Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Guest KJP

Rethinking transport in the USA

Recommended Posts

http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/Seg/PB3ch10_ss3.htm

 

Earth Policy Institute

Book Bytes

 

REDESIGNING URBAN TRANSPORT

Lester R. Brown

 

The world’s cities are facing unprecedented problems. In Mexico City, Tehran, Kolkata, Bangkok, Shanghai, and hundreds of other cities, the air is no longer safe to breathe. Respiratory illnesses are rampant. In the United States, the number of hours commuters spend sitting frustrated in traffic-congested streets and highways climbs higher each year. In response, forward-thinking city planners are seeking ways to redesign cities for people not cars. They have begun to realize that urban transport systems based on a combination of rail lines, bus lines, bicycle pathways, and pedestrian walkways offer the best of all possible worlds in providing mobility, low-cost transportation, and a healthy urban environment.

 

A rail system can provide the foundation for a city’s transportation system. Rails, either underground or on the surface, are geographically fixed, providing a permanent means of transportation that people can count on. Once in place, the nodes on such a system become the obvious places to concentrate office buildings, high-rise apartment buildings, and shops.

 

Some of the most innovative public transportation systems, those that shift huge numbers of people from cars into buses, have been developed in Curitiba and Bogotá. The success of Bogotá’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system, TransMilenio, which uses special express lanes to move people quickly through the city, is being replicated not only in six other Colombian cities but elsewhere too: Mexico City, São Paulo, Hanoi, Seoul, Taipei, Quito, and several cities in Africa. In China, Beijing is one of 20 cities developing BRT systems. Even industrial-country cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and—much to everyone’s delight—Los Angeles have launched or are now considering BRT systems.

 

Some cities are reducing traffic congestion and air pollution by charging cars to enter the city, including Singapore, London, Stockholm, and Milan. In 2003, London adopted a £5 ($10) charge on all motorists driving into the center city between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., immediately reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Within a year, bus ridership increased by 38 percent and delays dropped by 30 percent. In July 2005, the fee was raised to £8 ($16). Overall, since the congestion charge was adopted, car and minicab traffic into the central city has dropped 36 percent, while bicycle traffic has increased by 50 percent.

 

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, who was elected in 2001, faced some of Europe’s worst traffic congestion and air pollution. He decided traffic would have to be cut 40 percent by 2020. The first step was to invest in better transit in outlying regions to ensure that everyone in the greater Paris area had access to high-quality public transit. The next step was to create express lanes on main thoroughfares for buses and bicycles, thus reducing the number of lanes for cars. The third step was to establish a city bicycle rental program that by the end of 2007 had 20,600 bikes available at 1,450 docking stations throughout Paris. Accessed by credit card at inexpensive daily, monthly, or annual rates, the bicycles are proving to be immensely popular. At this point Mayor Delanoë is well along on his goal of cutting car traffic by 40 percent.

 

The United States, which has lagged far behind Europe in developing diversified urban transport systems, is being swept by a “complete streets” movement, an effort to ensure that streets are friendly to pedestrians and bicycles as well as to cars. Many American communities lack sidewalks and bike lanes, making it difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to get around safely, particularly where streets are heavily traveled. This cars-only model is being challenged by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a powerful assemblage of citizen groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, AARP (an organization of 38 million older Americans), and local and national cycling organizations. This coalition has aggressively lobbied for “complete streets” policies, which are now in place in 14 states and 40 metropolitan areas, cities, and counties. In early 2008, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative Doris Matsui of California each introduced national “complete streets” legislation in the U.S. Congress.

 

Countries that have well-developed urban transit systems and a mature bicycle infrastructure are much better positioned to withstand the stresses of a downturn in world oil production than are countries whose only transport option is the car. With a full array of walking and biking options, the number of trips by car can easily be cut by 10–20 percent.

 

The bicycle has many attractions. It alleviates congestion, lowers air pollution, reduces obesity, does not emit climate-disrupting carbon dioxide, reduces the area of pavement needed, and has a price within reach for the billions of people who cannot afford an automobile.

 

Few methods of reducing carbon emissions are as effective as substituting a bicycle for a car on short trips. A bicycle is a marvel of engineering efficiency, one where an investment in 22 pounds of metal and rubber boosts the efficiency of individual mobility by a factor of three. On my bike I estimate that I get easily 7 miles per potato. An automobile, which requires at least a ton of material to transport one person, is extraordinarily inefficient by comparison.

