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Like most progressives I know, I favor mass transit.  A state of the art mass transit system brings people together in ways that, to me at least, are far better than the hyper-individualized car culture common in many parts of the U.S.  Instead of "racing to the next red light," we're "all on the same train."  Plus it's greener right?

Well, it can be, but new research shows that mass transit is not automatically greener.  Like most things in life, the truth is a bit more complicated.

But if your intrepid Kossologist can sort out the complexities of your holiday weekend based on a peek at a handful of stars in an overcast nighttime sky, we can easily simplify mass transit.  Or not.

More below the fold....

Mass Transit - Our Lives and Footprints

Note: Thanks to organizing efforts by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse and Land of Enchantment, and with support by Meteor Blades, this is DK GreenRoots week, with diarists and series asked to look at environmental issues.  Here at Morning Feature, we're both privileged and pleased to join in that effort.  Yesterday we looked at the plight and promise of the grey wolf.  Today and tomorrow we'll explore the carbon footprint of mass transportation.  A list of recent and upcoming GreenRoots diaries, and an invitation to join the DK GreenRoots campaign, are at the end of today's diary.

I've long argued that a state-of-the-art mass transit system can help build a stronger community than a hyper-individualized car culture.  It's the difference between "racing to the next red light" and "we're all on the same train."  It changes the way we see each other.

But the cultural effects of mass transit, if they're mentioned at all, usually get a small mention near the end of a discussion, after we've looked at issues like urban planning and the environment.  We all know mass transit has a lower carbon footprint than individual cars, after all.  Right?

Well, usually, but not automatically.  It turns out that depends a lot on what kind of mass transit system we're discussing, how well it's designed and, most importantly, how extensively it's used.

Beyond "tailpipe emissions" - Design matters.

In a study published last month in Environmental Research Letters, UCal Berkeley professors of civil and environmental engineering Mikhail Chester and Arpad Horvath argue that we need to look beyond "tailpipe emissions" in weighing the carbon footprint of mass transit systems.  When they added infrastructure footprints - building, operation, and maintenance of corridors and terminals, etc. - they found that mass transit was not automatically as "green" as we might think.

For commuter and local rail systems, how their energy is generated is a critical element.  Boston's energy-efficient rail system gets most of its electricity from fossil-fuel burning plants, giving it a higher carbon footprint than San Francisco's less-efficient Caltrain and Muni systems.

Even more important, Chester and Horvath argue, is where and how rail terminals are designed.  Local rail has a much better carbon profile when it shares terminals with other transit systems (airports, bus depots, long distance trains, etc.) or picks up and discharges passengers within walking distance of a primary destination (office or shopping complex, etc.), and of course if the terminals themselves are designed and built for energy efficient operation and maintenance.

Air travel scores better than expected in Chester and Horvath's formula.  Infrastructure costs add only 10% to the total profile for air travel, compared to 35% for cars and buses and almost 50% for rail, because the airliners don't need roads or rails.  Where airports are also rail and bus terminals - as is common for much of Europe - energy consumption and carbon footprint for air travel are competitive with long-distance rail travel, with the difference hinging on what Chester and Horvath argue is the key component in mass transit.  Us.

The human factor: occupancy.

What is the worst energy hog and carbon spewer in Chester and Horvath's formula?  A diesel-powered city bus at minimal occupancy.

And the energy and carbon champion?  That same bus ... at peak occupancy.

While buses are the most sensitive to occupancy, it is critical across the board.  An ordinary car or even an SUV at peak occupancy - a well-run car or van pool - outperforms all but the most efficient rail (San Francisco's BART metro) at minimal occupancy.  Put just the driver in that car or SUV, however, and the only worse alternative is a couple of passengers on that city bus.  Buses must be at least 3/4 full to compete with a well-designed rail system at even half occupancy.  Air travel at full occupancy barely edges rail travel at minimal occupancy, but at even half occupancy rail has a better profile.

Overall, well-designed rail systems running at medium to high occupancy beat everything but fully-loaded buses, and buses only win there because they use minimal extra infrastructure; they share the roads with cars and trucks, and most bus stops are simply a shelter-half if that.  A well-run car or van pool handily outperforms a half-full bus.

Lessons from nature: openness, diversity, resilience.

Yesterday we looked at what science is revealing about the importance of wolves in their ecosystem, and how nature seems to favor openness over boundaries, diversity over simplicity, and resilience over efficiency.  I've found these are common themes in environmental issues, and I think they apply when we consider mass transit as well, albeit differently.

In the context of today's issue, those values of openness, diversity, and resilience apply in our perspectives on time and travel.  The simplest way to get from A to B is to get in your own car and drive, but that's also among the most environmentally expensive modes of transport.  The greenest mode of transport will probably involve a combination of modes: walking or car/van pooling to a mass transit stop, then riding a full bus or at least half-full local rail, often with transfers along the way to ensure each leg of the journey is optimized for occupancy.

There's just no green transportation solution that maximizes individual boundaries, simplicity, and efficiency.  In order to fit our travel into our environment, we must share space with others, accept that we need to use several transit modes, and plan for inevitable waits and delays.  Good mass transit design can mitigate the challenges, but not eliminate them.

Similarly, the optimal transportation system will vary from region to region according to geography, population profile and density, commercial patterns, and climate.  "Walking distance" varies, even seasonally.  And we should expect feedback loops, as the availability and use of transit alternatives changes.  Optimal transit systems must be planned to adapt to those changes.

One Size Fits All and Once And For All are not values nature respects.


Cancer - A lot of countries, and a lot of wars, were born under your sign.  Gee, thanks.

Leo - Yell at the neighbors about their fireworks.  We'll back you up ... if we hear you.

Virgo - Be wild this weekend.  Move the picnic start time from 12:04pm to 12:13pm.

Libra - Before you start your holiday party, check to see if your neighbors are Leos.

Scorpio - Independence Day isn't about you personally, surprising as that may be.

Sagittarius - This is a great weekend for potato salad.  But you're not a potato.

Capricorn - Exercise your creativity this weekend.  Invent new curse words about charcoal.

Aquarius - In the big scheme of things, things don't scheme all that much.  Just sayin'.

Pisces - Yes, watermelon seeds were put there for that reason.  Fire back.

Aries - Be more social this weekend.  Ignore people at a parade.

Taurus - This weekend marks the first anniversary of That Mistake You Made Last July 4th.

Gemini - The Leos next door won't mind your fireworks.  Really.

Happy Friday!


If you are interested in environmental issues, please join DK GreenRoots, a new environmental advocacy group created by Meteor Blades. DK GreenRoots is comprised of bloggers at Daily Kos and eco-advocates from other sites. We focus on a broad range of issues. We alert each other to important eco-stories in the mainstream media and on the Internet, promote bloggers at one site to readers at other sites and discuss crucial eco-issues.  We are in exciting times now because for the first time in years, significant environmental legislation will be passed by Congress.  DK GreenRoots can also be used to apprise members of discussions and strategy sessions happening in Meteor Blade’s Green Diary Rescue thread, which is also our workroom.

Schedule for DK GreenRoots Week
All listed times are PDT.

