$50,000 per space.
Car Sharing Coop Programs - successful in many urban areas - need to be piloted in rural small towns.
- Car-sharing can reduce the cost of building new housing by reducing the amount of parking needed. Independent surveys consistently show that each car-sharing vehicle replaces as many as 7 private cars or more, as members sell or scrap their cars.
- Instead of parking lots and parking garages, car sharing also allows us to use land for higher and better uses like housing and parks, helping to reshape our communities into a more environmentally sustainable form.
- Car Sharing can also significantly reduce transportation costs. According to AAA, a compact automobile costs $5,000 a year for insurance, taxes and finance charges, and depreciation. The average CarShare member, in contrast, spends $540 and drives 435 miles per year. These savings can increase mortgage or rent capability.
- Car-sharing allows people to make necessary car trips to the doctor or job interviews, without the burden of car payments, insurance, parking, and other and associated costs.
- Reducing the number of cars is good for both people and the environment. Many folks of means have told us they could happily manage with one car if another were available when needed once in a while. And many people like the idea of the possibility of renting a pick-up for a big clean-up, a van for moving or a fuel-efficient car for a trip to the city.
- CarSharing.Net [www.carsharing.net] - a source for getting familiar with the concept and its practical issues. Includes a great on-line library of resources.
- Alliance of Nonprofits for Insurance, Risk Retention Group [www.ani-rrg.org]. Interesting organization that works in Oregon, among other states. The California group [www.niac.org] provides insurance to San Francisco's CarShare
Other Transportation Alternatives
Using and improving existing public transportation options:
- More and more people are using the WAVE to get to Tillamook and Portland.
- Getting north into Clatsop County by bus recently got easier thanks to agreements and compatible scheduling between the Tillamook County Transportation District and the Sunset Empire Transportation District.
- Train to Portland - A long term dream is to use the existing freight railroad to move people back and forth to the City like in the old days.
Trying variations of solutions that work in other counties to get people short distances within communities:
- In Latin America collectivos, usually cars, run on a set route but stop anywhere for pick-up or drop-off. Cannon Beach has its own small bus that operates like this, running a circuit around town.
- Smart Jitney is a flexible system that uses cell phones and the Internet for ride reservations and coordination. Riders and drivers would have modified cell phones with a Global Positioning System (GPS) function. Existing systems include Avego in Ireland and KoolPool in India.
- Mini vans called kombis all over the world usually leave from a depot or certain location and go to fixed destinations, usually between towns.
- What about "Autostop" kiosks scattered though the community?
- Local Ride Share postings such as Craig's List and other list serves could be improved and made use of both for short hops (e.g. to a particular event or regular commute) or longer runs farther afield. Locally you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to send out a ride request. Folks often find rides to events and to the Valley.
- Place homes near town centers and public transportation routes
- Rural car-share programs have promise for all strata in the community
- Jurisdictions can reduce parking requirements for affordable housing (carefully defined) where carshare options exist.
- Implement "autostop" kiosks and ride share web postings.