 

The capacity of the bicycle to provide mobility for low-income populations was dramatically demonstrated in China. After the reforms in 1978 that led to an open market economy and rapidly rising incomes, bicycle production and ownership started climbing. The surge to 500 million bicycle owners in China since 1978 provided the greatest increase in human mobility in history.

 

Many cities are turning to bicycles for various uses. In the United States, nearly 75 percent of police departments serving populations of 50,000 or more now have routine patrols by bicycle. Bicycle messenger services are common in the world’s larger cities simply because they deliver small parcels more quickly than cars can and at a lower cost.

 

The key to realizing the potential of the bicycle is to create a bicycle-friendly transport system. This means providing both bicycle trails and designated street lanes for bicycles. Among the industrial-country leaders doing so are the Dutch, the Danes, and the Germans. The Netherlands has incorporated a vision of the role of bicycles into a Bicycle Master Plan. In addition to creating bike lanes and trails in all its cities, the system also often gives cyclists the advantage over motorists in right-of-way and at traffic lights. Roughly 30 percent of all urban trips in the Netherlands are on bicycle, compared with 1 percent in the United States.

 

Both the Netherlands and Japan have made a concerted effort to integrate bicycles and rail commuter services by providing bicycle parking at rail stations, making it easier for cyclists to commute by train. In Japan, the use of bicycles for commuting to rail transportation has reached the point where some stations have invested in vertical, multi-level parking garages for bicycles, much as is often done for automobiles.

 

The combination of rail and bicycle, and particularly their integration into a single, overall transport system, makes a city eminently more livable than one that relies almost exclusively on private automobiles. Noise, pollution, congestion, and frustration are all lessened. We and the earth are both healthier.

 

--

Adapted from Chapter 10, “Designing Cities for People,” in Lester R. Brown, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008), available for free downloading and purchase at www.earthpolicy.org/Books/PB3/index.htm.

 

Released July 9, 2008


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This has been known for a long time. I posted at a newsgroup two years ago about the Highway Trust Fund going bankrupt by 2009, but the situation has taken a toll for the worst. Construction costs have been inflated greatly since then, and gasoline taxes have mostly remained steady. People are also starting to drive less, compounding the issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This appeared in the Newark Advocate. Marc Guthrie is president of Newark City Council.

 

Cost of fuel means now is the time to move on high-speed rail

Marc Guthrie

 

http://www.newarkadvocate.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080722/OPINION02/807220323/1014/OPINION

 

Dating back to my tenure in the state legislature, I have been an advocate for high-speed rail in Ohio. Since riding Japan's high-speed trains a few times in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I've been convinced that fast, efficient rail is needed in the United States. Ohio could and should be the trailblazer in the Midwest for high-speed rail development.

 

 

With the high cost of fuel, there could not be a better time to undertake a high-speed commuter project in the Buckeye State. I always have believed that if Ohio could lead the way in high-speed rail development, it would help our economy greatly.

 

To his credit, President Dwight Eisenhower, with the support of Congress, had the foresight to authorize the interstate highway system in 1956. The system has grown immensely during the last 50 years; just imagine where we would be without the interstate highway system.

 

.........

 

Newark City Council President Marc Guthrie, a former member of the Ohio House of Representatives, can be reached via e-mail at mdguthrie@roadrunner.com

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

AP article on Amtrak's Downeaster line from Maine to Boston had this gem:

 

"She credits increased frequency and a better schedule, in addition to rising fuel costs, for the growth of the Portland-to-Boston rail service."

http://wbz.com/pages/2635133.php?

 

Some evidence that more frequent trains can mean more riders.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FYI.....

 

House votes to move $8B into highway trust fund

Pioneer Press

 

Article Last Updated: 07/23/2008 11:06:36 PM CDT

 

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday approved an $8 billion infusion into the highway trust fund, restoring temporary solvency to the federal account essential to keeping the nation's roads and bridges safe, functional and in good repair. By transferring $8 billion from the general Treasury fund, Congress would stave off an anticipated revenue shortfall in the trust fund that could reduce federal highway aid for state infrastructure projects by more than 30 percent. 'This is not the time to begin to reduce our already pathetic and inadequate investment in our transportation infrastructure,' said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the transportation subcommittee on highways. But the White House said President Bush would be urged to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. It said taking money from the general fund to prop up the highway system was 'both a gimmick and a dangerous precedent that shifts costs from users to taxpayers at large.'


