82 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: The War on Cars”

    1. “I didn’t know that Dino Rossi became the Mayor of Vilnius”

      I’m pretty sure that Dino “Let’s use more sales tax for building roads” Rossi would be running over bikes that had been used as part of some minor transgression, such as an Idaho Stop.

  1. Two posts ago A. Parast commented this within his own post

    “I’m sick and of tired of people using violently charged language in political discourse. That is not acceptable.”

    I’m curious to see if he’ll decry a fellow blogger posting a video of a military vehicle violently destroying a car.

    Something tells me he, or other commenters, will explain this away as being apples and oranges, but if you are honest with yourself, you know it is not.

    1. It’s funny, but I agree with you. I’d like this content to stay on sites like Reddit, not STB where we discuss local transportation issues and where STB is looked up to by members of the local community.

      1. I think it’s okay as a spur to discussion, but what I’m really looking for, and as you say, what STB is good at, is comparative analysis.

        Rather than a bunch of cranks sitting around “hating cars” what I’d like to see is an extended serious of posts around the topic of “Personal vs. Mass Transportation”, and study things like what are the benefits of cars (we know the detriments).

        For myself, I think that personal transit has to be the long term trend. Google already has gotten Nevada to pass laws allowing them on the road. My thoughts (futuristic) are: what would a city with auto-piloted cars look like? How would it operate? Would it still need trains or buses? Would anyone have to own a car…or would it all be state managed robot taxis?

        But before doing this type of Blue Sky thing — I’d say, let’s enumerate the benefits of Personal Transit and Mass Transit. And in Personal Transit I would group bikes, taxis and yes, cars…but also services like ZipCar, and new car sharing sites like RelayRides.

    2. I agree with Sam that the video is in poor taste. We can’t seem to have a rational discussion about how bike lanes improve pedestrian and vehicular safety, or lower the cost of filling potholes, when such incendiary messages are being put out there.

    3. Sunday Open Threads usually contain humorous or interesting videos. This is not an article about the war on cars. And not only is it posted tongue in cheek but I’m not seeing any violently charged language here at all.

      1. So Matthew, then to be consistent, you would find a video of a guy smashing bicycles parked illegally on a sidewalk with a sledgehammer humorous? Just good-natured humor? Nothing violently-charged about it?

      2. I do understand if he chooses to remain silent about this picture/video. It’s difficult to stand up to one’s own friend. It requires a certain level of courage that many of us simply do not have.

      3. Sam, no, I would not find smashing them with a sledge hammer funny.

        Honestly, I don’t understand what you old people like about Gallagher.

        Now if they were getting run over by a BTR, now THAT would be funny*.

        *assuming of course the owner was a giant prick that kept breaking the law even after repeated citations, as was the case here.

  2. An interesting read and comments from Mike Lindblom over at Seattle Times this week on 520 tolling.
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016011062_520tolls26m.html
    Is this the best use of our dwindling sources of taxes, fees, fares, and tolls?
    Tolling on 520 will extract up to 1/4 Bil in cash from our local economy each year. WSDOT will retain about 1/4 of that to mostly repay for bonds to construct the facilities.
    So where does the other 75% of the revenue go? Well, it’s a Texas company, so I’m assuming home office can do all the transactions electronically, less installation of the equipment. That’s a heck of a lot of cash withdrawn from the local economy, sent to Texas, and allowed to circulate there, instead of here.
    Or how about red light cameras. What’s the local take on that revenue stream? Probably not much better, and the biggest provider of the service is in AZ.
    And then a lot of the money retained locally just goes to repay bond holders. Hmmm, that’s in NY, isn’t it?
    My point is, and hopefully sparks some serious discussion is this.
    Heavily bonding local projects, or accepting pennies on the dollar of local revenue sources is short-sighted. Those dollars are lost. I guess the only thing we can do is land more contracts than we let out of state, but it doesn’t have to be either or.

    1. Side note: The city of LA recently cancelled their contract with AZ based ATS for traffic camera enforcement, saying it was costing the city more to administer the program than it brought in (net revenue).
      Does anyone know how much of ORCA revenue actually finds its way into the local transit budgets, against what it cost to administer? And where does the rest of the fare revenue end up?

