Wasting gas in circles
As I mention in this comment to an excellent post by Patrix on global warming, I am certainly not a liberal tree-hugger and in fact still a global warming skeptic. However, I do believe that we are polluting the earth and using up resources beyond sustainable levels. Besides, recycling and conservation of items like gasoline (given the most recent price hikes!) make plain economic sense as well. Therefore, I was really riled up last Saturday, when I was at the airport picking up someone and was forced to circle around 5-6 times – a total of about 10 miles distance. It was not the circling part that I mind, it was the needless wastage of gas with no suitable alternative being provided for me to wait someplace. The amount of gasoline guzzled by my extra revolutions is probably trivial, but if you consider the sum of all the different people who are doing the same (and I saw quite a few of them at a relatively non-peak period for the airport) it does add up.
The law against waiting at the airport curbside for picking up passengers was one of the many enacted as part of post-9/11 security measures in the US. In some ways it was a good law and some such rule should have existed even without the security concern. Too many people would leave their cars unattended at the airport curb-side and go inside for a quick check-in or look for the person they are picking up. This would cause terrible jams in the pick-up/drop-off area, especially with the behemouth SUVs hogging a great deal of space. Post 9/11, airports are universally strict against leaving unattended vehicles, while some provide a leeway for cars that are waiting to pick up a passenger. Additionally, many airports have made waiting at the closest parking lots free for the first 30 minutes or so for the convenience of people picking up passengers. Dulles even has a seprate cell-phone waiting area. No such facilities exist in our local airport and parking itself is a hassle since once I get out of the lot, I still have to make another complete loop before getting back to the terminal !
Even if some waiting area was provided, I doubt if people can develop a good habit on conserving gasoline. It seems to me that most Americans cannot survive the few minutes without AC in the heat or a few minutes in the cold without the heater on their car. So many leave their engines idling while waiting. In the Park and Ride lot I park regularly, I noticed many people idling their car with the heater on while waiting for a bus on winter mornings. This is just a needless wastage of gasoline and addition to pollution.
I guess I am being a bit hypocritical here – if I did care so much about the environment, I would have pulled into the parking lot no matter how much hassle. Well firstly, the person I was picking up got unexpectedly delayed due to circumstances beyond control – so after every loop, I thought this would be the last one. Secondly, this is a rant anyway – so I do not have to be balanced in my opinions – do I ?