I do not consent to being searched in Metro

O joy, o rapture! Metro has started random searches. Sounds like security theater to me, and I don't intend to be a part of it. (Gladly, I walk to work and most shops.)

If you enter a Metro station where a screening is taking place -- they come before the fare gates -- you have the right to leave, which I'll likely do. And I intend to have a copy of the following with me:

The Citizen's Guide to Refusing DC Metro Searches

Spread the word.

Making do with Mennonites

I haven't been blogging since Hubby and I took a vacation this week to Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Ah! the food! Chow-chow, kraut, apple dumplings . . . and more meat than I've eaten in the last six months.

But people are drawn there also for watching the plain people -- a distasteful act, I think, because it exoticizes and somewhat de-humanizes them -- and for the outlet mall shopping -- also, distasteful because it feeds consumerism (as opposed to necessary consumption) and depends on the offshore labor of others, who are also somewhat de-humanized and outright forgotten.

Hubby, however, really did need some new clothes and even after shopping needs clothes to get through the winter. I'm so proud of him: he considered the country of origin of what he selected, rejecting some good buys from countries where the human and labor rights and environmental protections are especially poor. He didn't overshop and he'll get plenty of wear from what he brought home.

Since my wardrobe is about where I want it, that left me waiting while he combed the racks. Fortunately, we had already visited the Mennonite Information Center, where I picked up Doris Janzen Longacre's 1980 Living More with Less. (find a copy to borrow; Herald Press, the publisher, has a broken Web site). It was her last book, posthumous really: she died at age 39 of cancer. But her legacy includes this, and her more famous More-with-Less Cookbook, (find a copy to borrow) which revolutionized simple, cost-effective cooking in solidarity with the world's hungry people.

Living More with Less, despite its age, makes a better case for simple living with better practical suggestions than any other book I've seen. For instance, she makes a case of wearing out an inefficient car or appliance because of its embedded energy and environmental cost to scrap; if you want to use less energy, find a way to use it less. (I wouldn't use ammonia like she does, though.)

Also, she makes her case from a Christian point of view, but without the seminary-ese that often plague such defenses. (I don't recall seeing the words stewardship or metanoia at all.) True to her Anabaptist roots, she sees in the church fellowship the potential for mutual examination and support for a well-lived, materially leaner life.

In this spirit, once I've read and digested the book, and have loaned it locally, I will be happy to lend it to persons within the domestic reach of the United States Postal Service.

Evacuation!? No, a really useful bus map

A little lunchtime blogging, following a quick review of the news feeds. (DCist)

Seems Metro has issued emergency evacuation maps keyed to each exit for each Metrorail (subway) station. See each station page -- like Dupont Circle -- to download the PDFs. In each one, you see a map and landmarks for what's in a quarter-mile walk, plus keys to bus routes with numbers and destinations. A great resource for those who want to learn the Metrobuses and other carriers -- presumably to substitute for the rails in an emergency, but why stop there? -- and for tourists. (I wonder if there was money for an evacuation tool, but not rider education, thus the branding.)

They remind me of "legless" version of the "spider" maps that Transport for London produces to integrate their rail and bus service. (The legs are schematic representations of the bus routes outside the immediate environs of the rail station.)

I've wanted these here for ages, and now we have a first step even if they come under an alarming wrapper.

Later. Uh-oh. Looking at the Dupont Circle map, I see some of the stops are a misleadingly off. Like bus stops A, B and P; perhaps others. The Cineplex Odeon is out of business and it's "Washington Club" not "Club Washington."

We need transportation options

I want you to call your representative, or better call your representative's legislative assistant on energy or transportation, and say you support the newly introduced H.R. 6495, "To authorize programs and activities to support transportation and housing options that will assist American families in reducing transportation costs, and for other purposes." (OpenCongress, missing full text for now) (THOMAS, for full text.)

The size and diversity of the United States, plus wildly different concepts behind how succeeding generations of housing were built, means there's no single solution to the emerging fuel and transportation crisis. Urban-style bus systems won't work in the suburbs (though there are alternatives). Not everyone can telecommute. There's not enough biomass to convert fuel systems away from petroleum, and so on.

H.R. 6495 proposes a number of fixes, including increasing the limit for transportation fringe benefit; if you get SmarTrip in D.C., you know the limit is $115 a month; this would be raised to $200. There's also a proposed $400 telework technology tax credit, a bicycle tax credit, consideration given to transportation in Section 8 housing programs, transit-oriented mortgages support, encouragement of pay-as-you-go car insurance, and expanded funds for promoting transit. Lots of options to help people get out of -- or avoid the need for -- single-occupancy cars.

Again, call your rep or your rep's legislative assistant and show your support. It's a far better option than what Ms. Theologian's rep is considering.

The limits to regionalism, opportunities of transit

Ah, another lost article, but more pertinent than ever. (I knew I had written it, but it was tucked away for the last two years as a "private" post.)

The de facto Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) church planting model of the last half-century is to follow the population to the growing 'burbs, serving as regional centers. Build it, to borrow a cliche, and they will drive. The rule of thumb I have heard knowledgeable people use is that willing Unitarian Universalists will drive thirty miles to attend Sunday services. Such logic only works if those who cannot or will not drive are not welcome.