Thursday July 2:
9am: jeremybloom on climate
11 am: Muskegon Critic
3 pm: Bruce Nilles
5 pm: boatsie on social networking
7 pm: rb137 on "blood minerals"
9 pm: Jill Richardson on food

Thursday Series:
Morning Feature by NCrissieB; Labor Diary Rescue by djtyg, Considered Forthwith by Casual Wednesday; Thursday Night Health Care by TheFatLadySings; Top Comments by Elise; Write On! by SensibleShoes; Overnight News Digest by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse

Friday July 3:
11 am: Meteor Blades
3 pm: TXsharon
7 pm: Land of Enchantment on energy

Friday Series:
Morning Feature by NCrissieB; Mojo Friday by rbutters; Frugal Fridays by sarahnity; Friday Night at the Movies by Land of Enchantment; Overnight News Digest by Oke

Saturday July 4:
11 am: Jerome a Paris on wind power
3 pm: buhdydharma
5 pm: Land of Enchantment on climate
7 pm:  Stranded Wind

Saturday Series:
Morning Feature by NCrissieB; Daily Kos University by plf515; Dawn Chorus Birdblog by lineatus; Saturday Morning Garden Blogging by Frankenoid; Saturday Morning Home Repair Blogging by boatgeek; Top Comments by carolita

Plus there'll be music on environmental themes in jotter's High Impact Diaries every morning, along with schedule updates. Additional diaries will be filled in from amongst the following: faithfull, The Cunctator, and Turkana. And we'll make more slots as needed - anyone who has an environmentally-related story they want to post this week, we'll create a place on the schedule for you.

Originally posted to NCrissieB on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 03:52 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for better footprints. :) (48+ / 0-)

    The media headlines about Chester and Horvath's work were, shall we say, more than a bit misleading.  As in, "Driving may be greener than rail, experts say."  Well, yeah, if the car is full, the train is almost empty, and the train is powered by fossil fuels.  I was relieved when I found their actual study, rather than the hyperbolic stories about it.

    As always, ::smooooooooooooooochies:: to Kula, wherever she is, and ::huggggggggggggggggs:: to the Kula Krew!

  •  good morning crissie and krew! (13+ / 0-)

    we have an non existent public transit system where i live and very nearly useless where i used to live in south florida, except maybe, maybe miami beach.

    noises about the bullet train always sound great until there's a snag of some sort.

    Sadly FL like most states has not been designed to accommodate a decent transit system and its even worse along the south east coast where every city is its own "island" (metaphorically speaking, of course).  

    Last year I created a website called where people could find and schedule rides.  I never launched it, just created it and put it on my server.  Carpooling is IMO about the only viable and immediate efficiency alternative. Improving the transit system in places like where I live, I'm sure, would still end up being bad due to the long distances and wide open spaces between major destinations and the relatively low population.

    •  Good morning mdmslle :) (12+ / 0-)

      I hear you about FL.  My child used to commute to college on the city bus, then they canceled the route. I was furious at first because it meant driving 180 miles a week to take him to and from school.

      But the reason they cancelled was that they had only a half-dozen regular riders.  After reading this, I'm glad they canceled.  There is, however, a ride matching service in our area which turned out to be a godsend.

      Hugggs and good morning!

      "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

      by winterbanyan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:18:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You should put the site up. (12+ / 0-)

      Many cities and local destinations (universities, office complexes, etc.) do have car/van pool websites - that's how Springoff the Fourth found his carpool - and Chester and Horvath's study shows that car/van pools are surprisingly green if they're running at peak occupancy.  And as you say, car/van pooling has the advantage of being immediately available, rather than our having to wait to design and build other mass transit alternatives.

      Here in the Tampa Bay area, mass transit is a high priority with local governments but as always the problems have to do with coordination and especially funding.  With over 80 cities and five counties in the metropolitan area, simply getting agreement on priorities is a political challenge.  And even when they can reach agreement, recent budget cutbacks at all levels leave them fund-starved.

      When I attended an Obama rally last summer, he promised to our local government officials that he would try to get help from Washington on local mass transit funding.  But Republicans in our state legislature have stonewalled stimulus funding for mass transit, despite our governor's support for it.

      In the meantime, car/van pooling is usually our only available option.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

      •  the challenge with putting the site up (12+ / 0-)

        is how to get a deep and wide database of users?  

        Maybe I should've been here wednesday for the 6 degrees diary but the real challenge is how do you get enough people to know about it that it becomes useful for people? People wont keep coming back if there's no use or if they cannot find someone to team up with.  Maybe one extra time, but after that, not much. So the problem is it needs a massive publicity push to work. Something I cannot fund independently. I wrote to a couple of groups including that group that was running commercials pretty heavily last year with (i think) Al Shaprton and someone from the right sitting on a park bench....

        anyway, that's the challenge.

        My stepson was taking the bus to the community college in Winter haven for some time then they just changed the schedule, eliminated some became a mess. Fortunately the school opened a campus right in out neighborhood, less than 2 miles away from our front door. Other classes  he chose to take online.  But these were choices he had...if he'd been a working adult that needed to get to work at a certain time every day, he'd have been really really screwed.  Its why everybody here has a car and those who don't end up unemployed or underemployed and chronically poor.  

        Just to get to his job at home depot less than 6 miles from home would have cost my stepson 20 bucks in a cab (!!) and there would have been no way for him to get there using a bus...or I should say he coudl walk 1/2 mile to Walmart, take a shuttle to the mall then walk the mile to Home Depot from the mall. But only until 6 p.m. and only on weekdays, which is meaningless for a retail worker.   But if he had to rely on it, he might not have been hired at all or he might have had only very few hours due to poor availability.

        The problem of lack of transit systems effects more than the environment.

        •  Bikes Work (6+ / 0-)

          Bike commuters find that trips up to 10 miles are inexpensive and healthy.

          •  yes they work for a very small number of people (12+ / 0-)

            with certain types of employment and in certain types of settings. The ideal biker is childless, has a white collar job where he/she can shower or clean up and maybe even store clothes, lives in a temperate climate and lives much closer to work that the national average of 24 miles.

            Oh, and is relatively fit.

            its not really realistic to imagine that a nation who wont take the steps to do the most basic of physical exercise is going to start biking any significant distance. Not to be snarky, but in my town, you'd be hard pressed to find any adult person who isnt at least 30-50 pounds overweight.  It's sad, really.  But its the reality in many rural communities. Motorized  grocery carts are exceptionally common and the elderly arent the main ones using them!

            These folks are NOT going to bike anywhere. And to be honest, I'm not sure there really could without dropping 100 pounds first somehow.  My community doesn't even have a gym. We have the YMCA. A lake with a decent walking trail around it but taking a look around my town, its obvious that not enough folks even bother to use that.

            Besides, in the case of rural/semi-rural communities like mine, its really not even safe. Even I wouldn't bike out here on  those roads. There are no sidewalks (and yes i know you shouldnt bike on sidewalks but I would anyway if they had they were there, rather than take my chances in the street).  I stand in wonder of those brave souls i see biking in my community because they are literally riding on the "white line" on the edge of the road. Beyond that line is only grass. No way would I ever ever do that.

            I do think, however, that these folks would be open to carpooling. It fits the psyche of the geography and melds with the lifestyle a bit better. I think carpooling would be easier to pull off in a rural/semi-rural community than in a suburban community. Hands down.  

            •  So bike to the subway. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              EJP in Maine, winterbanyan, NCrissieB

              Best of both worlds.  And if my fat ass can bike for 2 miles to get there, anyone can.

              •  What subway? (8+ / 0-)

                Here in Florida (where mdmslle and I live) there are no subways, and subways aren't even theoretically possible because of our water tables.

                Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

              •  subway? there's no subway in FL (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                winterbanyan, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

                and even if we had the money to build them they arent possible due to aquifers.

                i would respectfully recommend you travel outside of americans major cities and stay in those "other places" for at least two weeks to get a better understanding of how a very large number of americans live day to day.

                we dont have subways and many places barely have a decent bus system.  

                •  Development/tax patterns are key. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  The real question is why somebody chooses to live several miles away from a small town when they could live in the town, and walk or bike safely to most places they want to go.

                  I know -- because they like the privacy, or the animals, or the trees, or whatever. But there should be a cost attached to this that is commensurate to the extra strain the resulting sedentary/driving lifestyle places on our health system and atmosphere. I would impose a payroll tax on those who commute more than a mile or two. Motor fuel taxes should be higher, too.

