Tag Archives: newport mansions

Gilded Age Meets the Gasoline Age

Visiting the Newport Mansions to vicariously experience the glories of the Gilded Age should be on every Rhode Islander’s to-do list. In fact, it’s still on mine, and I’ve been here for almost 4 years now. I’ll get around to it one of these days. But now there is an extra incentive for me to head down to Newport, as long as I do it by car, as I recently learned from a story on my local NPR station.

Evidently, visits to the mansions dropped off in March as gas prices started to rise, so the Preservation Society is offering a $5 rebate on your mansion-visiting ticket if you can show them a vehicle registration. From the WRNI story:

┬áThe Preservation Society’s John Rodman says they are proud to give families a little break. “If the gas price is what’s hurting people then our idea is that we’ll give you some money toward that,” says Rodman.

Here’s the announcement on the Preservation Society’s website:

We could all do well by emulating William K Vanderbilt, Jr.

I can certainly understand how the Preservation Society would want to boost visits during a down period. But is a rebate to those who drive to the mansions, really the best way to do it? Why not just have a seasonal price reduction?* Do they really need to encourage more traffic in Newport when there are plenty of buses that will get you there?

[Uh oh, I feel a smug attack coming on. Prepare yourself for…]

The Inevitable Post About Gas Prices

Yes, it’s come to that. It’s all over the news, gas prices are once again flirting with the magic $4.00 per gallon mark where people start to gripe, politicians begin to grandstand and SUV owners sell off their vehicles for an enormous loss (we haven’t seen that last one yet, but it did start to happen in 2008.) Oh yeah, and transportation cyclists start to feel extra smug.

I feel so smug these days, that I feel comfortable taking pictures of idiotic bumper stickers on the cars in front of me. Like this one:

Not such a bad sentiment, really. Compared to cars, motorcycles are a far more efficient way to move one person around (not as efficient as a bicycle… but I let my smugness make me digress). So it’s not really an idiotic bumper sticker per se, but the placement was kind of surprising:

On the back of a mid-90’s Jeep Cherokee with a 4.0 liter, 6-cylinder engine (MPG: 14 city, 19 highway). I guess I should be happy that it’s not a V-8. I’ll admit that I took this picture from the passenger seat of a friend’s car (I guess that makes me a hypocrite). I’ll keep going with this holier-than-thou thing for just a little while longer…

I mentioned politicians grandstanding earlier. Some blame restrictions on domestic drilling, others blame commodity speculators. When you move away from the bloviating, it’s pretty easy to see that the gas prices are the result of supply and demand. Global demand for oil continues to rise, mostly as a result of rapid development in China and India. Global supply does not rise as quickly. Prices go up. What can we do about it in the short term? Reduce demand. Every time I ride my bike, I’m helping to reduce demand and thus I put downward pressure on gas prices for everyone else. That’s right, transportation cyclists help make gas cheaper for everyone else.

You’re welcome.

*I’ll be honest with myself and say that I’m sure the $5.00 rebate has almost nothing to do with gas prices. It was a publicity stunt – a way to tie a seasonal price reduction to something in the news. A way to get publicity on a slow news day. And it worked, good for them! Now I’m more likely to finally visit the mansions. I could even ask for the $5.00 rebate and present my bus ticket instead of a vehicle registration – it would be an excellent opportunity for me to be a pedantic bore to a customer service rep who had nothing to do with the decision to tie the rebate to vehicle ownership.

One more footnote: some Newporters are working to encourage cycling there and helping to save their neighbors some gas money. Check Bikenewport.me for info on Newport’s version of Bike to Work Day.