I cringe every time I fill up the gas tank of my GMC Yukon. I used to drive a Volkswagen Beetle, but when time came to drive down to UCSB this year, my mother decided to seize my precious first car and insist that I take the gas-guzzling beast along with me. I try to avoid driving the car for aesthetic reasons (it’s old and ugly), but also because of the cost and damage SUVs cause the environment. Unfortunately, Santa Barbara has not yet invested in a highly effective metro or train system, but there are other forms of transportation that are less harmful than an individual vehicle.
Check out the “Carpool” application on Facebook.com. Established by former Sustainability Manager Logan Green, Carpool connects people driving in the same direction, which lowers cost and carbon emissions. So far, the application has garnered 850 users.
The Santa Barbara area is adorned with multiple bike and pedestrian paths. I find it so silly when I see people who live in Isla Vista drive to campus. Why not walk or bike? The extra calories burned won’t kill you, and it won’t take much longer to walk or bike than it would to find a parking spot on campus. I have watched people avoid biking to the gym in favor of driving there, and I find that so counterintuitive. Biking is always a good warm up for a workout. You could even ride the bike path all along the beautiful coast from Goleta to Santa Barbara for an even better workout.
When I was a car-less freshman, I grew to love the Santa Barbara bus system. Check the Santa Barbara MTD for the schedule, and make sure to bring a book and your iPod for entertainment. I’m not quite 21, but in a few weeks when that oh-so-anticipated day arrives, I’ll be sure to take a ride on Bill’s Bus downtown instead of designating a driver or taking a taxi. I hear the experience is one to remember, too.
Flexcar, a car-sharing system at UCSB, allows users to rent a Honda Civic Hybrid for $5.50 an hour or $60 a day (cost includes gas and insurance). Flexcar just added more cars to its services due to a growing demand, and the system allows for the UCSB students to drive independently of a bus schedule. Flexcar provides insurance for anyone over the age of 18, unlike most car rental agencies, which require the renter to be 23 or older.
When driving long distances, there are always the Greyhound and Amtrak systems. Personally, I would choose carpooling over the urine smell and recently released jail inmates found on the Greyhound. I have not yet personally taken the Amtrak, but I hear it’s fairly unreliable.
Hopefully one day the local government will realize that people will use public transportation if it is reliable and cost-efficient. Until then, we will have to do our best to avoid driving beast-like SUVs in favor of utilizing one of the many forms of alternative transportation currently available to us.