                  "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                  by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:15:34 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  well as someone who's lived (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    winterbanyan, NCrissieB

                    in such diverse places as Washington DC suburb where I grew up, South Florida less than 3 blocks form the beach, and central florida in a town of 15,000 (where I bought my home) i'll give you my perspective:

                    The fact is that where I live now has very few jobs actually IN TOWN. I call it semi-rural because its not exactly country living where I live (although if you drive three miles out it would be). I can walk to walmart or winn-dixie grocery store (1/2 mile) or Walgreen (less than 1/2 mile) from my house. Most people who live "close in" could bike where they want to go but its not likely for the reasons i explained upthread.  While where I live is gorgeous (theres a huge lake in the middle of town and a walking trail around it) and we have a very vibrant ecosystem (certified bird watching sites right in the middle of town), there's just not a lot of commerce here.  Most folks drive to the next biggest town to work about 20 miles away.  I wouldn't characterize this community as a place people go to b/c of privacy or trees or animals. But you can TODAY buy a decent house for 80,000.  You can buy a mansion for 150,000 and a lakeside mansion for 200,000 or so.  When I left palm beach florida, converted crap apartments that were renting for 1000 month were being sold as condos for 500,000. That's bullshit. AND you still needed a car to get anywhere!! How about we charge THOSE folks extra. They can clearly afford it.

                    The cost of living is much lower AND the neighborhoods are more friendly and "old fashioned" (IOW kids play outside without constant adult guards watching to make sure some pervert doesnt snatch them up).  I dont have kids but I like it that most of the kids play outside like we used to, in groups and seem to be happy without the latest ipod or other gadget hanging from their pockets.  Stress level is lower. People are friendlier, in general. that was something i was sort of unaccustomed to..not that folks were rude where I came from but here people actually engage. Its sort of nice.

                    As far as having to pay extra, consider us already paid up. If it weren't for us, there would be no green trees and plants. Having come from the city of DC where, granted, we have rock creek park, everywhere else you look is concrete. I consider it even.

                    •  Not to mention ... (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      winterbanyan, mdmslle

                      ... moving to central South Blogistan brought you nearer the campus of Blogistan Polytechnic Institute, making it more possible that someday you might meet Chef or the Professor of Astrology Janitor or even the resident faculty.

                      On a serious note, I agree.  The "everyone should just do X" approach is exactly the kind of attitude that created our environmental crisis.  It flies in the face of nature's values of "openness, diversity, resilience."  Nature has a word for species that only live in a single kind of habitat: extinct.

                    •  Think through implications of commuting tax. (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      I'd impose it on the employer, not the employee. That would give the employer incentive to develop affordable housing, support good schools, good police protection, etc.

                      In your case, some employer from that town 20 miles away would probably relocate to your town. Then its employees could avoid the tax while enjoying good schools, green space, friendly neighborhoods, etc. And folks in your town wouldn't have to drive 20 miles to work.

                      And there's more:

                      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                      by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 02:04:32 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  love it. nt (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        HeyMikey, NCrissieB
                      •  We tried that once ... (0+ / 0-)

                        ... that system where the employer provided housing, schools, shopping, civic services, etc.  Called 'em "company towns," as I remember.  It didn't work like you think it will....

                        •  Unions, etc. (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          In those days employees had no clout. No unions, mostly. And poor whites were often pitted against blacks, to the detriment of both.

                          Understand, I'm not claiming I have the key to Utopia. Certainly we'd be trading one set of problems for another. But I think the problems we'd gain would be more amenable to management by the psychological tools of average humans than the problems we now have.

                          And I've focused on the employer as the key to housing, schools, police protection, etc. because -- in the words of Willie Sutton -- "That's where the money is." Corporate profits have increased significantly over the last several decades, while real middle-class earnings have been flat or even lost ground.

                          I would be interested to see what effect the recession has had on inflation-adjusted corporate profits compared to the last several decades.

                          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                          by HeyMikey on Sat Jul 04, 2009 at 11:45:50 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                  •  And I don't commute at all (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    because I have a business in the home.  So should I get a tax credit?

                    I have a problem with this idea because very often people don't get to choose where they live.  I know many are on the fringes of town because they're too poor these days to live in the Urban Renaissance, or because they were pushed to the fringes by their color.

                    And frankly, not many people can find a job within a mile or two of home, or find a home within a mile or two of their job.

                    "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

                    by winterbanyan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:47:00 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  We get bikers killed on our narrow (8+ / 0-)

              roads and busy intersections all the time.  And a recent study showed that drivers consider the bike lanes to be merely extensions of the driving lane.

              And this despite a new state law requiring vehicles to give a 6-foot berth to anyone on a bike.

              There's definitely some consciousness-changing that needs to be done.

              "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

              by winterbanyan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:01:06 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Road rage and cyclists (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                HeyMikey, winterbanyan, BYw, NCrissieB

                It's pretty darn easy for drivers to become enraged at bicyclists. Sometimes they have "good reason" as cyclists blithely ride two abreast, or unnecessarily far out into the road, causing multiple cars to stack up behind them for extended periods of time. Often, there is no reason, but the rage happens anyway, just from general irritation at a slightly inconvenient "other". And it goes the other way too-- it's easy enough for cyclists to feel contemptuous, superior, and entitled with respect to those fat, inconsiderate slugs hurrying by in their cars.

                In my area, we've had a few deaths in recent years (of cyclists, of course) as a result of these rageful interactions. In a couple of cases, there was alcohol involved. IMHO, it was not so much that drinking made the drivers lose control of ther cars, more that they lost control of their emotions.

                My sense is that the rage factor is a bit less these days, thankfully. In part this may be due to an extended "share the road" campaign by county gummint, and maybe also just because cyclists have become more numerous, so sharing the road with cyclists has become a more routine, expected part of driving.

            •  Rural & semi-rural communities (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              HeyMikey, winterbanyan, NCrissieB

              You are quite correct about the transit realities for folks living in rural or semi-rural communities (like me, for instance). Most everyone is very "green" around here, at least in their awareness, yet we live so spread out, and sometimes so high up on the ridges, that we wind up having to use a car for almost every trip out of the house.

              It's a beautiful way of life, except for the car thing. But that one thing means that in the long term (or sooner), it's just not sustainable for a typical American lifestyle. Rural living used to mean a great deal of isolation, and a much slower pace to life, with none of the convenience and variety of city living. Soon enough, it will be like that again, with the possible exception of a few rich people who can continue to drive everywhere as if global warming and peak oil are someone else's problem.

          •  Until they get run down by a semi. (7+ / 0-)

            Every year, are always 2-3 bicyclist killed on the highway I would have to use.  That looks like a small number, until you consider nearly no one is crazy enough to ride on a major interstate highway with virtually no shoulder.

        •  We found out about ride matching (7+ / 0-)

          through the local college website.  We were sure there had to be a way for students to ride together.  What we found was an area-wide matching service that also guarantees emergency transport of you should become ill and need to get home fast.

          So there would be colleges/businesses in your area that would put your link on their sites.

          "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

          by winterbanyan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:57:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a NYC boy ... mass transit rocks (15+ / 0-)

    and the buses and trains are hardly ever empty.

    I think, though, that you have to look even a bit deeper.  You  shouldn't compare

    empty bus, half full bus, full bus, empty car etc.

    Because we usually don't get to choose.  Should I only ride the bus when it's crowded?  That makes no sense.  And while many people can car pool, many people can't.  Or they feel that car pooling defeats the purpose of driving - that is, flexibility.

    Also, if you stop the bus or train service at night, you'll lose riders during the day - because some people come into a city in day time and leave at night (or vice versa).

    So, we should be comparing systems.