      1. In other words, LA admits that the cameras are for revenue generation, not traffic safety.

        I have a bad feeling WSDOT may be losing its proverbial shirt over the SR 520 tolling system, especially if tolling gets blocked on I-90.

      2. Studies show that extending the yellow is more effective than installing cameras if reducing accidents is your goal.
        And for LA it was a net money loser, not a money maker.

      3. Extending the yellow only reduces accidents in the short term. In the long term, drivers become used to the longer yellows and statistics gradually return to normal as they rush the light later and later.

        However, a visible countdown timer (such as the ones often visible on crosswalk signs) does cause a permanent reduction of accidents.

        Also, LA simply is looking for a new vendor.

        My big red light/speed camera question is why aren’t they integrated?

        Why can’t every red light camera double as a speed camera?

        And for that matter, why can’t every red light camera and speed camera also be scanning plates for stolen cars, like the cameras mounted on the Parking Enforcement vehicles? King County has a very high auto-theft rate, and this would really help.

        Hell, they should be able to use one camera to enforce expired registrations, stolen vehicles, red lights, and speed limits. To keep these devices all separate is technologically lazy.

      4. According to an article on signal countdown timers in the Institute of Transportation Engineers Journal, the claim that “a visible countdown timer (such as the ones often visible on crosswalk signs) does cause a permanent reduction of accidents” is not true.

        Quoting the article: “Installing a red-time countdown device has a positive impact, while the green one increases the probability of crashes occurring at intersections.”

        Also, “The traffic signal violation rate for countdown versus no-countdown configurations was also compared. … The rate of violation is 30 percent for countdown and 24 percent for non-count down” and “The countdown timer may result in a greater likelihood of rear-end collisions at traffic junctions.”

      5. Studies show that 83% of statistics are made up on the spot.

        Saying “studies show”, without providing a source, is argument from authority, not from evidence. Please cite your sources. (And thank you to Oran and everyone else who does exactly that!)

      6. That appears to be a much more recent and comprehensive study than the one I’m remembering from my college days. Gracias Oran.

    2. The source I quoted was an article about tolling on 520 and the question I asked was about sending massive amounts of our local tax/fee/fare revenues out of state, where they are never going to circulate in our own economy.
      I really don’t give a rip about countdown timers and right turn safety studies.
      Let’s go back to watching some clown crush cars for entertainment.
      THE END

  3. Hydrogen Fueling Coming To Pearl Harbor

    Proton OnSite’s FuelGen C30 proton exchange membrane electrolyzer will be used to power a variety of hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen internal combustion engine cars on the base, as well as U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sponsored buses and other flight line support vehicles. It will be powered by a combination of solar and grid power.

    http://www.earthtechling.com/2011/08/hydrogen-fueling-coming-to-pearl-harbor/

  4. More density equals less driving: just an urban legend?

    If you look at the numbers another way, the case for density-reducing car usage looks even more tenuous. VMT only really declines substantially at the highest housing density — over 5,000 units per square mile, or about the same as Chicago. To halve the VMT of the highest mileage households, you would need to increase housing density in those areas 20 to 100 times.

    http://www.grist.org/transportation/2011-07-14-drive-a-lot-housing-density-may-not-be-to-blame

    1. The “about the same as Chicago” sticks out to me. Chicago’s political boundary is like Seattle’s: quite large, funny-shaped, and not especially meaningful in terms of what it includes and leaves out. We think of Chicago as a big, dense city, but the city boundary includes places like Beverly (which is roughly comparable to Laurelhurst, but with bigger houses) and Hegewisch (roughly comparable to Seattle’s “rural northeast”). Most of its neighborhoods that aren’t on the north side near Lake Michigan are not that dense.

      It would probably be a stretch to bring Seattle, overall, across a 5,000-unit-per-mile “tipping point” immediately (as of the 2000 Census we were at 3225.4). But lots of neighborhoods, like the the ones Link serves and will soon serve, are close. I found some per-ZIP information, so here goes: 98103 (my ZIP) has 7,343 units/sq.mile. The Roosevelt Link station will serve parts of 98105 (6001 units) and 98115 (4055 units). The Rainier Valley portion of Link serves ZIP codes like 98118 (3256 units), 98144 (4485), and 98188 (1548, but includes SeaTac Airport, a bunch of freeways, etc). 98109, covering eastern Queen Anne, LQA, and SLU, scores 8,210. 98107 (lower Ballard) is similar to 98103, at 7,474. 98121 is basically Belltown, and measures out at 22,696.

