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Archive for the 'fuel' Category

train in vain

corridor-at-night.jpg 

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 »

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.
prius-v-denali.bmp
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 »

the transit imperative

watching-i-80-from-the-corridor.jpg 

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 »

the 63% solution


Yesterday I read among the comments to last week’s post on fixing federal transportation funding that the Bay Area spends two-thirds of its transportation money on public transportation while barely one-tenth of commuters actually use it.

Another comment expressed incredulity over that figure, considering how much money it takes to maintain roads and highways, not to mention the $5.7 billion going into replacing the Bay Bridge’s eastern span.

But the immediately apparent bottom line is correct, according to Randy Rentschler, spokesman and lobbyist for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The commission’s initial framework for its 2030 transportation and growth plan calls for 63 percent of the revenue the Bay Area receives to be spent on public transportation. That’s comparable to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Bridges, driving, Environment, fuel, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 25 Comments »

the next big thing in transportation

i-880-high-st-bridge-loses-another-chunk-18-jan-08.jpg

As I sit here high above the Nimitz Freeway, members of my favorite Caltrans maintenance crew are busy patching a 1-by-1-foot hole in the highway’s bridge over High Street.

How appropriate that I just got off the phone with Steve Heminger, who had just flown in from Washington, D.C.

Heminger, who by day is executive director of the Bay Area’s very own Metropolitan Transportation Commission, was tapped in 2005 by Nancy Pelosi to serve on the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

That hole in the Nimitz is but one of many such holes in freeways around the nation, and the money to fix them — permanently — is Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2008
Under: Freeways, fuel, Funding, Safety, tolls | 22 Comments »

2007 was a gas, gas gas … or was it?


Today I accosted several of my colleagues and asked them if they’d miss 2007.

The answer was pretty much “no” all around, with the most convincing story coming from a person who’d bought a house with a sub-prime mortgage.

In the area of transportation, especially in the Bay Area, I’d have to say 2007 was a very Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2007
Under: BART, Bay Bridge, Buses, driving, Environment, ferries, Freeway collapse, Freeways, fuel, Retrofitting, Safety, Transit vs. driving | 11 Comments »

now that you mention it, there IS a law

almost-done-by-nick-lammers-oakland-tribune.jpg

Many thanks to the AAA of Northern California for sending me a concise roundup of all the driving-related state laws kicking in in 2008.

First and foremost is the one that has probably led to more confusion than the last 100 California ballot measures. I confess that just prior to July 1 of this year, I thought we were supposed to go hands-free with the mobile phone or face the consequences (Those would be $20 for the first offense, $50 thereafter, which I suspect for many will considered the cost of doing business).

But, as AAA’s Sean Comey notes, that particular law, along with its no-cell-no-text-no-anything-while-driving-under-18 counterpart passed this year, don’t actually kick in until July 1, 2008. So Californians, gab away, but try to practice with the earpiece occasionally so it won’t be such a shock this summer.

If it helps, I recently got to know a Caltrans road crew that lost one of Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
Under: Bicycling, driving, Environment, ferries, Freeway collapse, Freeways, fuel, other, Safety, technology, traffic signals, trucks | 2 Comments »

are we ready to stop driving? right now?

no-vehicles.bmpLast night I watched “The Amazing Mrs. Prichard,” a British television series about a grocery store manager who become prime minister of the UK  because of that longing many of us have for our leaders to use common-sense governance.

As one might expect, much of the drama comes from home-grown logic colliding headlong with the complexities of how things work in the developed world.

In this episode, Mrs. Prichard is frustrated that a G-8 Summit (eight leaders of the world’s economic powers) has come up with nothing concrete to deal with global warming. So after insulting the U.S. president, she proposes her own stab at the problem: On every Wednesday, no one in Britian drives.

I’ve actually seen this happen in a developed country. On Yom Kippur in Israel, 5.5 million citizens Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, November 12th, 2007
Under: BART, Buses, Carpooling, driving, Environment, ferries, Freeways, fuel, Funding, rail, Smart Lanes, telecommuting, Transit vs. driving | 15 Comments »

so you wanna fight global warming, eh?

polar-bear-lanes.bmpYou want to stop global warming?

Hmm. Maybe. Sounds good. How?

You can take BART to work.

Not me. Don’t live near a BART station and the BART lots are always full when I drive to one.

You can take the bus to BART.

No. The bus stop is too far from my house. I’d spend 20 minutes just walking there. Then I have to wait for the bus. By that time, I could be at work already.

You could ride your bike to BART.

It’s hilly where I live. I’d get all sweaty. And besides, BART doesn’t allow me to take my bike during rush hour. Any other ideas?

Yes. Keep driving and pay a carbon tax of 23 cents a gallon, pay a rush-hour toll to get into the city and a peak-hour parking surcharge when you get to work.

But I’d be paying, what, five times Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, October 26th, 2007
Under: BART, Bicycling, Buses, Carpooling, connectivity, driving, Environment, Freeways, fuel, Funding, parking, Planning, technology, tolls, Transit vs. driving | 14 Comments »

hopeless? try the Middle East

palestine-high-speed-rail-plan.jpgGetting up early this morning to attend a Metropolitan Transportation Commission meeting and opposing press conference about California’s high-speed rail enterprise (like the space ship), my brain nearly dripped out of my ears by the time it was over.

I had lost all context. I was starting to believe that someday, high-speed rail would actually get built and I should care if it did or it didn’t.

Struggling to fire a synapse long enough to put something on this blog, I found myself Googling aimlessly and suddenly, a light bulb ignited.

My previous brush with the concept of high-speed rail was in a concrete tunnel of sorts.

I was leaving the Gaza Strip, oddly enough, when I chanced to meet Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 24th, 2007
Under: Altamont Commuter Express, Amtrak, BART, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, fuel, high-speed rail, rail, Transit vs. driving | No Comments »