    NYC system of buses, subways, commuter rail, cars.
    San Francisco

    (taking into account that some buses, trains, rail and cars will be full and some empty).

    and comparing changes to systems:
    NYC with current buses
    NYC with a different set of buses

  •  Good morning! and Huggggssss... (12+ / 0-)

    Living in a rural area, I need my car.  The train tracks around here have become bike and hiking trails. We have a bus, but it doesn't come here to my town.  We have taxis, but they aren't mass transit.  
    And, because we all have cars, and no one is on the same schedule, the chances of mass transit working in this rural area are low.
    In my childhood, growing up outside of Boston, we had trains to Boston.  We had mass transit in Boston.  It was relatively reliable, but crowded.  Now, in my later years, I'd love to take a train somewhere, though.  It just won't happen here

    All shall be well again, I'm telling you. Let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know. (S Carter)

    by MinervainNH on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:18:58 AM PDT

    •  But car/van pooling can work for many. (7+ / 0-)

      Even where it would be impractical to use rail or bus transit, car/van pooling is surprisingly green if the car or van is full on each trip.  That was among the big surprises of the study.  We can be greener, even in suburban and rural areas. :)

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggggggs::

    •  not just rural areas -- the same is true in the (14+ / 0-)

      suburbs.  We have no sidewalks here and my street is extremely narrow, so walking becomes dangerous. There is no bus system, nor any commuter rail station to get into Boston.  We have to drive probably ten miles to get to the train or drive twenty miles to get to Boston.  When I lived in urban areas like Boston and Chicago I walked everywhere as long as the temp. was above -25 and it wasn't raining.  My husband would catch a cab to go ten blocks, but I was just happier if I could walk. In the suburbs, I drive everywhere. And with two kids, I feel like I live in my car.

      The thing that just kills me in the suburbs in the school buses.  We have 1/2 day kindergarten and the bus takes the kids home mid-day, then an hour later picks up the kids for the afternoon session.  To make sure that kids don't spend too much time on the bus, they run four different busses -- which means that each bus has 10-15 kids.  That great big yellow bus, with four rows of kids and the rest of the seats are empty. It would be nice if there was some way to pick up and drop off in the same trip -- and do it in a much smaller van.

      Good morning and huggggs to Crissie and the Krew!

      "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

      by theKgirls on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:34:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I had to drop my kid off to school... (10+ / 0-)

        Because we didn't have bus service from our school district to her school district, I was appalled to see all those others dropping their kids off to school.  Those kids, I'm sure, could have taken a bus.  The traffic jams at the school, with near-empty buses, made me really angry.  
        Walking is always good, if you are within a reasonable distance.  Biking would be nice if I didn't live on a mile-high steep hill and if the main road was wide enough to ensure my safety.  
        When I lived in Boston, I loved to walk.  I'd walk to and from work, maybe a couple of miles each way, if it wasn't rainy or too cold.  

        All shall be well again, I'm telling you. Let the winter come and go. All shall be well again, I know. (S Carter)

        by MinervainNH on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:47:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  i saw a program on TV the other day (11+ / 0-)

          where the kids are walking to school as if they are on a bus. Its like a HUGE cadre of kids walking two by two as if they are on the bus, only they're walking. I dont remember where the school is but the kids seemed to love it and the school district thought it was a great money saver. Health advocates thought it was a fantastic way to get kids moving in the absence of recess and teacher liked that the kids arrived at school alert and ready to go.

          apparently there were "pick up" stations (like bus stops) where swaths of walking kids met other groups of kids who "joined the lines". It was like a huge bunny hop/congo line!

      •  These are governmental choices. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BYw, NCrissieB
        1. Require sidewalks and bike lanes on all new streets and all old streets as they are resurfaced.
        1. Cut off bus service for kids living within 1 or 2 miles of school. (AFTER building sidewalks and bike lanes.)
        1. Reconfigure existing school buildings to accommodate K-12 in one building, instead of separate elementary, middle, and high schools. Then each school building would draw from a smaller geographic area, meaning more walkers/bikers, fewer bus riders. (Of course there would be academic tradeoffs.)
        1. Modify zoning laws to require, not prohibit, mixing residential, retail, office, light industrial.

        Very few local governments would find political support for these measures. (Yet.) "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:24:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Rural sweet spot (6+ / 0-)

      Live in the sweet spots.  

      The rural one is 25 acre or more lots with no one having a day job.  A commute to town kills the flavor.

      The average 4 houses per acre is the next one.  This is your typical older suburb.  One where grade school students walk to school and adults take the bus.

      The urban sweet spot is the quarter mile from the transit station with 50 residences and 100 jobs or more per acre plus supporting businesses. The end of the line transit station with massive parking doesn't sweeten the system.  

      •  Let's assume we have a can opener. (10+ / 0-)

        Like many great ideas, that's only great if: (a) you have a complete choice of where to live; and, (b) the choice includes a "sweet spot."

        It's rather like the joke about the football player, the physicist, and the economist stranded on a desert island with just one can of beans and no way to open it.  The football player offers to smash the can open with his head, but the physicist insists that won't work and he doesn't like blood in his beans anyway.  The physicist says he'll impart a precise velocity on a coconut from atop a tree, but the economist says that probably won't work and anyway he doesn't like coconut in his beans.  So the other two turn to him, and the economist says "First let's assume we have a can opener."

        Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

    •  We've rebuilt rail in LA... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      winterbanyan, BYw, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

      ...on old Pacific Electric right-of-ways. Rails-to-trails does preserve the right of way for rebuilding. Especially when you consider that most of the track that was ripped out was real old and long unused, and would have probably have to replaced anyway.

      Single Payer Happy Hour, returning to the LA (SFV) area 7/31/09!
      No more SPECIAL RIGHTS for HETEROSEXUALS! Equality now!

      by Pris from LA on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 08:09:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  To be there allthetime Buses have to be empty (12+ / 0-)

    That is, if there are to be buses to accommodate off hour riders, outside of the get to work hour riders,there are going to be buses not filled to capacity.

    Moreover these buses are vital for populations unable to drive--I am thinking of elders and school children.

    Car pooling seems one answer, i.e. employer-incentivized car pools for fellow employees.

    While I go make tea and wake up the brain, I'll see what the fed gov. is doing these days about support employer options. I know several of mine had such goals.

    No Springoff car pool today, NCB.

    P.s. I hate watermelon.

    •  There are options there as well. (11+ / 0-)

      So-called "smart routes," where passengers scan a bus pass and indicate a destination at the bus stop, help off-hours bus service be more efficient.  It means waiting - mere seconds for a computer to calculate an optimal route and send the signal to a driver, then a few minutes for the driver to adjust the route and get there - but these systems can allow fewer buses to carry more people in the off-hours.

      There's no environmentally effective mode of travel that includes the phrases "door to door" and "on demand."

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

  •  one thing that struck me about Europe (15+ / 0-)

    is how much mass transit was an essential part of life in their cities.  Having grown up in and around NYC, and knowing Boston and Philadelphia as well, I was somewhat shocked as I traveled around the country in my previous incarnation in data processing to find how many cities lacked decent public transportation

    I have now lived in the DC area for more than a quarter century.  I have seen what was once countryside get devoured by development after development, strip mall after strip mall . . .  there are some bus lines, but little light rail.  Metro is overburdened and undermaintained, as we found out recently.  And the metro area increasingly chokes in its traffic.

    We live in Arlington, with a bus in front of our house, Metro a mile away.  My wife can commute by public trans, but my school is on the other side of the city, and it takes far too long via metro and bus.  I can and often do drop her off on the way and pick her up on the return.  I can walk to some shopping.  

    But ours is an older community, built during the Depression, expanded during WWII, at a time when there had to be public transportation because people could not afford cars or could not purchase personal vehicles or gasoline because of rationing.