Apart from issues of justice and hospitality, the drivers-only church model should now be recognized as economically and environmentally disastrous. The national romance with cheap petroleum must some day surely end, perhaps sooner than expected. The necessary parking is a waste of land and a contributor to toxic and erosive rainwater runoff. Such a model of church building also limits the metropolitan carrying capacity for total membership, meaning it will limit potential growth.

So, are the historically-high gas prices a blessing in disguise? And practically, will it lead to a new kind of evangelism or new model of building use and sharing?

Whether the change is planned or not, the easiest first step would be for more church attenders to share rides and use public transit. I would love to see a portal site for congregations that have viable public transit options for attending worship. Either all Unitarian Universalist congregations with transit option might be listed, or all congregations by neighborhood or city. There exists an opportunity here for a willing web-builder.

History note. Many years ago, a Georgia historical journal article mapped the development of the Unitarian church in Atlanta with the streetcar lines. See Louis D. Becker, "Unitarianism in Post-War Atlanta, 1882-1908," Georgia Historical Quarterly, 56 (1972): 349-364.

Slugging on the G Word

Slugging -- a uniquely Washington, D.C. suburbs way of informal carpooling -- was featured tonight on G Word, a show on the Planet Green cable channel. (It is also one of the better shows on the channel, which is much too absorbed with twee and fundamentally fake green habits by people with more money than sense.)

Slugging is also fascinating for people outside the area, as an example of self-organizing networks.

Rail happy!

House Resolution 6003 "To reauthorize Amtrak, and for other purposes" has passed the House. Since the Senate already passed an Amtrak resolution, does this mean it's bound for conference? I'm too zonked to think straight, but I know I want this to be made law. (The President threatens a veto, but I don't think he has the votes.)

An amendment would grant $1.5 billion to the cash-strapped Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which has to be good news after three crippling occurrences on the Orange line in two weeks.

While all the nay votes were Republicans, quite a few Republicans did vote for the measure, which is rather encouraging. More when I've had some sleep and more news on the subject happens.

An idea for Maryland commuters

I want to talk about commuter bus service from the far Maryland suburbs and towns into Washington, D.C.

Today has been a bad day for the Washington-area Metro system, following a bad week. Today, an Orange line train derailed -- no injuries, thank God -- and last week downed live wires on the Orange line left many people -- I'd bet thousands -- in a lurch and far from home. So much for the Virginia suburbs and those packed, packed subway cars. More about that later.

A cleansing breath, and a thought about Maryland, which integrates more of its transit services on a state-wide basis. There is commuter bus service -- big, intercity coaches -- from twenty and thirty miles out of town, if you can get a time that works for you.

I manage the transit benefit (you know I love that) at Day Job and wanted to help a co-worker make the transition to one of the buses, if practicle. One more run in the morning would make the service oh-so-much more practical, and it surely would be used. After all, there's so much talk about flexing out work time, to take the crush off of rush hour, but that's not so helpful if you can't get a ride.

So I called Maryland Transit Authority -- which has already expanded service on his route -- to see how even more buses could be added.

To my surprise, the customer service rep suggested the employee call the company that holds the state contract to ask for more service. (What follows is my personal opinion and suggestion.) I'm not sure how I feel about that from a public policy perspective, but it doesn't sound like a bad idea in practice. Gas-strapped Free Staters ought to contact the bus companies.

So here are the routes. Look at the list to see what company serves your area.

And here are links to the companies:

  • Be polite.
  • Make reasonable requests.
  • Recruit your neighbors and co-workers.
  • Let us know what you find out; I'll leave the comments open.

We're above $4 a gallon, if you're keeping score

For the first time, the average all-United States price of a gallon of regular gasoline has risen above $4 a gallon.

For several months, I have been tracking the oil futures and spot markets. (My workmates can corroborate.)  A couple of weeks ago, I added the pump prices, and this morning the United States reached $4.005. That's up 90 cents a gallon from a year ago.

So I'll be spending the next little while thinking of ways to help our transit use.

Helping Lower Walnut: demanding public transportation

The Rev. Angela Mather, minister of the Lower Walnut Universalist Church, has been hearing the grumblings at the grocery store and bank. Gasoline and diesel fuel prices have skyrocketed and other prices are beginning to follow. She knew it was bad when the an egg salad sandwich went up a quarter at Niko's Cafe. Niko and Sophie wouldn't raise prices in Wolastoq County unless it was absolutely necessary.

Public transportation is a source of relief, if a less than desired one. There's a lot of pride in Lower Walnut, and private transportation has been a hallmark of success and independence. But at $4 a gallon, something has to give.

In Wolastoq, the thin public transportation system is run by the Senior Citizens Council, mainly for shopping and medical appointment transport, but has always supported other residents of any age who need to get around. Riders have to call ahead and many don't even know the service exists. Even so, the system is stretched to the limit. Not that stops people from asking.

The subject came up at the Unitarian Universalist ministers' cluster meeting. A groan and a question from a minister new to the state. "Where can I find out more?" Angela piped up, "look up your county at publictransportation.com. There's a pull down menu for the states." Someone else pointed out that Maine has a public transportation guide, which is perhaps more than other states can provide.

And one older colleague added: "I think it's high time we called the state Department of Transportation and the members of our congressional delegation to see where we can push for funds for expanded service. People can't live -- much less work -- if their homes are their prisons."

Angela retorted: "I've got my laptop. Let's Google them."