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the Texas Highway Commission:

http://www.keeptexasmoving.com/index.php/news/Do_Roads_Pay_for_Themselves%3F

 

Do Roads Pay for Themselves?

 

1. What is a traveler paying for when he or she pays state gas tax at the pump?

 

State motor fuel tax is collected from all over the state and goes into a single pool of revenue—about one quarter of which goes to fund education, and about three-quarters of which goes to the state’s highway fund, where it is spent on transportation uses and some non-transportation functions of government.

 

Then the state receives federal funds as the state’s share of the federal fuel tax; about 70 cents of every gas tax dollar Texans send to Washington comes back for road use.

 

The significant point here is that historically the fuel tax paid in any locality of the state is unrelated to the road projects in that locality. Every fuel taxpayer in the state paid something for any given road—which leads to the next issue.

 

2. When is a given road actually “paid for?”

 

Just like your car, it never is. You may have paid the note, but maintenance and fuel costs go on as long as you own the vehicle. Once a road is built, maintenance and rehabilitation costs last its entire life, generally about 40 years.

 

The decision to build a road is a permanent commitment to the traveling public. Not only will a road be built, but it must also be routinely maintained and reconstructed when necessary, meaning no road is ever truly “paid for.”

 

Until recently, when TxDOT built or expanded a road, no methodology existed to determine the extent to which this work would be paid off through revenues.

 

The Asset Value Index, was developed to compare the full 40-year life-cycle costs to the revenues attributable to a given road corridor or section. The shorthand version calculates how much gasoline is consumed on a roadway and how much gas tax revenue that generates.

 

The Asset Value Index is the ratio of the total expected revenues divided by the total expected costs. If the ratio is 0.60, the road will produce revenues to meet 60 percent of its costs; it would be “paid for” only if the ratio were 1.00, when the revenues met 100 percent of costs. Another way of describing this is to do a “tax gap” analysis, which shows how much the state fuel tax would have to be on that given corridor for the ratio for revenues to match costs.

 

Applying this methodology, revealed that no road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees. For example, in Houston, the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes. That gives a tax gap ratio of .16, which means that the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon. This is just one example, but there is not one road in Texas that pays for itself based on the tax system of today. Some roads pay for about half their true cost, but most roads we have analyzed pay for considerably less. To conclude, in the SH 99 example, since the traffic volume for that road doesn't generate enough fuel tax revenue to pay for it, revenues from other parts of the state must be used to build and maintain this corridor segment. The same is true across the state, meaning that, as revealed by the tax gap analysis, overall revenues are not sufficient to meet the state’s transportation needs

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Awesome. We should look at similar numbers for Ohio roads.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/editorials/stories/2008/07/29/highway2.ART_ART_07-29-08_A8_JPAS7T6.html?sid=101

 

Which way?

Highway system demands renovation, but transportation needs are evolving

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 3:08 AM

Columbus Dispatch

 

When gasoline prices are setting records, the last thing Americans want to hear is that the federal tax on it might go up.

 

But the nation's interstate highways demand constant upkeep and lawmakers, though always wary of raising taxes, are feeling the pressure. The suggestion has been to increase the gas tax 10 cents and then index it to inflation, because the current 18.4 cents per gallon doesn't have the buying power that it did when it was raised to that level in 1993.

 

.........

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Awesome editorial on our idiotic administration...

 

http://www.railwayage.com/breaking_news.shtml#Feature4-8-01

 

July 30, 2008

Editorial Comment: USDOT Secretary's timing is curious

 

Now she tells us: That's the sardonic response among many rail-related observers to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peter's pronouncement July 29 urging an overhaul of federal transportation policy and--perhaps most pronounced--funding for such policy. "Gee, ya think?" is not too cruel a reaction.

 

Indeed, the 66-page document entitled "The Transportation Infrastructure Reform Act (TIRA): FY 2010-2015 Surface Transportation Reform Proposal," is notable for its release six months before the Bush Administration leaves office. Moreover, the document earnestly notes SAFETEA-LU--"the law authorizing Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit--will expire" on Sept. 30, 2009. DOT thus advocates a radical overhaul of transportation policy within a 14-month time frame, let alone split between two presidential administrations.