    Even those of us who must use cars can make a difference

    - driving in a way to conserve fuel - no jackrabbit starts/stops, no speeding, not using AC unless absolutely necessary (on stop and go traffic having windows open does not create that much drag)

    - combining trips, and certainly not driving from one end of a strip mall to another

    - keeping our tires inflated and our engines tuned

    every little bit makes a difference

    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:28:05 AM PDT

  •  Fascinating diary, Crissie (12+ / 0-)

    So it's more complicated than we thought.  Of course.  Should have guessed.

    Add to that the fact that a lot of humans aren't likely to want to change their habits, and we've got a problem here.

    I know plenty of people who enjoy taking mass transit (where a good system is available) because it gives them time to relax, read the paper, do some work, sip coffee... and they get to know the other frequent riders.

    Apparently my area hasn't yet reached the critical mass where the owners of Hummers and SUVs are likely to give up their "independence" and join the hoi polloi in the same vehicle.  Or endure the annoyance of having to wait on mass transit.

    I honestly don't know what would push them to demand or use mass transit.  Too many of these people didn't eve slow down when gas hit its all time high.

    Huggs and good morning, Krew!

    "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

    by winterbanyan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:32:36 AM PDT

    •  I'm guessing $5/gallon gasoline will do it. (11+ / 0-)

      Once gasoline prices top $5/gallon and stay there, you can bet a lot more people will get a lot more interested in car/van pooling and other forms of mass transit.  A bit part of our hyper-individualistic car culture has been artificially low gas prices, as compared to other industrialized nations.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggggs::

      •  I am one of the only people I know who cheers (8+ / 0-)

        when gas prices go up.  It really does result in a reduction of driving and gets people into small cars.  Only, it bums me out that the government doesn't get the money to fund mass transit, and instead it goes to oil companies.  I wish the government had the guts to raise taxes and put the money into developing better mass transit.

        Don't believe everything you think.

        by EJP in Maine on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:05:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree on gas taxes. (8+ / 0-)

          I'd love it if we had a Congress with the guts to pass a $2/gallon gasoline tax to fund mass transit.  That'll happen the day after the Congress passes a constitutional amendment legalizing LGBT marriages in all 50 states.

          Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

          •  Both would be great! (6+ / 0-)

            but I guess not likely any time soon...

            Don't believe everything you think.

            by EJP in Maine on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:11:33 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  It would be an incredibly regressive tax and (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            EJP in Maine, winterbanyan, NCrissieB

            kill the average working person who doesn't live in a metro area. They would end up subsidizing a utility they didn't get to use. Too many people can't afford to live close enough to work. We're just too big and our population density varies too widely. We need mass transit for metro areas and to expand rail service between them, city planning has been a really bad joke for too many decades, but green fuels will be the ticket for much of the country. On the bright side, there are a couple of new algae based fuel producers, (two in South Blogistan), who are currently estimating production of 4,000-6,000 gallons/acre in open ponds within a couple of years

            Good morning! :::Huuugggsss:::

            Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

            by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:45:26 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree, FWG (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              EJP in Maine, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

              I saw too many people having to choose between food and the gas to get to work when we hit $5/gal.

              Huggs and good morning!

              "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

              by winterbanyan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:50:59 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Huuggss back! As someone who have lived most (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                EJP in Maine, winterbanyan, NCrissieB

                of my life in the West and in rural/farming areas with low population density, I can vouch for the fact that even ride sharing is difficult for many. It used to be that hitchhiking in rural areas worked well, people would pick up anyone walking along the road, but not anymore. The link to algae to energy news on the biofuels site is good reading and very encouraging. Boeing recently did a jet test with biofuel and not only did it work, it increased the engine efficiency significantly. So as long as we chose which biofuels to encourage, (corn ethanol and palm oil are horrible and jatropha, which looked very promising, has had setbacks), we can go at least carbon neutral, if not actively sequestering some, become energy independent to increase security and create jobs, and not have to pull our population into mega metros with robofarms for support.

                Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:09:53 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Living in low-density areas is a choice. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                When it gets too expensive to live in a low-density area, people will move to high-density areas.

                Living in low-density areas promotes obesity ($ cost to healthcare system) and increases carbon footprint ($ cost to overall economy). Those dollar costs should be assessed as some kind of tax that falls more heavily on those in low-density areas.

                "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:29:53 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Yes, it would be regressive, especially rurally. (4+ / 0-)

              On the other hand, as citizens we often subsidize utilities we don't get to use.  Childless people do that with public schools.  People in comparatively safe neighborhoods subsidize police services that are concentrated in more dangerous neighborhoods.  Part of the change is recognizing that taxes aren't the same as fees, where you're guaranteed some direct service in exchange for the money.

              And the indirect service would be lessening our dependence on foreign oil, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and thus bringing ourselves more in line with our environment.  Those are difficult to put a "Where's my $2/gallon worth?" tag on, but they are not irrelevant.

              Finally, as noted in the diary, not every green transit solution applies only in cities or suburbs.  Car/van pools can work even in rural areas, if they are well-designed to fit with the local needs.  If the cars/vans run at near peak occupancy, they're as green as all but the most efficient light rail.  So this isn't a "cities and suburbs only" solution set.

              Good morning! ::hugggggggggggs::

              •  True, we do co-op and subsidize one another, (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                EJP in Maine, winterbanyan, NCrissieB

                but so many rural living folks are already so close to the edge that it would take very little to swamp them. As Winter said, many, many people were having to choose between groceries and fuel to get to work during the crunch. Some of the carbon neutral biofuels are projecting in the range of $2/gallon, with wholly domestic production, so multiple benefits as that develops. And city planners really need to be utilised on a larger scale, the piecemeal sprawl that's been going on for so long is horribly inefficient in so many ways.

                Good morning! :::Huuugggsss:::

                Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 07:23:10 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  algae based fuel (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              EJP in Maine, winterbanyan, BYw, NCrissieB

              has been "a couple of years away" since the `70s gas crisis.  I've read all the technical information I can get my hands on and fund

              1. They have yet to solve the problem of efficient harvesting of algae.
              1. It seems doubtful they've really solved the extraction of the oils, although someone may have and isn't talking about it.
              1. Open ponds mean contamination with wild algae, as well as predators eating it.
              1. Out of all the open growth reports I've read, none had actually run a site for a full year. In most locations extra energy input is needed for part of the year; enclosed systems almost always require heating or cooling or both for part of the year.

              A lot of the current projects look interesting, but so did many in the past but turned out not to be practical.  I suspect that certain locations may be able to be successful in the near future, but more general application is further away.

              •  There is a new process, (patent pending) for (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                winterbanyan, NCrissieB

                extraction that doesn't require dewatering and they're looking to license the process, so that looks promising. The link about algae to energy below has the newest info. One of the producers is exploring linking to coal fired plants for CO2 enrichment/sequestration cogeneration.

                The two open pond producers are using non-GMO strains in FL and haven't reported significant contamination, but don't know how they're set up. One is scaling up from pilot to demo.

                I'm pretty sure the Boeing jet test used algae based fuel.

                Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 08:09:38 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  there are several non-dewatering methods (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I'm NDA for one, but none have been proven on even medium sized pilot plant scale.  The designer says to expect 5+ years to get it working well enough to be commercial and 'green' - not taking so much energy that the plant becomes a net energy sink.

                  Almost no one has done GMO algae, mostly the old standard selection of strains for high yields.  Going back to the early 1980s these all suffered from contamination when used in open ponds for more than 4 months. Several got 'infected' with algae gulping critters that dropped yields.

                  Almost every more recent design includes some source of CO2, some fossil fuel plants produce clean enough CO2 that they make decent direct feeds, some power plants don't.  In warmer climates cooling can become an issue with such combinations, the relatively shallow ponds heat up from the sun quickly and the warm power plant exhaust just makes it worse; cooling means increased water consumption. Balancing everything gets tricky.

