Springfield, MO

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Opinion: Urban life requires rethinking transportation

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Center city retailers really know how to turn a phrase.

Joe and Shanna Berrer opened Kiss My Gas Scooters on South Campbell Avenue this summer, and the place has been buzzing ever since.

Growing up in Strafford, alternative transportation to me was choosing between the 1976 Monté Carlo and my 1971 Ford pickup truck. A 20-minute drive was required for anything not procured from a truck stop or convenience store.

Turn the page a quarter century, and my family lives four blocks from school, five blocks from the office and within walking distance of dozens of restaurants, shops, movie screens and the Bistro Market.

The MBA in me couldn’t help but do the math. According to the Census, the average Springfield commute is 20 minutes. That allows me to sleep in another 15 minutes each morning and to spend another 15 minutes with the kids each night. That’s a savings of 2.5 hours per week. Most importantly, it translates into five fewer days a year of talk radio in my life. Surely, my life expectancy has increased dramatically.

There’s a financial impact as well. The 30 fewer miles a day saves 7.5 gallons of gas per week. At an average of $3.50 a gallon, that’s $26.25 per week. For our two-car household, that results in $52.50 per week or $2,625 a year. Throw in a few oil changes and other wear-and-tear repairs, and the savings are about $250 per month. The car payment just got a little easier.

That’s all fine and dandy, but my coffeehouse friends are still shaking their heads. Yes, I should be better about leaving the car parked in the garage. The Summer Scorcher of 2011 appears to have finally broken, and 100-degree days are no longer in the forecast.

Here are a few options I should consider more often:
  • Walking. Not only is it a pleasant stroll, it’s a great excuse to get a cinnamon roll from Amycakes, the bake shop next door to the office.
  • Biking. This would get me quick access to expanded lunch options at Pizza House on Commercial Street and Ebbets Field on Walnut Street.
  • Public transportation. I should ride the bus instead of driving to meetings a mile away at Government Plaza and Missouri State University. Chick-Fil-A at the MSU Student Union, anyone?
An urban lifestyle not only saves time and money and satisfies my dining cravings, it is a competitive advantage for center city businesses. Young professionals and empty nesters are drawn to vibrant places where they can live, work and play. Cutting edge research scientists and Web designers want to have lunch at sidewalk cafés. Financial advisers attend First Friday Art Walk to experience the latest paintings and performances. Thankfully, they still let us less talented stick around.

The fall is a great time to re-establish schedules and behaviors with the beginning of a new academic year. Finding ways to be more sustainable can be healthy and fun. And if you don’t agree, schedule a scooter test drive with Joe and see if he can’t convince you otherwise.
Rusty Worley, executive director of Urban Districts Alliance, can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]


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