Monday, May 12, 2008

Mass Transit

I saw this article in the New York Times today, and thought I'd mention it as a kind of part 2 of my commentary on high gas prices (see my post from a year ago here, although prices have continued to rise I don't think my sentiments have changed a ton). I'll let you read the article yourselves, but the basic synopsis is that with gas prices at all time highs, public transit systems are seeing record breaking ridership. It appears we might be near the "tipping point" where prices are high enough to convince people to train, bus, bike, or walk-it. Of course biking and walking won't show up in these statistics, but you get the point.

The article contained one thing I'd like to quote:

The increase in transit use coincides with other signs that American motorists are beginning to change their driving habits, including buying smaller vehicles. The Energy Department recently predicted that Americans would consume slightly less gasoline this year than last — for the first yearly decline since 1991. [emphasis added]

Think about this. In 1991, I didn't have an email address. I couldn't even type very well. I listened to mix tapes on a Sony walkman (90-minute Maxell XLII tapes of course). MTV still played music, and we would see the release of both Ten and Nevermind that year. Kurt Cobain has now been gone more than a decade, and we have iPods, blogs, the interwebs, and instead of walking to my local record store I download albums from iTunes. But with all of those amazing technological advancements we came up with nothing to make our transportation-related energy use more efficient. In fact, we just kept using more and more. Just think if transportation saw the same step increase in technology that the walkman did. As tough as high oil prices can be for people, how many decades have people been making rational arguments for higher fuel economy, increased public transportation, and decreased dependence on fossil fuels? Just for argument sake, let's say since the late 1970's. And what have we done? If we would have heeded those warnings back then, when gas was $1.25 a gallon, perhaps it never would have reached this point.

Oh, and even with a cheap-o 9 year old car I still pay less for gas now that a medium-sized SUV driver did in 2000

UPDATE, thought I'd add this clip from the 1999 Simpsons season.


1&2 said...

The last time I was in America, one of the things I noticed about transport was how big the cars were, compared to those in the UK. They were huge! I always think that such excesses will seem ridiculous when we look back in 20 or 30 years time. But the big car trend is also noticeable here: I've perceived a definite increase in the number of 4x4s and big saloons over the past 6/7 years.

I would hope that change is caused by a change in public thinking, rather than forced by increased fuel prices.

Thermochronic said...

I'd agree. I've only been to Europe once, but one thing that impressed me was that people had cars that were no bigger than they needed. Even delivery trucks were on average smaller, sure they were packed to the brim, but there was no wasted room.

Here in America, of course, our philosophy has been, well, Canyanero!

BrianR said...

yes! Canyanero!

What is a bit frustrating is how some of the media reports about people taking more mass transit and such take a tone of 'you won't believe what Americans are doing to save money' ... as if it's that unbelievable. Not so much this NYT article, but the local news always does that.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see this week's "American Dad"? It had a Geologist!

-The Lesser Half

PS Don't get me started on fuel efficiency. Whoa, I gotta find my soapbox. Its around here somewhere.

Canyonero! Yaaa!

Anonymous said...

found it:

just after the 17 minute mark, enters a typical geolgist.


Anonymous said...

Okay, I found my soapbox, and a minute break from experiments.

I go to Europe every year, and I love the emphasis on fuel economy they have. But a long driving trip in a euroeconobox is NOT fun. What i want is a compromise, which exists in Europe: Many cars are available in a range of sizes and powertrains: VW and BMW come to mind with waaay more options in the EU than in the US. So you can pick the size-economony-power that you want. In the US it is hard to even get a diesel, much less to have a choice of 110, 130, 160 hp.

And one other thing I'll throw out for comments: Am I alone in that my interest in fuel economy has nothing to do with saving money? My commute is 8 miles RT, and I could afford it at double the gas price, no problemo. I want a car that gets good mileage because it is the right thing to do. And I'm willing to pay more for it. But automakers seems to think people like me dont exist. So maybe it's just me? -TLH

Anonymous said...

lets see . . .

no posts for two weeks

right before the nsf deadline

so i predict a posting on june 4th (giving you a day to catch up on sleep)


RobKeifner said...

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