                  •  Check out the link (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    for current info. Last updated in April. A couple of them are projecting over a million gal/year production by 2011, one as low as ~$1.30/gal.

                    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                    by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 09:27:15 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I've read OriginOil's patents in the recent past (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

                      and was not struck that they have any real breakthrough. They are replacing the use of ultrasonics to disrupt cells, which a turbulence based system that generates very small bubbles which then collapse and generate intensive sound similar to the ultrasound process.

                      It sounds good, but erosion of the bubble forming apparatus can be an issue.  They also state that digestive enzymes are used beforehand to weaken the cell walls, and that can be expensive.

                      While patents aren't as bad as press releases when it comes to the handwaving done, patents in the last quarter century or so have included a decreasing amount of information and increasing amount of noise to cover as many bases as possible.  In not a few cases the patent appears to be an attempt to own a concept that really isn't ready for prime time yet, but might be useful with more development.  With startup type companies patents are also used as assets to help attract further venture capital.

                      I and others I know have attempted to recreate processes and results described in various patents (not these OriginOil ones) without success.  In several cases someone else worked on the project, the patents had expired and described a still useful process or result, and could not be made to work at all even after extensive research and trials.  The claims made in the patent were bogus, little detail had been given and the processes had never been published in a peer reviewed publication.  

                      Just because something has been patented and is being promoted doesn't mean it actually works, or the while it does work does not imply that it is useful or practical.

                      So I wait to see how the large scale pilots go, provided enough data is given to evaluate production costs and yields, or see if the company starts selling product at competitive prices.  I've stacks of literature describing various processes that were going to be great successes, but instead faded away having never even made it to the commercial stage.

                      •  Thank you for taking the time to expand on (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        wondering if, NCrissieB

                        this. I don't doubt there are lots of people trying to look ripe for acquisition so they can cash in and trying to sift through and evaluate the signal to noise ratio isn't easy. My background is stronger in other areas of conservation and efficiency, I've only been looking into biofuels for a couple of years, so I appreciate your explanation.

                        I understand that enzymes have been the major stumbling block for cellulosic ethanol.

                        Biofuels sound very promising and are much needed, I hope we can get them online in time.

                        If you don't mind, what are the drawbacks to the original ultrasound approach to breaking down the cell walls?

                        Thanks again.

                        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                        by FarWestGirl on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:45:02 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Energy input (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          ultrasound generators can be fairly inefficient, and soupy messes such as algae cultures can further waste some of the generated ultrasound. Then the sound make not be real effective at disrupting the cells walls, taking much more energy than expected.  Ultrasound cell disruption is used all the time in the laboratory, but efficiency is not an issue there.

                          OriginOil has some good ideas, but there's very little published in the scientific press so evaluation is difficult.  What they've done is not unusual, you have an interesting process that may become practical, so you patent it and hope that you can refine it. Perhaps you are getting some more venture capital to help out, boosted by the optimist tone of the patent and PR you turn out, and you genuinely think the process can be made economically successful with that additional funding.

                          Harvesting seems to be the biggest stumbling block for algae derived fuels; a bit similar to processing ethanol from fermentation - a dilute starting point and somewhat energy intensive to concentrate.

                          •  Thank you. It would seem that if the cells were (0+ / 0-)

                            fully hydrated the tension on the walls would make them more susceptable to disruption by the US. Do they use weak osmotic solutions to adjust the fluid balance in the cells prior to US?

                            Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

                            by FarWestGirl on Sat Jul 04, 2009 at 11:10:12 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  in the lab - sometimes (0+ / 0-)

                            and sometimes just use osmotic pressure to burst the cells, if the particular cells have weak walls.  A lot of methods, depending on what is being processed and the goals.

                            There's been a lot of work on concentrating algae cultures for harvesting purposes. Ingenious mechanisms that don't use much energy, but are prone to clogging. Clog-prove ones that take a lot of power. Cleaver ones that take too much maintenance.  It simply isn't an easy task.

                            I suspect that a workable solution is a genetically engineered variety that needs special, although not too hard to provide, conditions to grow as a way to keep it from spreading in the wild, and that takes on a clumping behavior when triggered by some low cost means. The clumped masses would be easy to strain out, possibly floating to the surface through entrained gas bubbles (plus the oils they make).  As starvation, particularly nitrogen starvation, usually triggers oil formation, a similarly triggered but delayed formation of sticky polysaccharides that bound the cells into a mat and trapped the O2 they give off might work. The combined buoyancy of oil and gas floats the mats, concentrating the cells enough that the more energy intensive harvesting methods could be used.


        •  I diaried this last year (6+ / 0-)

          On a simple calculation if gas prices in the US were the same as Europe, then average consumption  per vehicle would eventually get to European levels, then the US would consume 25% less oil.

          To get that point, I advocated an increase in gas taxes of 50 cts a gallon every year for eight years, in order to allow people to renew their vehicles as required in the full knowledge of future price increases.

          pimping my own diary

      •  Cheaper gas and higher health care (7+ / 0-)

        Maybe our goal should be to flip these two. Thanks for the diary.

      •  Gas RATIONING. (6+ / 0-)

        Yeah, allcaps.  Sorry for the shout.  But increasing gas prices is an unfair burden on the poor when mass transit isn't available, and the guy with the Hummer is still humming along.

        So ration the stuff.  Carpools would have access to more ration coupons simply by virtue of more riders.

        And as mass transit moves in, reduce the amount of gasoline per household.  Exceptions could be made for those with serious medical problems, but beyond that...

        Ration it.

        "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

        by winterbanyan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:21:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  we both drive 5-speed Civic Hybrids (7+ / 0-)

        my car is approaching 80,000 miles -  overall my mpg is still over 50.

        If I have to drive, which given my job and my residence, I do, I try to minimize my carbon footprint and the pollution for which I am responsible.

        This car replaced one for which the overall MPG was about 30.  I think I have probably more than recovered the additional cost of buying a hybrid

        1.  tax break
        1.  better mpg at a time of increasing gas prices
        1.  ability to get on HOV roads and thus have an uninterrupted commute and not stop and go

        For some people $10/gallon would not get them out of their Hummers.

        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:35:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Surprisingly ... (6+ / 0-)

          ... six people carpooling in a Hummer use less energy and have a lower carbon footprint than you in your 5-speed Civic Hybrid.  That astonished me.  Occupancy really is the dominant variable in the equation.

          •  not with two of us (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            EJP in Maine, BYw, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

            which is quite often our pattern

            they would have to get at least 10.5 in the hummer to match that

            oh, and by the way, please tell me what percentage of Hummers have 6 people in  them?   If even 10% have two or more, I would be surprised

            do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

            by teacherken on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:08:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Very few, sadly. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              winterbanyan, BYw, FarWestGirl

              My point wasn't to defend Hummers; there are better vehicles for 5-6 person carpooling.  My point was to emphasize that it's less a matter of what vehicle than how many people are in it.  The exception is not Hummers, surprisingly, but pickup trucks.  Even at peak occupancy, they still don't get close to other transit modes.  So unless you need a pickup to haul stuff around ... get anything else. :)

        •  Agree, teacherken :) (6+ / 0-)

          I saw it in my area when gas passed $5/gal.  The big, heavy expensive vehicles never slowed down.  And the houses with 4-6 cars in the driveway (because of course every family member must have their own car, lest they have to wait on someone else) never reduced the number of vehicles.

          This while I was calculating, literally, how to combine trips, shorten distances, and just generally avoid any trip that wasn't essential.

          And during that time, while we saw a brief flowering of more fuel efficient vehicles, we continued to see an increase in brand-new gas guzzlers.  

          huggs and good morning!

          "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

          by winterbanyan on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:41:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I lived in the city and walked everywhere, but (10+ / 0-)

      at the end of the day, I always envied the people who allowed to walk out of meetings because they had a train to catch... I thought that made the case for trains by itself!