 

A copy of the DOT document can be obtained at www.fightgridlocknow.gov/ and clicking on the document icon.

 

............

 

 

Douglas John Bowen

Managing Editor, Railway Age

 

Comments are welcome. Email dbowen@sbpub.com


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://northdenvernews.com/content/view/1422/2/

 

Peak Oil - U.S. drives 10 billion fewer miles May 08 over May 07

Written by Staff  

Wednesday, 06 August 2008

 

High oil prices equal demand destruction, as Americans drive fewer miles. From USDOT:

 

New Federal data showing further steep declines in the number of miles Americans are driving is additional proof that the country needs new means - other than the gas tax - to finance the nation's transportation infrastructure, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters said today.

 

"By driving less and using more fuel-efficient vehicles, Americans are showing us that the highways of tomorrow cannot be supported solely by the federal gas tax," Secretary Peters said. "We must embrace more sustainable funding sources for highways and bridges through more sustainable and effective ways such as congestion pricing and private activity bonds."

 

Secretary Peters said that Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) in May 2008 than in May 2007, according to the Federal Highway Administration data. This is the largest drop in VMT for any May, which typically reflects increased traffic due to Memorial Day vacations and the beginning of summer, and is the third-largest monthly drop in the 66 years such data have been recorded. Three of the largest single-month declines - each topping 9 billion miles - have occurred since December.

 

 

...........

 

 

 

"Less driving means less money for the Highway Trust Fund," said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Jim Ray. "The status quo cannot and will not work in the 21st century."


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not trying to get political here but I hate the new McCain ads against Obama-twisting his anti-off shoredrilling stance into making it sound like he's all for foreign oil...

 

No, Obama knows that ordering the diet coke with the supersized meal isn't fixing the problem!  We need to redefine America from the inside-out!  We don't want to have this problem in another 40-50 years!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome to Campaign 101. Some feel they have to lie to get into the Oval Office, or any elected office.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080812/NEWS11/808120318/-1/NEWS

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Article published August 12, 2008

 

Experts believe bicycling, walking, and public transit use will rise

 

In a 1950 New York Times article, science editor Waldemar Kaempffert predicted families in the year 2000, instead of driving, would "use the family helicopter, which is kept on the roof. The car is used chiefly for shopping and for journeys not more than 20 miles."

 

But 58 years after his prediction, not all pundits forecast the car will be easily replaced in the future. Many say Americans are not ready to leave the keys on the kitchen counter and head to the corner to catch public transit.

 

.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

http://www.railwayage.com/breaking_news.shtml#Feature4-8-12

 

August 11, 2008

Time to reconsider electrification?

 

Even though railroads are many more times fuel-efficient than trucks and have not been hurt as badly by soaring diesel fuel costs as their rubber-tired rivals (partly because they’re able to recover a portion of their costs through fuel surcharges), they’re looking at additional ways to lower their fuel bill.

 

One of these is electrification, which, aside from a small, captive mining operation in the West, hasn’t been employed by a freight railroad since the 1970s, when Conrail shelved its GGI and E44 electric locomotives and tore down what little remained of the catenary the Pennsylvania Railroad had built for its northeastern freight operations in the 1930s. The expense of building, operating, and maintaining catenary, combined with relatively cheap diesel fuel and more-or-less standardized diesel locomotives, provided the impetus for freight railroads to de-energize and tear down their wire.

 

.........


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Former state Rep. Jim Trakas, who is the Republican opponent of U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich's re-election bid this November, is holding a press conference to detail his energy plan.

 

Where is he holding this press conference? At the Ohio City Rapid station, on Lorain near W. 25th. I have no further details execpt that it will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 14).

 

He says in his press release:

 

"While Congressman Kucinich proposes tax increases and recommends "gentle acceleration" of our cars to reduce gas costs, I have a comprehensive plan to provide for America's energy needs," said Trakas.

 

I guess we'll just have to wait and see why he's holding the press conference at the Rapid station.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I would have to ask what did Trakas ever do  while he served in the Ohio General Assembly to advance passenger rail and mass transit?  Hope some intrepid reporter asks him that at his news conference.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

True. Both are without ammunition. He and Kucinich can pull out fake guns and fire blanks at each other all day long. Politics really are as silly as that image -- and about as substantive.