      I suspect that the real tipping point (keeping in mind that lots of factors other than density contribute to walkability) is a little higher than 5,000 units per square mile, as the standard, incorporated Chicago still contains quite a lot of large, residence-free plots of industrial land, and quite a lot of sparsely-populated residential areas. But, my point is, many of the areas where we care about density and transit are in a range where it matters.

      1. Agreed. The kind of density we’re interested in is closer to 30 units per acre, or about 20,000 units per square mile.

        There’s a nice density catalog, which shows a sample of what kinds of urban forms you’ll find at different density levels.

        There’s also a convenient Seattle density map. This is over 10 years old, but it still very clearly highlights the regions (U-District, Capitol Hill/First Hill, Belltown) where transit works well today.

      2. Are you saying 20,000 people or housing units? How many people/per sq mile do you think is optimal?

      3. Charles,

        To be honest, I’m not sure. I think the better number to use is people per acre (or square mile) rather than housing units, because housing units can be arbitrarily big or small, but people are people. At the same time, the number of people living in an area can change much faster than the built environment can.

        I don’t know if I’d say that any particular density is “optimal”. What I can say is that neighborhoods built for people, rather than for cars, tend to naturally have densities of at least 20,000 people per square mile (or the equivalent commercial density, for business districts). In Capitol Hill, most people walk to the grocery store. In Greenwood, most people drive. I think we have too few neighborhoods like the former, and too many like the latter, and the significant rent premium for living in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill is a testament to that.

      4. What in the world is so great about “density”? SPRAWL provides a better lifestyle for human beings. Cars are good because they allow for that, as do other types of transportation.

        Living in big, dense cities is unnatural, unhealthy, and not the way that most people want to live if they have a choice.

        The entire push of you STB types appears to be taking away that choice to force your own personal views of how people ought to live.

        You will lose, thank God.

      5. Mr. McGee, my feelings are more nuanced. I don’t think a uniform amount of density is appropriate for humankind. But I think just as there is great diversity of people in this world, different things work for different people at different walks of life.

        But we do know that the number of humans and how they live is having a direct and demonstrable effect on this planet. Significant and severe climate change is being observed and almost universally (>98%) Scientist have concluded that the cause of this change is by humans. Rapid depletion of fossil fuels will be disruptive to human activity. The effect of sprawl has also been tied to climate change. We see it here in the Puget Sound in flooding caused by human activity in our mountains. (timber cutting, clear cutting for housing developments etc.)

        The cause that some people have undertaken to improve how our cities function is valid with the hope that people can acquire a new way of living that improves their quality of life and minimizes the inevitable disruptions that climate change and resource depletion WILL bring in the coming years.

        But I am one to caution the folks here that pushing for change in certain ways invites political backlash and the creation of enemies when it isn’t necessary. Further, our region is growing rapidly and the economic functions necessary to sustain us are not all suitable for one small geographic area. Our region is now fairly sizable and encompasses many counties around the Puget Sound. We MUST acknowledge that all of the people that live in the region are just as important as anyone else and that decisions we make must work for all people and not just ones in a particular political sub-division. For example, while the greatest concentration of jobs in this region is in downtown Seattle, I’ve read that those jobs ONLY account for 11% of the region’s jobs. And that significant amount of economic activity is generated OUTSIDE of Seattle. This MUST be acknowledged if we are to come to good decisions about how we build our future.

        I’ve said don’t “war on the car” because in my opinion, resource depletion will force many people to make economic decisions about how they live and there is no need to impose political “sanctions” on people with cars. Also, our built infrastructure was designed with the car and we are not going to wholesale abandon it. Rather, those in far flung suburbs will face the cold hard reality that their existence there is more expensive and more isolating than living closer to a city.

        I believe when the synergies of a modern city show that people of many walks of life can lead vibrant and fulfilling lives with the modern infrastructure of transit and walkable and bikeable communities, things will change in adjacent communities as well. It is already happening in other metropolitan areas such as Washington DC where satellite communities like Arlington and Tyson’s corner – once very car oriented are re-designing themselves to be less car centric.