      Good morning winter! Hugggs

      "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

      by theKgirls on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:52:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The problem where I live is similar (10+ / 0-)

    A key problem is not having a good planning infrastructure, or being the unwanted step child of a larger system. Lots of folks here recognize the need for a better transit system, ie, train/bus and a consultant, Volpe, advised that developing a better system (or a system to speak of) would cost $40 million. Could we get that money from the county, state or the regional transportation system? So far No.

    Transportation advocates are now reccommending that we create our own regional transit planning agency to supplement the current East End Mayors for Mass Transit that can now only act as a lobbying or advocay group.

    We are a long way here from getting something done.

    The crux of the problem for us is that housing here is very expensive so many people who work in our hospitals, local governments, businesses, etc travel long distances to get to their jobs. We either have to do better in developing affordable housing (so far with meager results) or developing better mass transit. And, as Crissie points out, with people using it.

    •  Gas prices will change some minds. (7+ / 0-)

      Our hyper-individualistic car culture has been made possible by artificially low gas prices, compared to those in other industrialized nations.  We pay a half to a third of what Europeans do for gas.  Once our gas prices hit $5/gallon or more, and stay there, you can bet suddenly there will be public pressure for mass transit.  And to answer your other comment, yes, that pressure will include support for car/van pools.  Given how well a good car/van pool scores in Chester and Horvath's formula, and how little support is needed to get them up and functioning - websites that offer ride-matching, etc. - it seems that will likely be our best short-term fix while we're working on longer-term solutions.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

    •  An idea. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Impose a payroll tax, paid by the employer, on the wages of those who commute more than say, 2 miles. Then it becomes in the employer's interest to develop affordable housing, push for changes to zoning laws, etc. The employer will have way more clout (political and pooled $) than individual employees.


      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:35:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh (9+ / 0-)

    yes, Crissie, car/van pooling. We have the perfect spot for that, but we haven't acted on it yet. I have to speak to our supv candidate about that.

  •  Kossascope comment/question (13+ / 0-)

    Loved all of the Kossascopes except the one that pertains to me personally.  As a Virgo, the advice to "Be wild this weekend.  Move the picnic start time from 12:04pm to 12:13pm" is tantamount to cruel taunting.  After all, there are sixty seconds in a minute.  So should my new start time be 12:13:00 or 12:13:59, or somewhere in between?

    Details matter!

    I demand specificity!!

  •  Rail Lines are Common Thru Rustbelt Ohio (8+ / 0-)

    We even have a number of recreational passenger rail lines in the state.

    And Amtrak is actually going to add a regular speed passenger line linking the major cities of Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

    There are a couple of freight lines within a mile or two of my house. If there were passenger trains stopping here I'd certainly consider them.

    I'd like to see electric buses brought back. For all the enthusiasm for electric cars, the power is generated in the grid but then has to go through another energy loss stage of batteries. With electric buses, the battery loss is eliminated, and of course there's the benefit of mass transit. And we already own the right of way to string the wires.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:44:26 AM PDT

  •  Birds and bees may not do it, but phoenixes do it (9+ / 0-)

    ....incentivize use of public transport by employer provided free mass transport passes.

    There is a diary lurking in this subject, but the house rules forbid diaries until the manuscript/typescript/wordprocessofoler/ is done.

    So, as an example of how masstrans is appreciated where one neva would'a guessed it, here is a story from this June abt Phoenix.

    Phoenix-area commuters have flocked to buses and trains in record numbers. April [09] saw the largest average weekday transit ridership on record.
    But with fares going up July 1, so does the risk that passengers and employers will abandon buses and trains. So far, that fear hasn't materialized.
    The Maricopa County Air Quality Department manages the region's trip-reduction program and said "very few" employers are rethinking their support because of the fare increase, spokeswoman Holly Ward said.

    ht/ Cole Porter for the birds and bees thing

  •  BTW and bye bye. George Will Stupid here too (8+ / 0-)

    George Will's environmental stupid extends to mass transport.

    Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood defended the pro-mass transit policies of the Obama administration today, and fired back at conservative writer George Will, who devoted an entire column to attacking LaHood earlier this week.

    "We have to create opportunities for people who want to ride a bike or walk or take a streetcar," he said. "The only person that I've heard of who objects to this is George Will."

    Will wrote a column in Newsweek magazine criticizing the secretary, whom he dubbed "Secretary of Behavior Modification," for supporting measures to wean commuters off automobiles.

    and now, to work. Happy July 4th everyone. Have a safe, and if possible, local one.

  •  Good morning Crissie and Krew (9+ / 0-)

    Great topic today!  And I am here to take part!  A day off, yeah!

    This is a hot topic here in Portland.  We have a bus system, but it is not always well used and depending on where you live, inconvenient.  I do make myself feel better for using what my husband calls a "sov" (single occupancy vehicle) because I choose to live in town, near work, rather than the suburbs, so that most of my drives are only a couple miles. My husband at least rides his bike everywhere he can when the weather is decent...

    Huggggggs to the Krew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Don't believe everything you think.

    by EJP in Maine on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 04:58:49 AM PDT

    •  Yes, despite George Will's stupidity ... (8+ / 0-)

      ... (see the column cited by BlueStateRedhead above), I think Americans can be encouraged to change our personal habits and better fit ourselves into our environment.  That includes, as you say, choosing to live nearer where we work if we can, choosing to ride a bicycle or walk (as Mr. EJP does), and the other choices we have available.

      Too many want to begin any discussion of mass transit with "Assume no one will do it unless it provides door-to-door and on-demand service."  Ironically, they usually don't apply the same standard of perfect performance to ... say ... free market solutions for health care.  Then "better than nothing at all (for those who can afford it)" is "good enough."

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

  •  Not in my backyard (9+ / 0-)

    is the heated issue in eastern Nebraska.  There is a tremendous amount of traffic between Lincoln and Omaha, and for years, people have wanted a commuter train, however, such a rail would have to cross someones back yard.

    What used to be a 15 or 20 minute drive from Interstate 80 east of Lincoln to the outer western limit now takes an hour, and an express lane around the east/west perimeters again faces the backyard problems.  

    In western Nebraska, when kids are tall enough to see over the steering wheel, they drive their cars from the ranches to the nearest highway where the school bus will pick them up.  Their cars sit idle all day by the side of the roads (which to 'strangers' must look like a lot of abandoned cars.)

  •  G'Mornin' E'buddy (10+ / 0-)

    Funny you should write about mass transit today. I just looked up travel to Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh.

    My town has bus, Greyhound bus, Metro, local bus, local train and Amtrak service all available less than 6 miles from my house.

    From any of those locations to Pittsburgh, the trip takes 7 hours.

    Frederick MD, a 35-min drive away, has a Greyhound station. If I go from Frederick to Pittsburgh, the trip takes 4 hours.

    Easy choice? No.

    Frederick Greyhound has no parking lot. I can find no way to get from here to Frederick without driving.

    Last time I went to Pittsburgh I parked my car at a friend's house and he drove me to the station and picked me up coming back. I can't reasonably ask him and his wife to do this again.

    Would Greyhound help me find a way? Nope. "Sorry, we have no parking facilities." Period.

    It shouldn't be this hard.

    We are all Jose Padilla.

    by JG in MD on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:25:39 AM PDT

    •  That's part of what I discussed ... (7+ / 0-)

      ... in the last section of the diary.  Some of this will, inevitably, include longer trip time because we'll have to make transfers, wait, etc. in order to get fuller occupancy on each leg of the journey.  It seems "convenience" is not among nature's values.

      Still, I sympathize with your situation.  Seven hours is a long time to spend in-transit, and with more of us moving to mass transit we could probably reduce some of those wait times.  We can't eliminate them, however.

