137 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Oil Prices”

      1. I was thinking just the other day that I hadn’t seen a comment from Norman for a while. But if you were the real Norman, you’d know the answer to that question. Or was it rhetorical?

      2. This is one big difference between a railcar and a bus, Norman. On a train, even a streetcar, a standing ride is a tolerable experience. On a bus, even with a good driver, standing passengers get thrown around a lot.

        In stop-and-go traffic, standing loads are a human rights violation. No, I’m not advocating doing away with local buses. But transit-only lanes and signal pre-empt ought to be in the Bill of Rights.

        Anyhow, thanks for support for the idea that passenger comfort means building as much rail as possible.

        Mark Dublin

      3. Right. And that’s why buses have overhead railings and hand straps for standing passengers to hold — because people are not supposed to stand on buses?

        Actually, if you don’t want transit riders to have to stand, you should stop wasting money on stupidly expensive toy trains, and use that money to expand the bus fleets. ST expects over 50% of all passengers to stand to meet Link’s “capacity” figures (if ST is actually going to continue to claim that the capacity of a Link car is 200, and there are only 76(?) seats, then over 60% of Link passengers would have to be standing at “capacity”), while bus systems expect only about 33% of passengers to stand on a bus at “capacity” (on an articulated bus about 60 seated and 30 standing).

      4. No they don’t but most people I know regardless of mode of transport would prefer to be sitting comfortably and not crammed together. Americans have a larger than world average sense of personal space.

        Your comment wouldn’t happen to have been triggered by my tweet regarding a reasonably packed single car Link train this morning would it?

      5. Actually, if you don’t want transit riders to be miserable, you should stop spending money on stupidly expensive toy buses which wear out really quickly, and use that money to expand rail service.

        It’s really not that bad to stand on a train, and it’s miserable to stand on a bus. Something about the ride quality being better when you’re on rails…

        Look, STB maintainers, Norman is the very definition of a troll. Has he ever posted anything useful? He’s not like John Bailo, who is very interesting and informative although seriously out there.

      6. If an ST 511 is full I’ll just wait for the next one. Standing up from Seattle to Lynnwood (30 minutes) is a painful experience. However I have no problem standing on Link for the same amount of time.

    1. Or you could say, “Great, the 577 is a success and we should do more of it.” People went to the designated gateway for southwest King County rather than expecting the bus to go to their house. If people seriously cut their driving someday, we’ll need several times more buses. Or just put light rail in and be done with it.

    2. Last i heard it was ST’s service standard to give everyone a seat on Regional Express buses.

      1. When was that implemented? I never got a seat in rush hour in all the years I rode the 522. I didn’t mind except when I as sitting on the entry steps due to the standing room being full.

        Is it everyone else’s experience that ST Express is no longer SRO during rush hour?

      2. Every bus passenger getting a seat would have been easily attainable with the $2.6 billion wasted on Central Link spent to improve bus service instead.

    3. For what it’s worth, the MCI buses that are run on (most of) the 577 runs have very little standing room — maybe only 10 people can stand in the aisle.

      I don’t know if there are people actually complaining about not getting literal “seats” in the morning, but in general, people will fill up the aisle on most peak runs.

      1. Why are any persons allowed to stand on a vehicle that is travelling at 60 mph on a so-called “Freeway”? Is that not a safety/security hazard and should not the TSA be summoned?

    1. If six billion termites infest a house, and you could snap your finger and reduce how much the termites consumed by 50%, what’s going to happen to house? Yep, it’s still going to be destroyed. When the underlying problem is overpopulation, reducing consumption ultimately ineffective.

      1. Who gets to deliver the bad news to the rest of the world that they can no longer have large families, and will never get to overconsume like Americans?

      2. Yes. I get bummed out about this big time, as well. Really, it seems utterly hopeless. Yet, here I am over-consuming to my heart’s content. And some in Congress and various religious organizations are still up in arms, so to speak, about access to birth control…

      3. The birth rate has already peaked and is heading to replacement or below in many developing countries as people have risen form extremely poor to just poor. The population is expected to level off at 9 billion, or 150% of today. That obviously will lead to a severe resource problem, but it’s not like the population is going up and up and up like it was fifteen years ago. Last week I read that Mexico’s birthrates are unexpectedly low. If that is reflected in other countries, the trends may be adjusted downward soon.

      4. @Norman: China’s single-party government imposed a one child policy, which it enforced harshly, because it thought that a high birth rate was responsible for the nation’s underdevelopment. Meanwhile it pursued various other economic and social policies, largely with disastrous failure (though with some striking public health successes), before achieving explosive economic growth under the current model.

        Whether China’s leaders’ belief that a high birth rate was their real problem was correct, and whether the one-child policy has been effective at achieving various social goals, are complex historical questions. Many people that have studied these questions believe that the diagnosis was false, and that there are more effective (and less draconian) ways to achieve a lower birth rate anyway, if that’s the goal.

      5. We know how to reduce the population. Educate women, give them economic freedom (so they can earn money on their own), and give them access to contraception.

        The birth rate drops sharply within one generation.

        Yes, there are countries where there has been a substantial effort to prevent this from happening: Saudi Arabia since forever, the US whenever the Republicans get into power, etc…. but it’s the same formula worldwide, and it WORKS worldwide.