        But we must also acknowledge that technology’s benefit to humanity is the saving to time and effort. I saw a TED talk about the effect of the Washing Machine on families and saving the bulk of the time it took to maintain a household. And that it is the singular thing that many in the developing world wish for. Likewise, the car (and perhaps the horse and carriage before it) was the thing that gave personal mobility and the choices that come with it.

        So, changes are coming, many are going to be beyond your or my control because they are a function of natural economics. Your choice is to understand what is coming and to be willing to work alongside other people to mitigate impacts of that change for everyone. Or you can choose to try to hold out in your current way of doing things thereby exacerbating the problem.

    2. Just as New York has portions of the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island that are decidedly less dense than Manhattan and Brooklyn. In many cases cities expand by annexation and suburban burbs like Queens and portions of the Bronx become part of the city. You may have heard a legend of how Ballard became part of Seattle (hint, dead horse, emergency water offer with strings).

      As for Chicago, It seems that the portions of the city closest to the waterfront and to major highways are the most dense with miles and miles of tract homes fanning to the west. I lived in an area that had a whopping 36,000 people per square mile and I’m sure that neighborhood offset the less dense portions to tip the citywide average up. So too, we should be planning that in certain neighborhoods particularly around our rail system.

      I think the single most important thing we as a community could accomplish is getting our DPD to make this a strong principle of urban planning. Maximize density around transit investments. Eliminate traditional fixtures that inculcate dependence on cars and suburban living in those identified areas but allow for some neighborhoods to retain it as appropriate.

  5. I’m already beginning to miss the Most Recent Posts thread. That feature made it easy for me to see who was responding to my posts, so I could get back to them, and for people to notice if discussion was still going on for some of their favorite threads.

    The various people debating the most cost-effective ways to deploy bus ticket machines downtown may end up missing my arguments against deploying bus ticket machines. (In short, CT doesn’t allow SWIFT tickets to be used as transfers, and neither does ST do so with train tickets, but Metro would consider them ongoing POP for a couple hours within the agency’s routes, resulting in slower boardings on transfer routes.)

    Might there be a return to having a Most Recent Posts feature?

    Please and Thanks

    1. Do you mean the comments RSS feed? Try this: https://seattletransitblog.com/comments/feed/

      I guess this was taken off the sidebar with the comment system changeover, but since it’s working well for me I’m not sure why it wasn’t put back there after the disaster. Hopefully, the powers that be are not going to make another stab at converting to Disqus.

    2. That’s why they should fix Disqus and go back to using it.

      You get all your own posts collected under your account.

      And you can be notified of replies in email.

  6. I don’t know why people are whining about this video, it’s not anti-car it’s an anti “break the law” video. If it says no parking then you can’t park there. This is especially a problem if they’re parking in bike lanes because then anyone who’s riding by had to go out in traffic. Again I don’t see it as pro-bike, if they were parking on the sidewalk and you had to walk in the street (something I have to do on 115th st near Northwest hospital with a wheelchair because people park along the street) then the result would be the same. Park the cars, motorcycles and bikes in their designated spots.

    A school bus parks in the CT bus stop area near my home every morning. While waiting the CT bus drove on by leaving me and my daughter (in the wheel chair) there. I called CT to complain and the lady told me it wasn’t their problem and I needed to call the school district who apparently doesn’t have to worry about parking in the CT bus stops because CT doesn’t care. You’d need a really big tank but I’d bet if one flattened school bus got dragged back to the district there’d be no more school buses parking there.

    1. The video reminds me too much of some of the juvenile pranks Michael Moore did on TV Nation, especially with the reference to how expensive the cars were. But I’ll have to admit, the mayor is a lot funnier than Michael Moore ever was.

      Still, having this video circulate will only play into the hands of the sinister “War on Car” memers, and true believer road ragers who play into their hands. You know, the same think-tankers who call for public-private partnerships in transportation, and then don’t mind that bus agencies bust their butts selling ads, streetcar agencies get local business groups to subsidize extra service, while freeways get entirely paid for with public money.

    2. The instant you see that school bus parked in a CT bus zone call the non-emergency number of your local PD. Drivers are often responsible for tickets they receive.

