So, rather than firing off one of my usual unsupported assertions on the blog, I spent way too much time yesterday trying to figure out how much carbon and other nasty stuff is emitted by the locomotive currently dragging me to work.
Regrettably, I can only say at this point that it’s a diesel electric, which means that it’s a ginormous diesel engine that doesn’t actually turn the gears that turn the wheels, like in a regular car, but turns a generator that powers an electric motor that makes the wheels turn. I have calls in to the EPA and several other entities, but the blogosphere waits not for laggards in pursuit of the truth. I’ll delay no further, and update when I (or one of you smart people) locate the data.
My assertion, in theory, was that I had done what Gov. Schwarzenegger had done, but with sweat instead of cash.
As many of you no doubt know, our green governor was called to account for jetting around the world to promote his anti-global warming campaign. To atone for his oversized carbon footprint, he paid indulgences to a “carbon forest” in the upper reaches of California. KQED’s California Report recently did a report on what the governor and first lady Maria Shriver’s carbon credits are accomplishing.
Thanks to the fact that my regular Capitol Corridor’s last stop is Oakland Coliseum, and that people haven’t caught on to the idea that it’s a convenient way to get to Oakland International Airport for those midday flights, I have the power to shrink my carbon footprint _ and the Bay Area’s _ on a regular basis
It happens when I’m the only person going to Coliseum. The train goes out of service there and returns to the yard in West Oakland until the afternoon. Thus, the entire mega-ton train, spewing particulates and carbon into the air, travels 10 minutes down and 10 minutes back just for yours truly.
Now, I ride the train in part to reduce my long commute’s impact on the environment. It’s disturbing when I’m the only thing that gets transported to Coliseum, especially after finding out that when no one is riding down there, the train will routinely go to the yard directly from Jack London Square.
So I am in the habit of asking one of the conductors, “Am I the only one?”
Some days, when I’m on a later train and simply can’t take the extra time, I have to accept my inconvenient truth and keep riding. As I exit at Coliseum, I look up and down the train, hoping to see someone else “de-training,” as they say. If I’m alone, I’m bummed, for the planet and my celestial ledger sheet.
But yesterday, I was on the right train and, in fact, I was alone. I announced my intent to get off at Jack London Square and assured the conductor, who insisted that it wasn’t necessary, that I had done this before and it was no problem.
The first time I mentioned this arrangement to Gene Skoropowski, who runs the Capitol Corridor on behalf of the multi-transit-agency CC Joint Powers Authority, I could tell he was not entirely happy. The CCJPA had gone to some trouble to build that platform at Coliseum and would like people to use it.
I couldn’t agree more. First off, people do use it, just not at the late hour that I do. Secondly, I can envision people getting off at Coliseum in good numbers throughout the day. But right now, on Train #529, it occasionally ends up being me or no one.
And those of you who view rail as the highly inefficient tool of the privileged classes will no doubt point to this as another case proving your point. The key questions in this debate is, how many riders need to be on the train to make it more environmentally friendly than the same number of Ford Tauruses? And then there’s the marginal traffic congestion relief, which could already be making a big difference.
But for one day this week, it didn’t have to go, and that power was in my hands. It felt good. My own carbon credit, my own train-hauling locomotive, probably on the EPA’s lowest emissions tier for locomotives (as, I’m told, are most passenger engines in the Golden State), was parked and shut down for another 30 minutes on my say-so.
Until the aforementioned data comes back, I’ll guess that this single act (Am I smug? You bet!) will balance out all of my car trips in my Toyota Matrix for the rest of the month. If not from a CO2 emissions standpoint, then from a particulate emissions standpoint, since I don’t drive a diesel.
In any case, I will update this post when I find out what the actual impact of this act was.
What made it all the more satisfying was that I decided to try biking the rest of the way rather than biking to Lake Merritt BART and then from Coliseum BART to work. It won’t win me any triathelon medals or alter my carbon footprint any further, but I probably burned off half of that egg-and-cheese burrito I had on the train.