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Archive for the 'Environment' Category

high-speed rail through a child’s eyes

deutsche-bundesbahn.jpg 

No sooner than I heard that inland temperatures were headed for triple digits, I’m sitting on the Capitol Corridor in Emeryville and the train is overrun with rugrats. Moms, dads, boys and girls are feverishly power-walking up and down the aisle looking for six seats together.

Summer’s arriving early, it seems.

One youngster, perhaps 9 or 10, insisted that he choose where to sit: “Car ONE,” he nearly shouted, as he dragged the hand of a thirty-something woman. “Car ONE!”

After riding the train for two years, I should know right away what that means, but I guessed correctly. He wanted to be in the car that had a view of the engine.

I knew this even before I asked a conductor, because this entreaty sparked a powerful memory from my childhood. I remembered riding a train, perhaps more than one, and being captivated by the sight of the locomotive at the front-end of the train. It so happens that this train is being Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, May 12th, 2008
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, global warming, high-speed rail, rail | 15 Comments »

and this time, we mean it (about transit money)

On Tuesday, May 20, the Oakland-based Transportation and Land Use Coalition will join transit and environmental advocates in Sacramento for a day of lobbying.

The central message is that if ever there were a time to not suck the life out of gasoline sales tax receipts that state law earmarks for public transit, this is it.

This view is shared by a lot of people who don’t collect a per diem for hanging out in the Capitol Building, such as Bay Area transportation officials, people who worry about global warming and people who don’t own cars.

But this year, things appear to be different from last year, when that stash of transit money, swelled from rising gas prices, was too tempting a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2008
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »

paying off my carbon credit account

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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 Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, April 30th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, BART, Bicycling, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, Environment, global warming, rail | 10 Comments »

i’d rather be riding the bullet train


Ok, if a black man can be nominated for president, maybe California can build high-speed rail.

It’s starting to look like the wind is behind this thing, what with college students campaigning for it all over the state from now until November, when voters will have to decide whether they like the $10 billion bullet train bond measure or not.

I’m still waiting to see what sort of borrowing plan Sacramento will cook up to get us through the current budget crunch. I get the sense, however, that even that won’t stop the bullet train measure from going before voters.

Tomorrow between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., students on UC Berkeley’s famous Sproul Plaza will be riding tricycles, jumping on pogo sticks and walking on stilts while wearing “I’d rather be riding high-speed rail” t-shirts.

These students, sold on the idea that the bullet train is public transportation’s answer to the Prius and a major way of fighting global warming, have been pulling off stunts like this up and down the state. While the students’ enthusiasm at first blush might evoke comparisons to Barack Obama’s youthful appeal, I see it a bit differently.

The presidential parallel I see in the bullet train’s renaissance resides in Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, BART, Bicycling, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, global warming, high-speed rail, rail, Transit vs. driving | 11 Comments »

gas misers in NW, but what of California?

The states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho have reduced their gasoline usage to about a gallon lower than the national average, according to a study I found in my inbox this morning:

Measured per capita, gasoline consumption in
the Pacifi c Northwest states has fallen to its lowest level since 1966. Per-person gas consumption in the region has declined in seven of the last eight years; and climate-warming CO2 emissions from gasoline have fallen by six-tenths of a ton per capita in the region since 1999. That decline in per capita gasoline consumption—11 percent, overall—is the equivalent of every driver in the Northwest taking a Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2008
Under: driving, Environment, fuel, global warming, Misc. Transportation, Transit vs. driving | 13 Comments »

train in vain

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On my way home last night, I fancied that I was going to blog about the latest bit of transportation research to come out of the Cato Institute, an inside-the-Beltway limited-government think-tank.

I was going to write about the study, Does Rail Transit Save Energy or Reduce Greenhouse Emissions?, as I quaffed a $4.50 micro-brew on the Capitol Corridor. If you know anything about the Cato Institute, you can probably guess what it says: 

Far from protecting the environment, most rail transit lines use more energy per passenger mile, and many generate more greenhouse gases, than the average passenger automobile. Rail transit provides no guarantee that a city will save energy or meet greenhouse gas targets.

While most rail transit uses less energy than buses, rail transit does not operate in a vacuum: transit agencies supplement it with extensive feeder bus operations. Those feeder buses tend to have low ridership, so they have high energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile. The result is that, when new rail transit lines open, the transit systems as a whole can end up consuming more energy, per passenger mile, than they did before.

This will be some comfort to regular readers of this blog, at least those who believe that rail transit, commuter rail in particular, is on par, if you will, with whites-only Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, Bicycling, Buses, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, fuel, global warming, rail, Transit vs. driving | 14 Comments »

ok, scratch that about SUVs

carbon-atom.gifNo sooner than I said “make ‘em pay” about SUVs, some state legislator comes up with legislation to do just that.

Only this, reported by Riverside Press Enterprise Sacramento correspondent Jim Miller, isn’t what I had in mind:

Legislation by state Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta, to open the state’s carpool lanes to motorists who buy carbon offset credits had about as much chance Tuesday as the owner of a gas-guzzling 1972 Lincoln Continental scoring a coveted “clean-air vehicle” sticker.

Battin, tongue firmly in cheek, said he was disappointed that the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee had blocked his attempt to reduce global warming.

In truth, Battin, a climate-change skeptic, wanted to highlight what he sees as the hypocrisy of Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 10th, 2008
Under: driving, Environment, global warming | 5 Comments »

SUV owners: make ‘em pay

epa-fuel-economy-comparison.BMPAs I’ve noted, it’s difficult to pronounce the word “infra- structure” these days without putting “crum- bling” before it. Our recent story on the Dumbarton rail bridge is yet another example of that not-at-all retorical reality.

That in turn raises the question of how to pay for keeping up our highways, rail lines and ferry terminals, to say nothing of expanding those systems after we gulp down the $20-billion Prop 1b approved by voters in 2006.

Lucky for us, someone did a study about this.
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Asha Agrawal, a research associate at the Mineta Trans- portation Institute at San Jose State University, and her colleagues had noticed that various members of the legislature had proposed various iterations of environmentally indexed fees for driving.

Silicon Valley Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, for example, authored AB 2791, which would basically penalize you if your 2011 GMC Sierra pickup upset the Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, April 3rd, 2008
Under: driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, technology | 2 Comments »

silver bullet for high-speed rail measure?

So, while I was blithely blathering Friday about CalPIRG and their campaign to promote California’s high-speed rail plan, the Sacramento Beebullet-train-and-mt-fuji.jpg

was getting the real scoop on the future of our improbable love affair with 200+ mph bullet trains:

Democratic lawmakers have agreed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request to include public-private partnerships for a high-speed train that could travel from either San Francisco or Sacramento to Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours.

Supporters of the high-speed “bullet” train are hoping the changes will ensure that a $10 billion Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2008
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, Funding, high-speed rail, rail, Transit vs. driving | 12 Comments »

the transit imperative

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Today’s yawner e-mail comes from the Capitol Corridor:

OAKLAND, CALIF., March 17, 2008 — The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) has announced the highest annual ridership in the history of the Capitol Corridor service. “The February statistics from Amtrak show that our 12-month ridership total hit 1,523,630 passengers last month,” said CCJPA Managing Director Eugene Skoropowski. “This ridership beat our previous threshold that we broke in January when 1,503,210 riders boarded our trains.”

My point is not to belittle the fine work of Luna Salaver, the Corridor’s new spokesperson. It’s just that setting records on public transit systems these days seems Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, March 17th, 2008
Under: Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Environment, fuel, parking, Transit vs. driving | 11 Comments »