      1. Replace “often” with “always” and you’ve got it right. I suppose you could dream up a scenario where the bus company ordered a driver to do something illegal and thus would be responsible, but that seems like a stretch.

    3. I dunno… the law, often enough, flat-out sucks. I’d saw the law is wrong often enough that it’s best to avoid enforcing it by tank. The fact that the law is wrong is why we need democracy and civil rights, and rights for the accused and even for the guilty.

      As a cyclist and pedestrian, I know absolutely why this video resonates. It’s because our behavior is often enough enforced extralegally, against our rights and interests, by intimidation and force. At best we can hope for protection from the police, but usually the offending parties get away too fast for us to even get their plate numbers.

      But as much as I might want to put a U-Lock through the window of the truck of the jerk that intimidated me into moving over against my better judgment, then ran me off the road Friday evening near Lynnwood HS (by the time his trailer was past me, its right wheel was on the right lane line, and there was no shoulder; I was literally in the ditch), that’s just not what we do in civil society.

      1. that the law is wrong is why we need democracy and civil rights

        We have democracy and civil rights. That’s the framework in which the laws are made. Democracy unfortunately from the viewpoint of vulnerably users has lead to a pitiful state of affairs. In fact you can be a driver and be killed and suffer from the same lacks enforcement of responsibility. Driving a car should carry the same responsibility and consequences as carrying a gun. Nobody would buy a defense, “oh, I shot him because I was distracted while talking on my cell phone.” There should be no difference in expectation between a commercial driver and an non-commercial driver. Our licensing laws are way too lacks.

  7. I find it amazing though is that the extreme bicycleists take such a hostile view towards cars and even transit. Where the pro passenger rail and pro public transit and various bicycling and enviromental types should be working together often they draw lines in the sand for one silly reason or another. If we want to see meaningful european-esque transit and multimodalism we are going about it the wrong way.

    1. I was going to remark the same thing earlier in the week when the lines were being drawn against cars. I haven’t owned a car in two years and rely completely on transit but I still acknowledge that cars are part of the transit solution. We will NEVER have a society that relies completely on transit. It’s all about balance.

      1. Even the most dense cities in the world still have a need for personal cars. Even when gas hits $10 per gallon, you will still see personal cars on the road.

      2. It’s not that I want to ban cars; it’s that I want to build human-scaled neighborhoods, where I (and others) can *choose* not to need a car.

        I know I’m not alone in this wish — just compare rental prices in Capitol Hill or Belltown with Auburn. For less than I’m paying for my 800 sqft 2BR in Capitol Hill, I could get a 1,500 sqft house in Redmond.

        There is absolutely no shortage of places where car-lovers can live. There is a *huge* shortage of the kind of environments that we want, and there is a *huge* pent-up demand.

        Is it not enough to have 99.999% of the built environment in the country structured the way you want? Do you have to take my last 0.001% too?

      3. I think there’s a lot more housing in dense walkable neighborhoods than you think. There’s 20 million people in NY State and 8 million of those live in NYC. About a 1/3 of King County lives in Seattle. Granted not all of Seattle meets your definition of walkable but there has been significant “walkable” development in Renton, Bellevue and Redmond. The thing is, this type of development will inherently be more expensive. DT Redmond 2 bedroom, 916 sq ft, $1310-2185 Per Month. Move out to Bear Creek which is only about a 1/2 mile away it drops to $1220-1310 Per Month. Location, location, location.

      4. And a walkable neighborhood isnt for everywhere either. Not only does geography limit you, but so does commerce. You’re always going to have a cluster of devlopement around neighborhood that features the staples of business. Including a Grocery store, Convience/drug store, And several resturants and bars/taverns/etc to provide entertainment at night. These are hard to spread out and in a true walkable neighborhood you want these close by. Old walkable streetcar neighborhoods always feature atleast 2/3 mentioned above, and are still with us today (of course walkable than, vs. now are two diffrent things as well). Todays devleopments would be more veritcally dense, vs spread out like the streetcare neighborhoods of old.

      5. Bernie: Yes, most of NYC qualifies. But most of Seattle does not, and very little of the Eastside/South King does.

        You say that these neighborhoods are inherently more expensive, but where’s the proof? I say that they’re expensive because of supply and demand; there’s low supply and high demand. Look at somewhere like Detroit; much higher density than the Eastside exurbs, but insanely cheap housing, since no one wants to live there. The only thing that makes dense neighborhoods so expensive is that there aren’t enough of them.