 

When you live in train-less Ohio, there are precious few politicians here who can brag about their passenger rail accomplishments.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DOT Secretary fronts "reform plan" for transit funding

www.railwayage.com

 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters Tuesday traveled to Houston to tout the Bush Administration's proposed Metropolitan Mobility Program, designed to reform and expedite the process of federal funding for transit projects, including Houston's plan to add five light rail lines.

 

"If plans to expand the light rail system are as good as local sponsors say, they will be easier to fund under our proposal than under the current broken federal system," Peters said.

 

The Metropolitan Mobility Program would give mayors and local officials a direct payment of federal funds and unprecedented flexibility to invest the federal dollars in their most pressing transportation needs, and would eliminate what DOT calls "controversial earmarks" advanced by political backers regardless of merit.

 

In Houston's case, under the proposed program, the city would receive one lump federal funding allocation with one prime criterion: passing a benefit-cost analysis.

 

DOT says the reform plan would also create a Metropolitan Innovation Fund that would reward cities willing to combine a mix of effective transit investments, dynamic pricing of highways, and new traffic technologies.

 

Peters' choice of Houston to advance the Administration's proposal is seen by some as ironic: Last year the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority reversed an earlier decision to proceed primarily with Bus Rapid Transit routes, opting instead for five LRT lines. MTA has moved ahead on two of the five lines without federal funding, relying on local funds, mostly sales tax revenue.

 

http://www.railwayage.com/breaking_news.shtml

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really like the concept of the Metropolitan Mobility Program funding. Of course, the devil is in the details, and the cost-benefit analysis must also be allowed to include long-term (10 years or longer horizon) potential benefits, including development, reduced VMTs, air quality impacts, jobs access, etc. etc.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This administration has a nasty habit of dangling new programs like this, while it sets up criteria that are all but impossible to meet.  I love the quote from Sec. Peters:

 

"...they will be easier to fund under our proposal than under the current broken federal system," Peters said.

 

They out to know, they broke it.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The administration can't take credit for the Metropolitan Mobility Program. It was a proposal by the National Surface Transportation Policy Commission. I guess if the administration can take credit for anything, it was that they didn't act like a dictator by not unilaterally deleting the Metropolitan Mobility Program like they did in trying to axe the rail portion of the commission's recommendations.

 

How do you know when someone wants to be a dictator? When they act like one!


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would consider Wi-Fi on a bus to be an unnecisary extravagance. A cleaner more comfortable seat though always be nice, though lately on the RTA busses I've ridden I'd be happy to just have room to stand.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The End Of Aviation

What will happen when America can't afford to fly?

 

Bradford Plumer,

The New Republic

Published: Wednesday, August 27, 2008

 

 

As the age of cheap oil comes to a close, it's springtime for gloomy futurists. Visions of a brutish world marked by violent squabbles over dwindling reserves, of junkyards littered with abandoned cars, of suburban slums overrun by weeds, of the collapse of industrial agriculture--none of this sounds as outlandish as it once did. Still, most of these horror stories are likely overstated: Energy experts tend to agree that, with a little ingenuity and a generous helping of political will, we could transition away from fossil fuels without being forced to give up our modern lifestyles.

 

But there's one big exception--an area where a post-carbon world really could mean a radical shift in the way we live. That's the world of commercial flight.

 

Early signs of an aviation apocalypse are already upon us. As oil prices flirt with $130 per barrel and the dollar struggles, airlines are paying nearly 80 percent more for fuel than they did a year ago. Twenty-five airlines have gone belly-up this year--three to four times the usual yearly rate. Major carriers like American, Northwest, and United, still reeling from the industry downturn after September 11, go barely a month without announcing layoffs and capacity cuts.

 

 

..........

 

 

Bradford Plumer is an assistant editor of The New Republic.

http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=78260c55-a850-478f-9ffd-b8023fd89459

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are a few stats to ponder:

 

Millions of Revenue Passenger Miles by mode

 

          Rail        Bus        Air          Auto

 

1929  33,965    6,800      ----        175,000

1939  23,669    9,100      683        275,000

1944  97,705  26,436    2,177      181,000

1950  32,481  26,436    8,773      438,293

1960  21,574  19,327  31,730      706,079

1970  10,903  25,300  109,499  1,026,000

 

Source: National Railway Historical Society

 

The maps and stats show us that if we had a national emergency, such as a major war or a peak oil scenario we might not be able to respond in a timely manner.