      6. As for China’s “one child” policy, the Chinese leaders who originally implemented it were such stupid prudes that they failed to actually have sex education in the schools.

        They are finally adding sex education to the schools, as of *last year*. The one-child policy might actually WORK once the kids know how babies are made.

      7. Mike Orr: the countries where the birth rate is levelling off are precisely those countries which have adopted one or more of the “three pillars” of population control policy I mentioned:
        (1) educate women;
        (2) make them economically independent;
        (3) provide access to birth control and information on how to use it.

        It’s even slowly filtering into some of the Arab countries; most of them have done #1, the less repressive ones have done #2, and #3 is coming along slowly. Mexico has pretty much had all three policies for decades.

      8. Another issue about China and I think India is that there are 8% more boys than girls due to male bias among parents, which means that a lot of men are not going to be able to find a wife.

      9. I can’t say that I’m in favor of infanticide or selective abortion, but the gender bias should help to slow the population growth rate.

      10. Yeah, I mean if China can do it….

        “If you don’t receive the tubal ligation surgery by the deadline, your house will be demolished!”

        “We would rather scrape your womb than allow you to have a second child!”

        “Kill all your family members if you don’t follow the rule!”


        “Once you get captured, an immediate tubal ligation will be done; Should you escape, we’ll hunt you down; If you attempt a suicide, we’ll offer you either the rope or a bottle of poison.”


      11. Nathanel: yes. My point is that we can stop worrying about runaway population growth, and American parents don’t need to worry about having children because they’re not contributing to world population growth. What we do need to focus on is preparing for 9 million people.

        Interestingly, I’m reading “The Third Industrial Revolution” right now, and it points out that the paradigm of decentralized renewable energy could just as easily take off in the developing world first before it’s implemented in the US. Poor countries are very interested in solar/wind/geothermal energy at the individual or village level, to power their cell phones among other things. (Bailo note: the book is pro hydrogen car.)

      12. Well, applying Hubbert’s peak theory, there may be a peak in Phosphorus production and if so, that portends a problem of feeding potentially 9 billion people. We could be in for a significant die off of the population if that scenario occurs. And like any commodity, it’s not that there isn’t more of it around, that it is in harder to find and extract places or that the cost – monetary and environmental – may be higher than the value of the commodity.

    2. Great article. In general he explains what I have been saying for years — growth is unsustainable.

      “Smart growth” is the ultimate oxymoron. There is no such thing as “smart growth.” Growth is stupid. There are far too many people on the planet right now. Ergo, obviously, adding more people is exceedingly stupid.

      I do think the author has missed a few things regarding oil prices and the world having reached a “new paradigm” regarding oil. He fails to include the enormous new discoveries of natural gas, which is an excellent substitute for oil, and which has brought the price of natural gas down greatly in the past few years.

      And he also doesn’t say much about the fact that, in the U.S., at least, efficiency in the use of oil is going to improve greatly in the next couple of decades. Only a few years ago, the average mpg of new autos sold in the U.S. was about 20 mpg. By 2025, the average mpg of new autos sold in the U.S. will be about 56 mpg. So, even if the real price of oil is double in 2025 from what it was in 2000, which the author seems to expect, the average new car will use less than half as much gasoline per mile in 2025 as in 2000, so doubling the real price of gasoline will have virtually no impact in the U.S., if it actually happens.

      The U.S. has already pretty much moved away from using oil for heat. Only about 10% of all homes in the U.S. use heating oil, and only about 2% of new homes are being built with oil heat. Most U.S. heat comes from electricity or natural gas. So, again, even if the real price of oil does double, that won’t affect most people in the U.S. as far as heating their homes is concerned. And if heating oil does double in price, even more people will convert away from heating oil to natural gas and electricity.

      1. “Smart growth” generally means land use and the distribution of people, not the number of humans on the planet. Smart growth means density, walkability, and transit, as opposed to dumb growth which is sprawl. Pugetopolis is growing whether we want it to or not, because people are moving here for better jobs or the scenery. So the question is how we’ll manage that growth. In some other parts of the country, the economy is so bad that towns are begging companies to locate there, which indirectly increases the town’s population. That’s a redistribution of people because it’s unlikely to increase childbirths that much. The places where human population is truly growing are in very poor countries and where the religion encourages large families.

      2. Attitudes like Mike Orr’s is why nobody is even attempting to stop growth in the U.S. As long as people think our area is going to grow “whether we want it to or not”, then of course it will grow. Because nobody is even trying to stop growth.

        Growth is incredibly stupid. If you care about the future, you should be doing everything you can to stop growth. What Mike Orr and most people on this blog are busy doing is attempting to ACCOMODATE growth. If you keep accomodating it it is virtually guaranteed to happen, is it not?

        You are just an “enabler” of unsustainable growth.

        You are the problem.

      3. Norman,

        I find myself agreeing with you on growth. Indeed. I guess the old bible verse of “be fruitful and multiply” is perhaps a bit outdated. Just as most of the bible is, in my lousy opinion, and has been, for years.