      Good morning! ::huggggggggggs::

    •  We have a great bus company that runs (8+ / 0-)

      between Portland and Boston/Logan airport.  One of the owner's goals is to have a bus you would feel comfortable with your wife or daughter riding (okay, a bit sexist, but his heart is in the right place). They also located in a spot in town where they had room for a parking lot--they knew that was necessary to pull in middle class riders.  They show movies on the buses.  They have free newspapers and coffee at the Portland bus station.  They are very busy, running full buses all day.  It's not Greyhound--they don't have a parking lot here either, so they get a different clientele, and are not as successful.

      Don't believe everything you think.

      by EJP in Maine on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:57:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Higher gas prices (8+ / 0-)

    In Feb '08 I got my Prius. A few months later when we hit $4.00 per gallon gas I was stopped where ever I went with inquiries about gas mileage, cost, where I got it, etc. Someone even asked if they could test drive my car. A few months later, with prices coming down, no one asked about my Prius.  

  •  Thank you (6+ / 0-)

    for highlighting & linking to this study.  Very much appreciate the systems-of-systems look.

    Would have been interesting to see some more aggressively 'green' choices put into this.  Scooters / Bikes (electric, gas, hybrid, pedal); EV/PHEV/HEV (how about implication of a hybrid natural gas bus?); etc ...

    Related, fyi, my diary today: The power of And

    •  I think we can speculate on some of them. (6+ / 0-)

      Chester and Horvath obviously focused on in-use systems with broad enough bases to yield aggregate measurements.  When you get into the "aggressively green" alternatives, you'll have smaller sample sizes and it will be harder to draw good conclusions.

      That said, occupancy is clearly the dominant variable in their equation and that would likely apply to many of the transit modes you mention.  It may be less a matter of choosing the theoretically best mode than choosing the mode that will get peak occupancy.  The more system-specific the infrastructure needs - specialized corridors, terminals, energy sources, etc. - the more their infrastructure costs will offset their "tailpipe" savings ... and again it will come down to occupancy.

      Good morning! ::hugggggggggs::

      •  Well ... (5+ / 0-)

        hybrid bus is very easy to calculate. Simply use the greater fuel efficiency and account for the marginal increase in manufacturing impact, and voila ...

        Bicycle becomes more difficult. How much of 'transportation infrastructure' (road, bridges, railroad terminals with bike parking space) gets associated with this?

        In any event, would have been interesting if they had included, in their study, some of the much more fuel efficient options.

        PS:  My frustration, in my public transit use, is that I'm on a bus route where I have never seen the bus more than half full and it actually has less than 10 people on it for most transits. Now, rather than taking a car, I cut my CO2 footprint since the bus is a sunk cost, but it is not an efficient transit set up overall. (Smaller bus???)  (And, in addition, the difference between car & bus is, guaranteed, 35+ minutes more morning and 20+ minutes evening, eg more than doubling transit time. Commute, right now, is mix of solo driving, car pooling, and transit.  Working to build up to putting biking into that mix and, perhaps, give up parking spot to have transit subsidized so that solo driving isn't in the mix.)  

        •  We've tended to think "too big" sometimes. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel, winterbanyan, BYw, FarWestGirl

          Yes, smaller buses - see Orinoco's comments above about jeepneys, and senilebiker's comments about the French system - are part of the solution.  Some of it may involve small-vehicle modes linking to larger-vehicle nodes for main artery runs, to ensure peak occupancy at each leg of the journey.  But of course the trade-off there is individual time efficiency; you may well have to wait a few minutes at transfers and that means planning the day around longer transit time.  As I've commented elsewhere, convenience is not among nature's values, and to better fit our lives into our environment we'll have to sacrifice some convenience.

          •  economics driven (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            winterbanyan, BYw, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

            Each bus takes a driver, has costs from insurance and maintenance that don't scale linearly with bus size.  So if a route needs buses that can carry X people/hour peak but averages Y people off-peak, it can be cheaper to run a few big buses rather than using smaller buses and putting more on during peak times.

            •  That may be true ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... but nonetheless many communities are moving to more diverse mass transit fleets, with smaller (more likely to be fully occupied) vehicles running "feeder routes" to draw people to terminals for the larger vehicles (which are then fully occupied).  Adding "smart routing" can improve occupancy and thus lower PKT energy use and carbon emissions still more.

              •  the smart routing is a big help (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                and the economics is more a big factor in the past than now.  

                However some transit organizations have a hard time moving to feeder routes vs hub & spoke or similar.  In other cases the operator of the long haul mass transit is different than that operating buses, and neither is directly connected with the local governments.  

                The Seattle area has this problem, light rail is a different organization the the county bus system. the new light rail has no parking facilities close to many stations, meaning at best you take a bus from your neighborhood or a Park&Ride lot to the LT station.

                Ah - but as part of an agreement with Eastside cities to get them to by into accepting the light rail plan, Metro Transit - the bus system operator - is increasing the percentage of buses operating on the Eastside and cutting back on routes in the Seattle area; including routes that would have taken you to and from light rail stations, or within Seattle proper.

                Net result expected - declining bus ridership because buses no long connect origins-destinations, at least without excess travel time and bus transferring, and the poorer neighborhoods are less likely to use light rail because it is difficult for them to get to it.  And because of the cutback in service, in those cases where the intervals between buses will be increased, larger buses are likely to be used because Metro knows the number of current riders but is trapped into using fewer buses by the agreement with the LRA and Eastside towns.

  •  Ecology is only one imperative of Mass Transit (8+ / 0-)

    and the human factors are important to getting ridership. For instance, a transit service that runs only minimal buses in off-peak hours will have low ridership, because fewer people will permit themselves to become "captive" riders of the system - this lowers overall transit usage.

    Also, rail is fine, but without feeder bus routes, rail will fail outside of downtown cores. If people can't easily get to the train, they won't take it.

    Terminator Salvation was a terrible movie.

    by Bobs Telecaster on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:56:41 AM PDT

  •  Somewhat related ... if you're relocating ... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sychotic1, winterbanyan, BYw, NCrissieB

    look at walkscore which is an attempt to rate every address in the USA in terms of how "walkable" the neighborhood is.  It isn't perfect, but it's pretty good.

  •  An intercity idea from Israel (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    winterbanyan, BYw, NCrissieB

    in Israel, there are 3 big cities, relatively close to each other: Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

    In addition to buses, they have what are called sherut (= service).  Essentially, someone buys a set of large cars or minivans.  They park in a central location in one city, and give rides to another one.  You pay per seat.  If you're in a huge hurry, or it's a slow time period, you can pay for empty seats (not so green but convenient) and in busier times, the cars fill up fast.

  •  11 out of 100 (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    winterbanyan, BYw, NCrissieB, FarWestGirl

    Car Dependent

  •  Last summer, I decided (5+ / 0-)

    to try the bus.  I didn't quite get that done this school year, but I'm thinking of trying it again.  Even though it spews out all kinds of nasty stuff, that bus is going to run whether I'm on it or not.  I can get a month's pass for $20.  That's one week's worth of gas.  Even if I drive myself to the bus stop (there is a place to park, free!), I could still save about half the cost of driving myself to work each month.  That doesn't include wear and tear on my vehicle, either.  The bus goes right past my school, too, so I don't have to walk too far on either end.  (That is a factor because I've always got my "teacher" bag - paper is HEAVY - plus the laptop, etc.)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 08:04:21 AM PDT

  •  What does this say??? 8| (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My husband's horoscope: A lot of countries, and a lot of wars, were born under your sign.  Gee, thanks.

    My horoscope: Yes, watermelon seeds were put there for that reason.  Fire back.


    ...There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. --Rumi

    by rb137 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 09:06:53 AM PDT

  •  funny horoscope, too. nt (0+ / 0-)

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