 

Let's look at WWII. The railroads were a major reason why we were able to fight and win a two front war. They had a huge infrastructure with high capacity and redundency, which allowed the massive shift to rail for the duration. Many key routes had multiple railroads serving them. Chicago-St. Louis had four railroads between them.

 

Railroads carried 95% of all freight and materiel during the war, along with about 90% of all passengers. Most trains operated in sold out conditions and second third and even fourth sections of exisiting trains were common. Add to that thousands of troop movements and you can see what an undertaking this was.

 

This was all possible because the railroads already had the infrastructure IN PLACE. That is NOT the situation today.

 

Think about it: If we got into another major war, the first thing that would happen would be that the military would commandeer airliners to move troops. Fuel and tires would be rationed, so the auto would not be an option.

 

Railroads would not be of much use either. They are already at capacity for freight movements and Amtrak is sold out much of the time. Ditto trucks and buses. The average citizen would be stranded.

 

By necessity, the government would be forced to embark of a massive crash program at exactly the same time it would be fighting a war. Plants to turn out thousands of new passenger cars and locomotives would have to be built and keep in mind that it takes at least two years to tool up a plant and start work before the first car rolls off the line. Thousands of miles of new track and many new facilities would have to be built.

 

Still, it could be done. After all, the automakers switched from cars to tanks and planes and cranked them out by the thousands.

 

Then there is Peak Oil.

 

This situation is a bit better than a sudden, major shooting war, but the same problems apply: No excess capacity, no plants to turn out rolling stock, overdependence on energy intensive auto and airplanes.

 

If we get into a true Peak Oil scenario, we will need a WPA or defense plants style solution. We will probably need 180,000 passenger cars (Amtrak has 2,000 today) and that means we will have to turn out thousands every year to make a dent in the problem. Then there are all those locomotives, structural steel, rail, ties, concrete, etc, etc, etc.

 

And then there is transit!!!

 

The upside: Economic development. Thousands of good-paying jobs will be created.

 

The downside: If we wait too long, we will be in for a rude awakening and a very rough and unpleasant ride.

 

This is why I keep saying revitalization of our railroads and transit is in the national interest.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As if to reinforce my message, here's something from the New Republic. Market forces may drastically curtail air and auto travel, finally forcing the government's hand.

 

This week's New Republic contains a fascinating article predicting the end of aviation as we know it due to increasing fuel costs.  It also suggests that high-speed rail needs to be part of the solution.  The entire article can be found at

 

(http://www.tnr.com/politics/tory.html?id=78260c55-a850-478f-9ffd-b8023fd89459),

 

but here's a few key paragraphs.

 

Early signs of an aviation apocalypse are already upon us. As oil prices flirt with $130 per barrel and the dollar struggles, airlines are paying nearly 80 percent more for fuel than they did a year ago. Twenty-five airlines have gone belly-up this year--three to four times the usual yearly rate. Major carriers like American, Northwest, and United, still reeling from the industry downturn after September 11, go barely a month without announcing layoffs and capacity cuts.

 

And it gets worse from there. Despite recent fluctuations, a growing number of economists are bracing for oil to hit or surpass $200 per barrel in a few years, and most industry analysts agree with Douglas Runte, of RBS Greenwich Capital, who told The Wall Street Journal in June, "Many airline business models cease to work at $135-a-barrel oil prices." After all, most airlines barely figured out how to be profitable in a world of low fuel costs. Jeff Rubin, chief economist of Canadian investment bank CIBC World Markets, has predicted that gasoline will hit $7 per gallon by 2010, forcing some 10 million cars in the United States off the road. If that happens, he told me, "You're going to see an even bigger exit in the airline industry." ....

 

That means, in the next few decades, high-speed trains-which require considerably less energy per passenger than airplanes--may prove the most viable alternative to flight. York University's Whitelegg notes that, in Europe, trips shorter than 300 miles make up about 45 percent of all flights; most could be traversed nearly as quickly by train, if the proper infrastructure were built. Hank Dittmar, CEO of the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment, sees airports morphing into "travelports" that seamlessly link rail and air networks, with the latter used largely for long-distance.