        Capitalism does not thrive on a “no growth scenario.” Please explain that to Larry Kudlow at CNBC.com. LOL

      4. Efficiency increases in the use of a single resource, like petroleum, are subject to “Jevon’s Paradox”, which means that increasing MPG just makes us MORE subject to the price of oil.

        The natural gas discoveries are, basically, fakes. This is the “hydrofracking” gas? There is as little as 10% of what they advertised, as the USGS has revealed; companies like Cheseapeake are running a stock market style pump-and-dump with the wells, drilling, announcing large first-year production, and then selling the wells as fast as possible. This is explained in their annual reports. Nat Gas prices will have a huge nasty rebound quite soon.

        Electric cars will make a difference to our dependence on gasoline though. And you’re right about heating oil, that is on its way out.

        As for “smart growth”, we can have global shrinkage and still have local growth, so the concept of “smart growth” is still needed (as is the concept of “smart shrinkage”). It sure does look like the Pacific Northwest cities will keep growing. Rust Belt cities are still shrinking; global warming will drive people out of the Sunbelt; the Pacific NW has a lot to offer.

      5. Norman: are you saying we should actively discourage people from moving to Pugetopolis? Roll out the ol’ Emmett Watson? It would take a strong push to reverse the trend. Do you really think it’s realistic? Telling people it rains all the time is just window dressing: people are coming in spite of the rain. To seriously discourage people we’d have to sabotage our economy, and that would be shooting ourselves in the foot.

      6. A sign at my Alma-Mater (way back in the dusk of the Hippie days) proclaimed: “Growth for the sake of growth is the idea of a cancer cell.”

        Our entire financial system, our capitalist system, is based on growth. Without it, markets crash, people lose jobs, property values decline and people go hungry and homeless. If we want to forsake growth, we must then choose differently with our economic and political systems. I think it would be easier to tackle Global Warming than it would be to move our country let alone the world to a different system.

      7. Absolutely we should discourage people from moving here. All population growth has done for this area is cause much higher tax rates, congestion, pollution (e.g. Puget Sound), deforestation, etc. Population growth is reducing the quality of life in our area.

        I think it would be very easy to stop population growth here, and even reverse it: just increase business taxes to the point where businesses stop locating here. If businesses stop locating here, people will stop moving here for those jobs, because those jobs will be someplace else.

        This is not difficult at all. But, nobody is interested in doing that, because the powers that be are addicted to growth. Even though growth is clearly unsustainable.

      8. So you’d tell Boeing and Amazon and the like to get out of town? How long until the unemployment rate rises to depression levels? How long until we have to move to other cities to find work, cities which in most cases have less walkability and transit than here?

    1. Hydrogen isn’t a fuel source. It’s just a means to store energy, and not a particularly good means at that.

      Better batteries and super capacitors are a much better method for storing batteries going forward than hydrogen. That combined with series diesel generators for longer trips is probably the best solution we have. Especially since the diesel can be made through sustainable means.

      1. Tell us, John, where you obtain your hydrogen. Obviously, only answers that consume less energy than is embedded in the uncompressed hydrogen output are of interest.

      2. What…yet another phoney name, J. Edgar?

        Asking the same question that has been answered over and over?

        Doing the same thing on Grist.org? And other blogs?

        It is getting a bit CREEPy in here?

      3. Come now! Humanity will surely drive their billions of hydrogen cars on the billions of kilometers of hydrogen roads to and from their nice hydrogen McMansions with hydrogen roofing and hydrogen septic systems and hydrogen water piping and hydrogen garbage collection and a nice hydrogen garden where the hydrogen dog can play—is the American dream really too much to ask for seven billion times?

      4. Hydrogen has a promising role to play in the future. But we can’t assume that (1) hydrogen cars will be so ubiquidous that we can forget about transit, (2) they will become the majority of cars in the next 20 years, (3) everybody who has a car now will be able to afford a hydrogen car.

        It’ll be great if all cars switch to hydrogen from renewable sources, and if cars become quieter as they shed combustion engines. But that doesn’t solve all the problems of cars. There’s still congestion, land taken for streets and parking lots, accidents, general nervousness in society, and the cost of vehicles and insurance. In fact, if the cost of fuel goes down to almost zero, congestion is sure to go up.

      5. Hydrogen is dumb. The future is electromagnetic solid-state energy storage, and I’ve specified it that way for a reason — it’s not gonna be classic chemical batteries.

      6. Nathanael, do you have a pointer to any research on “electromagnetic solid-state energy storage”? Or (less usfully) a prospectus?

  1. what’s with the recent increase in use of Gillig ETBs on the 49? is it because of Spring Break at UW? or are the Bredas being fitted out with OBS right now (or are broken?)?

    Gilligs on the 49 suck when they get over-packed with people

    1. I’ve noticed this on the 7 route as well! In the past two weeks I’ve been on two Bredas that have broken down, so naturally my mind is drifting toward “they’re done trying to fix them” but there could be some other explanation.

  2. Thursday is everyone’s chance to be heard on the post-Ride-Free-Area plan for downtown.

    I think it all comes down to incentivizing ORCA use. Telling riders that using ORCA is a courtesy to their fellow riders ain’t gonna cut it. Boarding with cash needs to cost more than boarding with ORCA, or we’ll see one-third of downtown riders fumbling change when they board. There are carrots I’d love to see implemented, but we’ll also need the stick.

