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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Do we need more personal mobility options?

Bloomberg reported today that crude oil prices could climb as high as $120 per barrel within the next six months. In California gas prices have already topped the $4.00 per gallon mark. It looks like the politics of oil combined with the weakening dollar could spike the price even higher in the future. Read the story here.

While all of this is playing out on the international level, what are we doing locally to cope with this? I can think of a couple of things that we might consider to ease the impacts:

1) In 2006 Spokane floated a ballot measure asking voters if they wanted to move a regional light rail system forward. The system would have been designed to accommodate a connection from downtown Coeur d'Alene to Liberty Lake, and then west through Spokane Valley to downtown Spokane and then on to the airport. While the measure failed (49% favored the option), plans for that project have not been tossed out. In fact, a new non-profit has been recently formed to resurrect the project. The group is called The Inland Empire Rail Transit Association, and you can read more about them here. There has been some talk in the North Idaho development community about light rail as well. Considering that light rail would take at least a decade to plan, design and build, it might be wise for our policy makers to get involved in this regional discussion.

2) More recently, there has been some discussion of connecting the Spokane Transit Authority's bus system in Spokane with the City Link bus system in Post Falls. While those talks are preliminary, there certainly is a need for a bus transit connection between Kootenai and Spokane counties to provide an alternative to Spokane workers who live in Idaho. (Heck, after commuting from Post Falls to Spokane everyday this past winter, I would definitely pay to ride it).

Question: what do you think we should be doing locally to offset the impacts of rising fuel costs?

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