 

 

 

I'd bet that a good number of smaller airports will be shut down altogether and some major ones will look as forlorn as Buffalo Central Terminal: Weedy, rusting monuments to a bygone golden age of air travel.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^We may ultimately end up in a situation where trains replace all but the longest domestic flights if this country wants to remain mobile, which instead of rail primarily replacing trips up to 400 miles that figure could reach 1000 miles or more.  Of course, I have nothing to base this on except speculation...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everything seems to be pointing in that direction, except that the powers that be cling tenaciously to the status quo.

 

I think that not only will rail make a big comeback, but bus as well. They may be what bridges the gap between the present and when we really do have a national rail system. Buses can be brought on line fairly quickly.

 

That may happen if we want to keep the masses moving.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From Politico.com's "Dear 44" series on challenges facing the next president:

 

Dear 44: Build for growth

By JANET KAVINOKY - U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE | 8/25/08 4:50 AM EST

 

We love cars. We love trucks, buses, minivans, motorcycles and scooters. We love trains, planes, bicycles and even shoes. We are a transportation nation, and we have a problem — our nation’s crumbling infrastructure can’t get us where we need to go.

 

In the summer of 1919, a young Dwight D. Eisenhower famously took part in the “First Transcontinental Army Motor Transport Expedition,” a trip from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco that took 62 days to cover just over 3,200 miles. The goal of the convoy was to test the mobility of the military, and Eisenhower learned that our nation’s roads were not up to task. Later, as president, Eisenhower was a champion for a robust, national road network, and his support led to the passage of the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956. The interstate system that emerged has been embraced by both citizens and commerce and is the backbone of our economy and way of life.

 

But the system is aging, and it needs a new champion, a role which our next president must play. The Department of Transportation estimates that congestion costs Americans $200 billion per year. In the 10 most congested areas in the U.S., each rush hour commuter spends the equivalent of almost eight work days per year stuck in traffic, wasting more than two billion gallons of fuel. Roughly one-third of the nation’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

 

There are more than 590,000 bridges in the U.S., and the Federal Highway Administration reported in 2006 that 25 percent of them are either obsolete or deteriorating. A recent study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials reports, “Within the next 15 years almost half of the nation’s bridges will exceed 50 years of age, exceeding the life span for which they were designed. … With age comes decay. One in four of our bridges are rated as deficient, either in need of repair or in need of widening to handle today’s traffic.” To protect the public, states that cannot afford needed improvements will be forced to close or put weight limits on some bridges — impacting commuters, families, and commerce.

 

According to Matthew Rose, CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., the rail freight network is heading for a “rail meltdown,” which will cause “chaos in the supply chain.” Transporting freight by rail is far more fuel efficient than most forms of transportation, but we are running out of track. In April 2008, the U.S. Chamber reported the demand for freight trains is expected to double over the next 25 years.

 

Responding to our infrastructure crisis will require candid assessments, as well as prioritizing and making tough spending decisions based on actual need rather than political expediency. More resources are required — plain and simple. Every funding option should be on the table. We need to unlock private investment and expand public revenue and financing options.

 

The public deserves a complete conversation and comprehensive solutions, and in return, our leaders need the public’s acceptance of the costs — both monetary and personal. By making changes in the way we live, we can reduce congestion and use less energy. The American Public Transportation Association reports that current public transportation usage reduces U.S. gasoline consumption by about 4.2 billion gallons each year. Transit takes millions of drivers off the road and emissions out of the air. We need a much larger investment in these systems.

 

And rebuilding America is an investment. Each dollar invested in highway construction generates $1.80 of GDP. Every billion dollars invested in federal transportation funding supports 47,000 jobs, and every dollar invested in public transportation generates about six dollars in economic returns. The time to act is now. There can be no more delay.

 

Janet Kavinoky is the director of transportation & infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Part 2:

 

Dear 44: New ideas

By REECE RUSHING - CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND | 8/25/08 4:50 AM EST

 

Our nation’s transportation infrastructure is increasingly antiquated. Not only are roads and bridges falling apart, but this infrastructure was designed for another time when fuel was cheap, the U.S. population was far smaller and there was no knowledge of human-induced climate change.

 

In the aftermath of last year’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis, much attention is now focused on the need for repairs. And this need is indeed great. More than 70,000 bridges nationwide are “structurally deficient,” and substandard road conditions contribute to 30 percent of all highway accidents, according to the Federal Highway Administration. We must boost investment to fix these problems and step up monitoring so that we can anticipate and head off the sort of failure that occurred in Minneapolis.