    In addition, the budgeted new ORCA VMs need to be by downtown bus stops, so people can’t miss them, with the proper label “ORCA Vending Machine”. The un-ORCAed masses still seem to believe that Ticket Vending Machines just vend tickets.

    1. the Orca TVMs also need to be in places like QFC/Safeway etc … the more places you can get them (or reload them) the more people will use them.

      Of course that being said, I am still surprised at the number of people who either don’t have a Starbucks card (even though they go there numerous times a day) or who don’t have their cards set to auto-reload.

      Personally there should be a financial benefit for the user for using the orca card … maybe not cheaper fares … but they could do 5th ride is free kind of discounts with it.

      They should also have some kind of system where they can sell special Orca cards through hotels/cruise ship lines for tourists to use while they are here visiting / waiting for their cruise (i.e. $25 for unlimited usage during the 2 days or so that they are in town … only available from Hotels / Cruise Ships … a visitor pass if you will).

      and the monorail should be required to join Orca as well .

      1. Ten ORCA VMs won’t cover that many Safeways. They are kinda pricey.

        Again, the point of the cash surcharge isn’t to provide a semi-hidden reward to ORCA users. It is to make it clear to cash payers that they would save money by getting an ORCA. Other agencies with RFID cards do cash surcharges, and it works.

      2. To point to a specific example of this, Washington D.C. provides a discount on bus and rail trips when you use their equivalent of an Orca card.

      3. ORCA needs to be more ubiquitous. For starters every Transit Station, Center, and P&R needs to have a machine capable of loading and vending ORCA cards. Having Mall Kiosk’s, or atleast TVMs would be an added bonus as well. Secondly, their website needs to be brought up to modern standards and expectations, along with mobile applications built. 24/7 Telephone support needs to be added, i doubt you’d need more than one person on at a time. and Finally, we need a daypass. At this point i dont care if you rip the rider off for the $5 to get the card to get the pass, but we need a daypass! In LA i had to pay $2 to get the TAP card so i could load the daypasses on them. As for tourist incentives, give hotels downtown ORCA equipment like what safeway, etc has, ORCA card stock, and training. Work an agreement with them to allow the cost to be billed to the room, or paid in cash. ORCA needs to ubiquitous for it to work, and right now you have to go out of your way to make it work for you.

      4. ORCA cards could also be used as a kind of lottery or game. During a certain period, whenever you use your ORCA card, you get an entry into a contest to win something. Who wouldn’t want to make sure their card is registered then? Especially if the prizes are good, like a night or two in a downtown hotel, meals, etc., going down to a free $5 uploaded onto your card.

    2. I sent a note to King County Metro, saying that their current RFA elimination implementation plan is inadequate, and they need to encourage ORCA use by providing financial incentives (discount for ORCA, elimination of paper transfers), and making the card refundable, just like Transport for London’s Oyster Card. I doubt many people actually take advantage of the Oyster Card refund but it is easier to convince people to get the card when it exists.

    3. What is the bottleneck on a 25c cash surcharge? Perhaps if we unite behind this and tell the agencies and governments we want it implemented in a year, it’ll push them to do it, especially if another revenue shortfall occurs in the meantime.

    4. I think there’s a simple solution: Bus fares rise to $3 one way with no transfer possibility. ORCA prices stay the same and allow transfers.

      That said, the ORCA technology has to improve in the short-term for this to happen, and it needs to be easier to re-load the cards.

      1. Simply eliminating transfers will only incentivize ORCA use on multi-seat rides. Given that most of the rides out of downtown (and these are the boardings we should be most worried about speeding up) are one-seat rides, it will still leave a large chunk of riders paying cash downtown.

      2. Why not charge a .25 surcharge on cash fares for a paper transfer, to cover printing and stocking costs. Those things probally dont come cheap.

    5. You don’t really need ORCA vending machines for retail stores. Simply supply them with value loaded but locked cards and a secure webpage to activate them.

      This was how it worked in the Bay area for their RFID product. You can reload them at the store in the same way.

      1. WSDOT’s good to go has a similar thing, of course you can only buy the basic pass not any of the switchable ones. Kinda Strange and annoying…

    6. It appears from what y’all have written that ORCA has been made relatively hard to get. As long as there’s a $5 surcharge to get it in the first place, it’ll never be cheaper than cash for the cash-constrained.

      Just make the damned card free to get, and available at all major transfer points and downtown stations. Then you can force EVERYONE to get it and nobody will mind.

      1. $5 is the price of 2 transfers from train to bus. The easiest way to move people to ORCA is to eliminate paper transfers on KCMetro.

      2. ORCA is not customer friendly right now, you literally have to go out of your way to use it. Once it becomes totally ubiquitous, and various transfer policies are revised, i think it will become the de-facto fare payment system in the area.

    1. That is very encouraging. FISE has figured out how to electrolyze with variable power, greatly simplifying the on-premise production of hydrogen. I imagine this might also be interesting to water treatment techniques.

      To temper the “hydrogen is coming, so I can keep driving” optimism, though, please remember that solar is a (depressingly) immature energy harvesting technology, and we are a long ways from being able to justify apt his sort of infrastructure with oligarchical capitalism. Only those Bavarians with socialist government that will fund long-term projects like energy independence with high taxes can currently rationalize this infrastructure.

