Your fearless cranktank takes a can’t-lose stab at Memorial Day, now just four months and a week away. Can’t wait. Until then…some predictions:
1. On or before Memorial Day we will read a bunch of articles and see a host of news clips heralding the “summer driving season” as if this is actually some event that we have all been waiting for. There will be talk of gasoline sales and driving miles as a gauge of our economy. It will look like this but be significantly more intense and breathless.
2. Gas prices will go way up this summer, just like the summer of 2008, the last time the economy did not seem shakier than powdered pancakes. Look for at least $4 a gallon regionwide, a price I have already seen at that hellish gas station near The Kennedy Center.
3. Metro ridership will break records and reach new heights, just like it did in 2008 but with even higher numbers, stressing the system further in the face of what is likely to be an even more intense than the $72 million budget deficit already projected. Do you remember a short-term budget deficit picture ever becoming more rosy as times pass? Me neither.
4. The most important projection — what happens after the predictable stuff. I don’t think anyone is quite sure what will happen after that. We know what problems will occur. We just don’t have a solution. Gas taxes won’t go up, Metro fares won’t go up, the system will stay the same size at the same lever, or perhaps even worse service. Frustrating, no?
The media is always speculating about long-term prospects, but the truth is we are a reactive society in the short-term. In 2008 Metro ridership went up, and on the rail side, has stayed up. That same year consumers made the Honda Civic the best-selling car in the country. Last month the best-selling vehicle was the Ford F-150. Which changes stick and which won’t? When are breaking points reached and what can pain do people decide they can endure?
It’s a frustrating cycle — we as Americans just don’t know what we want when it comes to transportation. The only thing we know is that this summer, our trains are going to be more crowded and filling our tanks will be more pricey. Anything beyond that is rampant speculation. And we wouldn’t want any of that, now would we?