Butte, Montana and funding a better transit future

There are three car rental counters at the Butte airport. There is also a vending machine, restrooms and a luggage conveyor belt. I was supposed to wait here for my cousin to pick me up, but there was no where to sit.
I approached the Hertz counter to see if there was a bus or a shuttle that went from the airport to downtown Butte. No luck. And no one answered the phone at the local cab company.
As my plane banked sharply in the final descent into Butte, the airport seemed close to downtown, so I figured I could walk. An hour later, walking along the exhaust-stained snow on the edge of Montana's Route 2, I'd passed the Wal-Mart, a K-mart, Staples and numerous car dealerships. I could have been on the Boston Post Road in Connecticut save the occasional fly-fishing gear outlet.
I've found there's a certain defiance in attempting to navigate the shoulder-less boulevards of suburban sprawl on foot. When I join the ranks of the delinquent teenage runaways, the deranged homeless veterans and the other wanderers of the public spaces in this low-density wasteland, the passengers in the cars that pass refuse to make eye contact.
Two hours later, after crossing under the Highway 90 underpass, I was still on the strip and I started to wonder if Butte even had downtown. I called my cousin to see if she was off work yet.
"I'm standing in front of Casino Lil's," I told her, admiring what appeared to be a one-stop gas station, liquor store and casino.
"Which Casino Lil's?" she wanted to know. Although endogenous to the Montana hick town, Casino Lil's apparently as ubiquitous as Dunkin' Donuts in the Northeast.
"Um, I'm facing an Exxon station," I said, struggling to locate any identifying feature. "And there's a check-cashing place on my left."
Perhaps it's selfish to wish in my lifetime that a drivers' license will cease to be the VIP pass to adulthood, independence and freedom in America. But if our country is serious about achieving energy independence and reducing our carbon footprint, we all stand to benefit from reexamining our monogamous commitment to the automobile.
Proponents of hydrogen-cell and electric cars argue that we'll be able to retain the car-centric infrastructure by simply replacing our gas-guzzling vehicles with newer technologies. Even when, and if, these become cost-efficient alternatives, there are health and quality-of-life arguments for moving away from the construction of car-dependent communities.
With the stimulus bill it is now considering, Congress has the opportunity to direct funding towards building and sustaining our nation's public transit systems. Let's hope they take this opportunity to begin building a different America, an America that isn't so wedded to its Cadillacs and Hummers and miles and miles open highway.

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