      Thankfully for them, it’s in reach! With constrained road building and a (you might say German-stereotypical) focus on transportation efficiency that includes progressive land use policies, substantial public transportation investments, and a collectivist culture, they have a country that doesn’t really need to fuel cars nearly as much as we do. And they’re used to paying prices that reflect the real cost of their energy use, which certainly helps.

      [I know from professional experience that many oil companies are trying desperately to make electric fueling (hydrogen or battery isn’t really the point) make sense, and as of this year, only government funding has panned out.]

      1. Oil companies have a strong incentive to make electric fueling not work. They have made a point of looking in the wrong places.

        Electric fueling is trivial and straightforward right now. But there’s no way the oil companies can make any *money* off it, since the money goes to electric utilities.

        Shell operates the world’s biggest fleet of tankers, so they desparately want liquid fuels — they don’t care what sort.

        Solar’s economic viability is only going to accelerate. So is electromagnetic energy storage. I have inside information in those arenas.

    2. That’s not a very good idea. Solar panels are already not very efficient. Electrolysis is not very efficient. About the only advantage hydrogen has is the quick recharging of the vehicle. A super capacitor beats it on that though.

      1. What’s wrong with “inefficient” renewable energy converters? Better to install a few miles-worth of silicon (a one-time impact) than to keep burning oil (an ongoing impact). In time the solar panels will become more efficient (especially if they’re built with replaceable parts and recyclable) or they’ll be replaced by something more efficient.

      2. Half the cost of the solar panels is in mounting (sound bizarre? Well, it’s true in most installations, excepting ground-level and flat-roof installations). That mounting will be reusable with future more-efficient solar panels.

  3. There’s been an increasing amount of bonkers-seeming data on OneBusAway, with buses that are supposedly 25 or 40 min late. The King County Metro Tracker shows the same. This has been discussed before, on the OneBusAway Blog, and elsewhere on Seattle Transit Blog. It seems that King County Metro doesn’t really want to prioritize fixing this until they are finished with the installation of GPS fleet-wide. I have two inquiries.

    1. I have become accustomed to using OneBusAway arrival times to decide when to depart for a bus stop. Frequent inaccurate data messes this up. What should I do instead? Is there a good way to identify which data is just wrong? I usually figure that if a bus is allegedly more than 15 min late, I should just assume the data is wrong and go out for the scheduled arrival time instead. Of course, if it’s truly a bus that is late, waiting an extra 15 min in the cold is not much fun. What do you do?

    2. How do we make King County understand that accurate real-time transit information is essential, and should be prioritized? It provides a force multiplier effect, and I find a system with accurate real-time info much more useful than one that has more frequent service, but it seems Metro only has crumbs to allocate to the effort. Also, that we need the information now, and not in a year or whenever the fleet upgrade is complete.

    1. I have found OBA worse than using the bus schedule itself.

      In most cases where OBA presented a bus that appeared to be grossly “late” the bus simply did not show up at the scheduled time and disappeared from OBA.

      There were cases where I waited for a bus that was according to OBA scheduled to show up — but was in fact rerouted, and I would have known this if I simply looked at the schedule.

      There are some times where a bus is simply late by a minute or two and in that case OBA is somewhat accurate — however, the presentation is very unreadable (minus minutes, what does red mean, and so on) that if were just waiting at the stop I would simply presume that the bus was a minute or two late.

      1. Tend to agree. I don’t even bother with OBA. My experience with buses is they will arrive at my bus stop when they arrive at my bus stop. The routes that originate near my home, such as the AM eastbound 57, one can almost set one’s watch by. The return 57 PM bus from downtown, forget it. OBA is worthless to me. Others may like it, but worthless to me.

        Not a rant, but this is to be expected when buses share the roads with other vehicles. Now, if there was a cocktail lounge at every bus stop, then it might be worthwhile. I could wait in the bar and have another pop.

    2. I agree with you that lately OneBusAway has not been very useful with some buses supposedly having left 5 minutes earlier only to see the bus arrive in two minutes. If they really want people to use OBA they need to make it more reliable.

    3. I was astounded by the accuracy of the real-time arrival sign at Airport Station. As usual, the 180 and 560, both going to Burien, showed up within a couple minutes of each other (but that’s another thread/wine).

      At my forced out-of-the-way transfer in Burien, someone told me the 132 was coming in 20 minutes according to OBA. It showed up one minute later.

      Do RTA and OBA use the same data sources?

  4. Rapidride E is going to replace the 358 in September 2013.

    That’s my bus. I don’t take it as often as I should, because it doesn’t stop all that close to my house, nor to my place of work — it takes SIX TIMES as long as driving, but I do sometimes. But now even that is going away.

    Rapidride is a good idea for the most part; it’s going to be much faster to get downtown. But most people aren’t going downtown, and the stations are so far apart — my new stop is going to be five further blocks away, and because of the routing the faster trip only shaves a tiny portion of the total wait time off.

    So, what kind of car should I get?