        Z: Sorry, but I have no idea what point you’re trying to make. Could you clarify please? :)

  8. So, whats up with the elevator on Mt. Baker’s southbound station? Its been out of service for weeks! Aren’t they in some way violating the ADA with a closure this long?

    1. Parts for the elevator mechanics are custom made and are on order, which accounts for the lengthy delay in repairs.

      1. I’m not an elevator expert, but I’m surprised we don’t have a stock elevator in that location. I know that isn’t the first implementation of an outdoor/lightly enclosed elevator.

      2. Seriously? I realize that subway stations have to use special extra-heavy duty elevators, and I realize that Mt. Baker additionally uses special extra-fast elevators….. but good grief, there are quite a few other heavy-duty fast elevators out there in other countries. Custom made, seriously?

    1. I bet the connection from the US side of the tunnel to Canadian rail would be more expensive than the tunnel it’s self and would a winding affair along hundreds of miles of what is now virgin coastline. How do you get across the glaciers? I guess you could go up through Fairbanks but then Canada would have to kick in for hundreds of miles of track across the tundra; likely all the way to Edmonton. High speed rail sharing ROW with freight would be at best Acela class of service which would be at least 3 full days from any city in the continental US and more like 4-5 from most population centers.

      1. Any passenger service would really be a side benifit, would take far too long to be used as transit, and likely would have to be run by a private company as a tourist line. The real benefit is freight – right now we lug containers around on rail and trucks, move them into large yards, move them onto ships, lug them across the ocean, move them into large yards, move them onto trucks and trains, and lug them to their final destination. Keeping them on trains would save many steps, and each step uses expensive and limited port space and labor.

        There’s a rough map here, which looks like they indeed plan on running through Canada.

      2. I thought I’d read before that container shipping was the most energy efficient method of moving goods:

        If all the containers from an 11,000 TEU ship were loaded onto a train, it would need to be 44 miles or 77 kilometers long.

        I’m not sure what niche the train would fill in? It might be faster but it would still take a week Japan to Los Angeles. I guess that’s a week more shelf life for perishable goods. But given that our existing freight rail infrastructure is saturated I think the billions spent would be better used increasing speed and capacity of our most highly traveled routes.

      3. Yes, that’s because of a lack of regulatory backbone though not the technology. It appears maritime limits are about a decade behind Locomotive Emission Standards. Diesel produced from coal can have a much lower carbon footprint than that refined from crude oil, is free of NOx and sulfur (industrial sulfur is a byproduct which has additional the benefit of reducing the need for mining).

      4. Here’s what the Sierra Club says: “Liquid coal releases almost double the global warming emissions per gallon as regular gasoline, making a hybrid filled with liquid coal as dirty as a Hummer H3 running on regular gas.”

        What the coal industry is claiming is that they’ll emit about as much greenhouse gases as diesel after sequestering and storing carbon which is very expensive to sequester, difficult to store (since you have to store it forever – good luck with that), and has never been actually done on the commercial scale.

      5. Understandably the environmental groups oppose it largely because of your concern over “limitless” gas and diesel forever. Cap and trade, which the US won’t see to buy into, are already pushing projects like Cleaning Up on Dirty Coal in China and Exploiting China’s Coal While It’s Still Underground.

        It’s a stop gap measure to be sure but it almost seems inevitable. China: Beijing Sees Future in Liquefied Coal:

        The process makes economic sense but inflicts an environmental double whammy. Simply making the fuel produces prodigious amounts of carbon dioxide, even before the fuel itself is burned. It also uses enormous amounts of another scarce Chinese commodity: water.

        The US can either lead in this technology or continue to export our relatively low value raw coal and import high cost foreign crude.

      6. The hard parts will be (1) getting political agreement from the US, and (2) crossing the Rocky Mountains in Alaska/the Yukon.

        The rest of it is easy. Russia will happily build the Canadian section and happily own it, and Canada will either let them do it, or build it themselves.

        The route in Alaska is obvious. You have a couple of minor mountain ranges to cross, then up the Yukon River to the vicinity of Fairbanks.