 

As repairs are made, however, there also needs to be more careful thought given to our transportation needs for the future. Many Americans are now struggling to fill up their gas tanks. But over the long run, gas prices are expected to soar even higher as demand continues to rise in developing countries such as China and India.

 

At the same time, the U.S. population is growing and there are far more drivers on the road. Traffic congestion in American cities costs an estimated $78 billion annually in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Moreover, the number of commercial trucks is increasing at an even faster rate than passenger vehicles. These trucks place great strain on the nation’s roads and bridges, requiring additional dollars for repairs and maintenance.

 

Finally, there is the urgent need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting release of carbon dioxide emissions, which are causing potentially disastrous global climate change. The transportation sector is the second largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States, with two-thirds of these emissions coming from automobiles and light trucks.

 

All of this suggests a need for more rail transportation — including long-distance train service (for both passengers and freight), subway systems and light rail. More extensive rail transportation can take cars and trucks off the road, particularly in urban areas, where most road travel occurs and where congestion is most severe. This would reduce spending on road maintenance and expansion and reduce demand for gas, thereby driving down the price at the pump, and significantly cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

 

Policy makers, unfortunately, have not yet made the necessary commitment for this transition. And in some ways, we’re actually headed in reverse. The tonnage of freight shipped by rail, for example, is expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2020, according to the Department of Transportation. But in the absence of sufficient government investment, railroad maintenance and expansion is falling behind this growing demand. If this is allowed to continue, there will inevitably be even more trucks on the road to transport what the railroads cannot.

 

Our next president must have a vision for transportation infrastructure beyond road repairs and maintenance. President Dwight D. Eisenhower developed and executed a plan to build our interstate highway system to meet the transportation needs of the 20th century. The new president should similarly develop a plan for the 21st century that dramatically expands rail infrastructure. This will of course require a significant investment. But as with the interstate highway system, the payoff would be enormous: millions of new jobs, a boost to the struggling economy and a transportation infrastructure for the future. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.

 

Reece Rushing is director of regulatory and information policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an interesting read and comparison between European rail services and those on the East Coast of the USA -- from a European's perspective. The link is to the full article, but I included this snippet from that article below.......

 

http://www.nationalcorridors.org/df2/df08252008.shtml#View

 

As in Massachusetts, most train stations along the New Haven line in southwestern Connecticut and Westchester County, NY, are equipped with large parking lots or even parking garages, but unlike the Old Colony line, most stations on the New Haven line are also relatively close to town centers and / or shopping and residential areas, probably because most of the stations are in the same location today as they were a century ago when the New Haven line became a major commuter rail corridor. Along the New Haven line, all train stations are equipped with high level station platforms, as on the “Old Colony” part of the MBTA commuter rail system. But age and lack of preventive maintenance appear to be taking a toll on these stations, all of which were re-configured to high-level platforms more than three decades ago. Many of the bridges, embankments and catenary supports along the New Haven line show significant visual signs of neglect, water damage, settling, and corrosion over the eight-plus decades since construction of the four-track rail line was finished by the New Haven Railroad. Infrastructure deterioration on that scale is difficult to find in western Europe, but similar examples can be easily found in numerous locations across eastern and southeastern Europe, where Warsaw Pact governments of the Cold War era invested few resources into transportation infrastructure but spent lavishly on their military and secret police forces.


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond." -- Coach Lou Holtz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Transportation Dept almost out of highway funds

 

5 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Transportation Secretary Mary Peters says the federal highway trust fund will run out of money this month.

Peters blames the shortage of funds on the high price of gasoline, which has prompted Americans to drive less. And by driving less, they use less fuel and pay less in federal gasoline tax.

At a midday press conference Friday, Peters said the agency will have to delay payments to state road and bridge projects that the federal government is helping finance.

At the same time, she wants Congress to pass legislation that includes $8 billion to help cover the shortfall.

Four times this year, Republicans in the Senate have blocked a measure that would shore up the fund.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This generation is going to get screwed in SOOOOOOO many ways throughout their lifetime!!!!

 

And neither one of the candidates, Dem or Rep mentioned anything about transportation in the speeches.    I hope it comes up in the debates, but I feel it will be just cheap talk on both sides.   

 

Anyone think the price drops of oil lately and the election in a couple months are coincidence?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...