      1. Only if he’s buying brand new – Hondas are overpriced on the used market, and the Fit is no exception. If we’re talking nearly-new off-lease/trade in, he’d be better off grabbing a Ford Fiesta. Toyota Yaris could also be a tempting option, but I’ve heard they’re quite unpleasant to drive.

      2. I wasn’t being entirely serious, but if I WAS buying a new car it would probably be a Scion iQ. Best city gas mileage of any car sold in the US (under $25k, that is). I drive approximately twelve highway miles per year.

        All cars are unpleasant to drive on 45th.

      3. “All cars are unpleasant to drive on 45th.”

        If you are talking about 45th Ave. N. that is by intent. The city put a “road diet” on that street to intentionally make traffic on that street terrible. And it worked.

      4. Rubbish. I’ve been driving most of the length of N 45th St every day for fifteen years, and it’s ALWAYS been bad. It’s not the “road diet”, which in fact probably made things marginally better (everybody has to stop for the bus, but nobody has to put up with the bus merging back in). The center turn lane is everywhere a good idea.

        What screws up 45th is the terrible street alignment, where none of the streets meet up with their continuation on the other side. That means, in some cases, two lights per street, which is a significant holdup. Especially when the lights are anti-timed.

      5. More seriously, if you want cheapest TCO for heavy driving, carshare programs have been favoring the Nissan Versa.

        If you drive less, you want something even cheaper (though that means less fuel-efficient).

      6. I’m with Fnarf. Traffic has been horrible on 45th/46th/Market all the way from the UW to 22nd Ave NE as long as I can remember.

      1. Motorcycles are dangerous, and I am old.

        The biggest danger is not actually crashing, but getting my head stove in with a frying pan when Mrs. Fnarf finds out I bought a motorcycle. Non-starter.

        The only time I’ve ever actually piloted a motorbike I drove it over a picnic basket and wedged it between two trees.

    1. One car won’t do much to help the situation. It takes two cars to block in the callous drivers who park in what should be a transit lane.

      (I’m kidding, drivers.)

  5. Thinking out loud here…

    Would Metro benefit from using double-tall-style buses (like CT has) on commuter routes? Obviously, they wouldn’t work on any clearance-restricted routes, and definitely not DSTT routes.

    I don’t know if the manufacturer makes a hybrid version, seeing how Metro thinks conventional diesel propulsion is going the way of the steam locomotive. A Double-Tall ETB would be interesting, though.

    1. Procurement takes a few years. But I suspect CT will want to sell off some of its commuter fleet around 2023.

    2. Alexander Dennis, CT’s DT manufactuer does in fact make a double-decker hybrid, the
      Eviro 400H. I personally would prefer to see them instead of artics, but I’m concerned about how they would handle our hills in the ice. Then again, could they really be worse than the artics in that situation?

  6. I keep wondering what we are going to do when fuel becomes so expensive that most of us are going to need to change our driving habits. I think there’s a good chance this will come to pass in the next two years.

    Gonna be a lot of crazy hominids, thinks I.

    1. Having lived in places where the average price of gas is 5.50- 6.50 a gallon..you’d be surprised at the number of cats still on the road..people will find a way to pay for it especially here in the car dependent US

      1. As long as there is still gas available to buy, people will buy it. Not until people drive up to their Shell station and see a sign that says “No Gas Available” will they really start to change their habits.

    2. The price of gas is going to collapse — again! — within a few years, if not this year. This is just one more price bubble that is temporary. The higher the price of gas goes, and the longer it stays high, the lower it will fall when it collapses. This is very easy to predict.

      People in the U.S. waste so much gasoline, they can easily cut back their gasoline use significantly without hurting much of anything. Just car-pooling instead of driving alone cuts your commute gas use in half.

      And this summer, wait until you see how many people will be getting around on motor scooters, which get great gas mileage, as in 50 to 70 mpg. I’m already starting to see them on the road in March.

      1. That will make up for the 500 million Chinese, Indians, Thais, Vietnamese, Indonesians, etc. who will be turning in their scooters for cars. Not.

        The worldwide growth in motor vehicle use has never been higher.

      2. Most of the new demand is in emerging economies like China and India who want to achieve an American standard of living, which is unsustainable.

        Per capita gasoline consumption in the Pacific Northwest is actually declining. But the millions in the NW doing their part to be more energy efficient won’t stand a chance against the billions in Asia who want to live like us.

      3. Not quite, Norman. The gas price will collapse again, but *each time it falls, it will fall to a higher plateau than the last time it fell*. I should point you to the Deutsche Bank report which lays this all out in great detail…. but I can’t remember the report name, which is making it hard to find.

        This will happen until major demand destruction sets in, when people switch away from gas-powered vehicles in large numbers, and that is still a relatively slow process, given the number of people in seriously car-dependent situations and the expense of batteries (which will change in 10 years, but that’s 10 years from now).

        As for motor-scooters, if you’re gonna do that, for God’s sake get an electric one, and there are several. Those small engines are horridly inefficient (the good mileage is just because the scooter weighs very little).

      4. Cheap gasoline is a god given right for Americans. Oh, you say there ain’t no god.? Well, never mind then.

      5. Those small engines are horridly inefficient (the good mileage is just because the scooter weighs very little).

        Technically false, but close.

