Let's not discard the mass-transit option

Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2006

Although the current road debate has been interesting and sometimes even informative, I think there has been one foundational issue that has been overlooked. While states and municipalities across the nation are earnestly (if not desperately) looking into mass-transit options to help their communities move away from America's most popular mode of travel - individual vehicles - Alaska is in the process of dismantling what could be (if properly scheduled) a perfectly sound mass-transit system in favor of building an unnecessary road.

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Building a road from Juneau to a remote shuttle ferry dock that then continues on to Haines and Skagway just doesn't make sense. You don't have to be an economist to realize that when it comes to oil, the simple supply and demand ratio is dismal. The demand for oil is limitless (and growing) and the supply is finite. Even if we opened every possible productive vein on earth, the demand would still exceed the amount of oil that can be pulled from this planet. So, eventually - even Americans - will have to move toward mass-transit options (like Europe) and leave their individual vehicles behind due to the price and scarcity of oil.

While the ferries, of course, use oil, the Alaska Marine Highway System is a mass-transit system that moves people from place to place in a reliable (when scheduled properly) and safe manner. I don't know if the words "reliable" and "safe" will apply to this new proposed road to a remote shuttle ferry and then on to Haines and Skagway.

We know the road won't be reliable or safe during the winter months due to some two or three dozen avalanche chutes, plus what about safety at the remote shuttle ferry dock on the Katzehin River? As it is now, the end of the road attracts people from all walks of life - from high school kids to middle-aged partiers. What state agency will be responsible for the activities that take place at the remote shuttle ferry dock? If something should happen at this remote site, how long would it take for state officials to arrive on the scene, and at what cost?

Let's not waste our state or federal dollars on infrastructure that just doesn't make sense. Let's keep the uniqueness of the upper Lynn Canal by not building unnecessary roads and invest in the Alaska Marine Highway System that can be - if properly managed - a sound mass transit system.

Joan Pardes

Juneau



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