        Then you have a choice as to how to cross Yukon Territory. The longer and more northerly route: head north to Fort Yukon, cross to the Mackensie Basin, and head south through the Northwest Territories. Apart from that option, there are two northwest-southeast routes through the mountains in the Yukon, one starting at Fairbanks and one starting further north, both threading the mountains and coming out around Fort Laird. The concept map actually doesn’t make it clear which of the three routes they’re planning, presumably they haven’t decided.

        From there you’re practically connected to the Canadian railway network.

        The niche would be fast movement. Container ships may be efficient, but they aren’t fast. At 50 mph steady speed the trains could beat the ships easily.

        Oh, and like the rest of the Trans-Siberian — it’s gonna be electrified.

  9. “But given that our existing freight rail infrastructure is saturated”

    … by moving large quantities of coal. Given that Peabody energy, and others, want to increase coal exports from Wyoming to Asia via Washington, you can bet the rail lines will get even more crowded.

    1. If one accepts that the coal in this country will be mined and burned for decades perhaps the least evil solution is Liquefied Coal and building a network of pipelines. Not only could fuel be transported to China via tanker but we could significantly cut down on the amount of semi tanker trucks on our highways. It’s crazy that with today’s “clean” diesels that we run almost the opposite split of diesel vs gasoline as Europe.

      1. That is a terrible idea. The good news about oil is that we’re running out of it. We can only do so much damage to our world with oil no matter how hard we try. But coal is the real enemy to mankind, because we have vast amounts of the stuff. Once we start creating industries to liquify the stuff, we’ll start using it in cars and trucks, and we’re really in trouble, since the carbon we can emit will be nearly endless.

      2. The world didn’t stop burning oil when we ran out of whales. I don’t see any reason to believe running out of petroleum will be any different. The only viable large scale alternative is nuclear power. Wind, solar, conservation might get us 30% of the global demand but even those (except conservation) have downsides. We (as in mankind) could also do a lot to reduce our carbon footprint by reversing trends of deforestation. And it’s not just tropical rainforests. But yes, I’ve long subscribed to the believe that we’ll run out of atmosphere before we run out of fossil fuel.

      3. I like to think of myself as an environmentalist, but with regard to transit, I think all the environmental debate is a red herring.

        Honestly, if the only reason that most people stopped driving was because of running out of fuel, that would be depressing. I want to use carrots, not sticks. I love walking and transit, and even more than that, I love the type of built environments you get when you design for humans rather than cars. I want people to be *excited* about moving into the city and not needing to drive everywhere.

        If we pin all our hopes on running out of energy, not only will we be sorely disappointed, but we’ll fail to push for the kinds of changes that we really need to see.

      4. Bernie, your numbers are simply wrong on solar. It would be trivial to run the entire world economy on solar power, given some initial investment — we have *more* than enough sunlight even at *current* conversion efficiencies, and unlike all these other dead-end power systems (nuclear, fossil fuels, etc.) solar is still getting better very quickly.

  10. BMW Tests an Autonomous Vehicle

    The thought of driving a BMW from Munich to Nuremberg on the autobahn might thrill a driving enthusiast, but for most German commuters it’s just another slog in rush-hour traffic.

    That’s why BMW is testing a 5-Series sedan outfitted with autonomous tech on that stretch of roadway. The German automaker wants to see if cars with the ability to sense their surroundings can make heavy traffic less of a chore for stressed-out drivers. Engineers from the Highly Automated Driving group have racked up more than 3,100 miles in a semi-autonomous car that can take over during a traffic jam and even bring the car to the shoulder if the driver becomes incapacitated.

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2011/08/bmw-tests-an-autonomous-vehicle/

    1. At this point, I believe automated cars will work, but due to human bias, I still don’t believe they will be allowed until they’re, say, 20 times better than human drivers.

      And they still do absolutely nothing for *mass* transportation, or for congestion.
      As for your earlier suggestion that everyone should live in sprawl is just stupid — many people do not want to live in sprawl. Those who want to should be able to, but those who do not want to should have a better way to travel when they need to. Currently there’s far more suburban housing than desired and far less urban, and the prices are proof enough. Further, you can advocate for low population density all you want, but until you figure out how to create low *job* density, you’re just condemning people to commutes. And we haven’t figured out how to do that for more than 50% of the population yet, despite telecommuting.

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