        The scooter engines are actually quite efficient. The fuel metering is sloppy, to be sure, but they easily make up for it with high compression ratios and hemispherical cylinder heads. In terms of power per unit of fuel, cheap Chinese scooter engines are competitive with all but the most recent generation of car engines. It’s their transmissions that tend to be inefficient – automatic, centrifugally governed CVT’s that maintain a constant (high) engine RPM regardless of actual load.

        But in the end, vehicle weight is still the single largest factor in fuel economy. Dismissing the economy gains just because a bike is light is silly – the light weight is the whole point, it’s what lets you get away with a 3hp engine, instead of a 300hp engine.

        For the record, my 49cc GY6 scooter logged an average of 75 MPG on a Seattle – Federal Way commute, which was made up of nothing but sustained wide-open-throttle top speed runs down MLK/International blvd/Pac Hwy. Absolutely no “hypermiling” or fuel saving tricks. It would get closer to 90mpg before I changed the transmission governer for better hill-climbing. My understanding is that the freeway-capable 150cc scooters get similar mileage at city speeds, and only a bit less at a WOT top-speed cruise. Full size motorcycles actually do the same mileage or better, because of the manual transmission.

        Get 2 people on a bike, or 4 people in one of these new 40 MPG compact cars that are starting to come out (finally, thanks only to the new iron-fisted CAFE targets – don’t let anyone tell you this is a technological breakthrough, high compression ratios and lean burn direct injection are gas-saving design strategies that have been around forever), and you start to make a serious dent in our country’s transportation energy usage. But Americans don’t like to carpool, or put on a coat to travel – I honestly believe average people will choose to move and shorten their commutes before resorting to carpooling or motorcycles. Call me a pessimist.

      6. Yeah, my Bajaj Chetak (145cc, manual transmission) in theory gets over 100 mpg. In practice, with two of us riding up and down Queen Anne hill on short trips, it’s more like 50. But then my Civic gets just over 20 thanks to trips like that.

        The scooters to really watch out for are the 2-strokes. The things are so dirty they should be outlawed.

      7. http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/inflation_rate/Gasoline_Inflation.asp

        Here is an inflation-adjusted price chart for gasoline from 1918 to the present. The red line is gasoline prices in the U.S. in 2012 dollars.

        As you can see, there have been a few price spikes, but, after every spike the price came back down. The spike starting about 1974 lasted about a decade. After which the price fell to all-time lows from about 1984 to 1998. The current price spike is similar. It started about 2002. I expect it the price of gas in the U.S. will collapse again within a few years.

        There is an enormous amount of new oil and natural gas which has recently been discovered, and which is being developed, which will be coming on market in the next few years. At the same time, U.S. consumption of gasoline has been falling about 3% per year.

        If you don’t like the price of gas now, don’t use so much. Within a few years, it will be back down about the long-term average of about $2.50/gallon in 2012 dollars. And there will be a lot more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road by then.

      8. Your chart shows one spike, ever, until now in 1981. Is that really what you’re basing your world view on – one data point? That point was caused by the oil embargo, which is not relevant to the current situation.

        The difference between the past and the future is that we are running out of easily available oil. We are at, or are past, peak oil and the stuff will never be cheap again.

      9. Are you serious? We are at peak oil? lol We are not even close to peak oil. I read one prediction that world oil production will increase about 50% in the next 20 years, or so. That is quite possible.

        And natural gas production is increasing rapidly, as well.

        The current situation has been caused by the war in Iraq, the civil war in Libya and the current sanctions on Iran. It is very similar to the oil embargo of the 70’s. There is right now an artificial “shortage” of world oil production. That can change virtually overnight, if the Iran situation is resolved. And Iraq is slowly increasing its oil production. There is an enormous amount of oil that will be coming on market in the next several years.

        “Peak oil.” lol

  7. “Most of the new demand is in emerging economies like China and India who want to achieve an American standard of living, which is unsustainable.

    “Per capita gasoline consumption in the Pacific Northwest is actually declining. But the millions in the NW doing their part to be more energy efficient won’t stand a chance against the billions in Asia who want to live like us.”

    Someone should tell the Cascade Bicycle Club about this. You mean, the Chinese, who have been riding bicycles for decades, actually prefer autos when they have the money to buy cars? Chinese, who know more about bicycles than Americans, actually prefer cars over bicycles? Who knew?

    Do the Chinese also actually prefer autos over transit??? Why don’t the Chinese just all use transit, instead of becoming the number one auto market in the world?

    Is there something the Chinese know that the Seattle Transit Blog writers don’t know? Like autos are a lot better than transit and bicycles, or something like that?

    1. You’re fighting a straw man, [Norman]. I don’t think anyone here would argue that cars aren’t useful or desirable. The issue is building a functioning city and region. Cars get stuck in gridlock – something China hasn’t learned yet.

      1. I’d say their cities are neck deep in the learning process, what with the endemic congestion, traffic “accidents,” toxic carfug, and other charming features of a modern American automotive hell. If not from learning, why did Zhongshan city recently start a bikeshare program?

        Fortunately, most of their cities are already built at a human scale, so fixing the car problem should be as straightforward as the Netherlands old city recipe of re-narrowing the roads, confining parking garages for rural access to the peripheries, and restoring pedestrian only areas.

      2. China knows all about traffic congestion. You are kidding, right?

        Chinese also know all about bicycles and transit. And, when they are able to, Chinese buy cars.

    2. China is also building more subways, more BRT, more high-speed rail than we are, so it isn’t that they think cars are better, more so that they need to accommodate a growing population, with many rural people migrating to the cities.

      1. China is also building thousands and thousand of miles of new multi-lane highways. China expects to have more miles of freeways than the U.S. within not too many years. Because when Chinese can afford them, Chinese want to drive cars. They don’t want to ride bikes or take transit.

        Someone from Seattle better go to China and explain to them that cars are evil, before there are more cars in China than there are in the U.S.

      2. http://www.chinatechgadget.com/world-largest-highway-project-chinese-five-vertical-seven-horizontal-national-highway-project.html

        “Between 1991 and 2008, China laid nearly 22,000 miles of new Highways, a road skeleton that linked up the country’s major regions, from Manchuria and Inner Mongolia in the north, Shanghai in the east, Yunnan and Tibet in the west, and the Pearl River delta in the south.

        “The cost was an estimated 900 billion yuan and the project was finished in 2007, 13 years ahead of schedule

        “In 2001, China has ranked world’s 2nd in expressway mileage.”

      3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressways_of_China

        “The Expressway Network of the People’s Republic of China is one of the longest in the world. The network is also known as National Trunk Highway System (NTHS). In 2011, 11,000 kilometres (6,800 mi) of expressways were added to the network,[1] for a total length of 85,000 kilometres (53,000 mi) at the end of 2011.[2].

        “China’s expressway system is longer than that of the European Union[citation needed] and surpassed the length of the United States’ Interstate Highway System in early 2011; however, when non-interstate freeways are counted, the U.S. still has a greater total length—approximately 57,000 miles (92,000 km).”

      4. It’s OK though. When gas prices get too high they’ll switch to electric cars. Good thing we’re building coal terminals so that they can keep the lights on. Eventually we may be able to sell them enough coal to pay off all the US Treasury Bonds they own.

  8. Norman is right: the Chinese are buying OUR OIL! WITH OUR MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!

    Shame on them! Who do they think they are?????

    They’re SURE not Republicans (buncha’ Commies they are!) so they just DO NOT DESERVE to have that OIL!

    Norman, Go tell them to BACK OFF!

  9. In China, the usage of cars will obviously rise, as they are starting from from near nothing, but this will level out at some subset of the population. Where the percentage ends up depends on their culture, wealth distribution, and the degree to which cars are subsidized. Driving in China will likely eventually decline after a peak in usage, as it has in the Pacific NW, as their culture moves on to better things in life.

    Cars are non-essential, having only existed a short fraction of the brief lifespan of the human race. Cars may assuredly grant things humans deem beneficial, though this is no different than getting drunk, or high: nice, but by no means essential. Provide humans with a vice, and they will use it, and even abuse it, unless the culture manages the vice properly–social stigmas against binge drinking, zero tolerance for the negligent operation of motor vehicles. Some cultures are better at this, while others encourage the vice. America burning trillions subsidizing cars is akin to providing a free wet bar at an AA meeting: predictably damaging.

    Whether the American culture develops a responsible and restrained driving culture, or continues to mow down tens of thousands yearly in direct deaths alone is an open question. At present, mere $42 fines for unsafe lane changes that result in death, among many other equally sad and troubling incidents, demonstrate America has a long way to go to fix its driving problem.

    1. There’s a difference between rising car ownership and auto-oriented cities. Even if car ownership rises, what percentage of the population will be using their cars for every trip, every day? What percentage will live in places with no alternative but driving? It’s inconceivable that the authoritarian government will not ensure that there are bus or subway stops in every neighborhood, or that large Chinese cities could become as auto-oriented like Bellevue and Brasilia. If they try, it will be amazing to see the forty-story parking garages.

  10. Went to the WSDOT open house this evening on the eastside for the 520 project. Got clarification on how the current Montlake interchange is being designed. First off, it’s light years ahead of any of the original proposals. It’s starting to look like a nice cut of meat that just needs the fat trimmed. As I believe has been covered here before the “flyer stop” is not dead but different. Off peak (define that as you like) buses can enter and rejoin 520 duplicating the current flyer stop functionality. I’m OK with this. It’s really off peak you need the “every bus stops at the UW” feature. And it can be adjusted, meaning changed back to the status quo if that proves necessary. There are several things I’d like to see done differently; or to be more precise just not done at all. Number one is the second bridge across the Montlake cut. Looks promising that funding will kill this project… yeah! No new taxes until this is a done deal. The one thing I did learn new is that federal transpo dollars are being sought to fund the six lane extension from the sinking sections out to Montlake. If that doesn’t go through then the toll plaza bottleneck where the HOV lanes end will just shift to Foster Island and the ped/bike path will end there as well which would be a lot like the current ramps to nowhere from the R.H. Thomson.

  11. The great thing about these open houses is listening to the other people. The gist of it is, why am I spending all this money and not being able to drive where I want, when I want all the time. Pretty sad, our elected politicians won’t touch that with a 10′ pole. And WSDOT is in denial about the Pacific Triangle being the bottleneck.

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