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  1. #51
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    You're right, I wasn't specific enough there. User fees--i.e. gas tax, license fees, automobile-related sales taxes, vehicle taxes, parking fees, tolls, etc. fund the vast majority of all automobile costs. You're right--at the local level, non-dedicated revenue is usually used to fund road construction. But this is mostly a wash, since roads were around long before cars and would be necessary even if we banned private automobiles. Also, the user fees are raided for a variety of other uses. In fact, about 25% of federal highway user fees are raided for mass transit subsidies (that's right, the 50% of your travel expenses subsidized by the feds is paid for by auto drivers).
    It's 25% of transit costs that are covered by the fed. gov. But then again, i also drive a car on occasion and most of the adults in this region drive a car if not every day then at least a few times a year. A lot of their gas taxes are going to support stretches of interstates that would otherwise be commercially unviable . . . that and people in bigger metros understand what would happen if 500,000 transit users suddenly started driving to work so they don't mind giving over part of their gas tax to lighten the highway load.

    I'm still at a loss as to how local roads being locally funded by non gas tax sources is a wash. Gas taxes go to the federal class system which includes some state roads. Most states have their own gas tax to cover state and county roads and bridges. NJ has a transportation trust fund that gets revenue from different sources including the gas tax. PA has a ban on using gas tax money for transit.

    Local roads have always been locally funded and will exist with or without a federal or state gas tax.


    Here's what I'm saying: the vast majority of reliable data say that buyers *are* made to pay the full cost of cars (or at least close to it)--not necessarily in the purchase price, but in the various costs of driving. These "government bailouts" you allude to are, for the most part, imaginary.
    What reliable data? Where? hyperlink.


    I'm not saying that streets predate automobiles. What I'm saying is that the money you call an "automobile subsidy" is just as much a pedestrian and mass transit subsidy. You seem to be claiming that cities "subsidize" autos by building streets, but don't count this as part of the transit capital costs. It's a double standard of sorts.
    Streets do predate automobiles. The money used for the construction and maintenance is paid through property taxes that have nothing to do with owning or using a car. Where streetcar tracks still exist on city streets here the transit company is still responsible for the maintenance of the tracks and the roadway around them. Where buses use city streets i suppose it would be fair for the transit company to pay "rent" for use of that ROW but then, city residents are subsidizing transit operations and maintenance through a local sales tax so what would be the point?


    I agree that mass transit, when it reaches the right "economy of scale," can be more environmentally sound. The Pittsburgh light rail system uses almost twice as much energy PER PASSENGER MILE than autos. The national rail average uses about as much energy per passenger mile as a car. Buses use significantly more energy, again on a per passenger mile basis, than autos. (U.S. D.O.E.)
    That source has no context and even if it did it's measuring BTUs, in other words, heat, and doesn't support your argument at all. You have it backwards. The more BTUs created per passenger mile the more energy is being consumed. Not that it's a fair comparison between electric, diesel, and gasoline engines anyway since they both consume energy and give off heat in different ways.

    And again the entire crux of your argument rests on "per passenger mile" which is not just apples and oranges - it's a house of cards. An express bus from the suburbs, probably the least efficient (in terms of energy consumption) routes we have is going to get about 5mpg. The route is 10 miles long. If the bus only carries 5 passengers for the entire route it surpasses the average SOV in terms of energy consumption. But the bus doesn't carry 5 passengers for the entire route. It carries about 60 passengers for most of the route and another 20 or so get on and off at intermediate stops. Even late-night these buses never have fewer than 5 passengers and it's normally more like 10-15.


    It doesn't make sense to confuse mass transit and dense, pedestrian-oriented development. Obviously, transit and dense, pedestrian-oriented development often work together in a symbiotic relationship. But you can't just put rail lines in the Orlando suburbs, ban cars, and think the world will be a better place. We need a fundamental change in development before transit can really become affordable or feasible.
    Who is confusing the two? As you say, it's a symiotic relationship and as i say you can't have an effective transit system without dense, ped-oriented development. I'm all about it.


    Simply not true. Trips and falls are the leading cause of injuries here in NYC. Whether your foot is caught on a gap in the train, you slip on a puddle left by another customer, or you trip walking up the steps of the bus--injuries can and do happen quite frequently with transit.
    People don't trip or get hit by cars in parking lots? They don't get their fingers caught in car doors? I'm trying to figure out how people tripping or slipping has anything to do with the mode? We're talking about fatalities due to crashes.


    I've heard pie-in-the-sky figures for the true cost of automobiles. Most of them are thinly veiled attempts at inflating the figure as much as possible. They create ethereal or non-existent externalities and make up a figure. Seriously, have you read the studies in detail? Anyway, a UC economist analyzed the most popular studies, found that they systematically overstated the true cost of driving, and arrived at less than 5 cents per passenger mile as an accurate measure of external costs. If gas prices were jacked up, people would walk more and buy more efficient cars... .but there would still be plenty of people to drive.
    Which economist? What study? How did he come to 5 cents per mile for externalities?


    There is no logical fallacy. I don't base my opinion on the fact that everyone is doing it. Although I do consider the fact that most people who have a choice between automobiles and efficient mass transit still choose automobiles. Of course, there's also the fact that people will tell you they prefer cars to trains and buses (in polls, only 10% of people who say transit is a "reasonable alternative" use it often). Sure, just about everyone would give up private automobiles for a "reasonable alternative." Unfortunately, most people define reasonable alternatives as cheap, fast, private, door-to-door service available at any time and without any waiting. Unless PRT becomes a reality, people will continue prefer cars.
    Sure it's a fallacy, it's often called the "bandwagon fallacy". You're confusing one choice with another. You're assuming that people choose to live in auto-dependent places. You're neglecting the fact that most people don't have a choice or don't even think in terms of it being a choice because there is no alternative. You either buy a house with a garage in a subdivision or you live in a trailer.

    10% of people in this region use transit to get to work (SEPTA, DVRPC, et. al.). That would would fit in well with your uncited statistic. For the other 85% of people in the region who drive to work transit is not a reasonable alternative and in most cases i would agree that commuting from one suburb to another to get to work is arduous at best and in many cases, impossible.


    If you had a dramatic increase in ridership, the system's costs would rapidly increased. Historically, transit costs have increased much faster than the rate of inflation. More traffic contributes to more wear and tear. If you want people to really give up cars, you have to extend service 24-hours. To create a transit system that completely compete with cars, you'd need to massively expand it. Considering that, your fare would have to do a lot more than quadruple. Of course, without the mobility afforded by a car, one incurs further expenses. If you shop near your home, you're severely limited to select retailers. Having a relatively captive audience, the prices are higher.
    Our transit system was built to handle almost as twice as many people as it currently does. A good portion of the system already runs 22-24 hours and nearly all of the rest of it runs 20 hours a day. We don't need to add many new routes, we just need better headways. That involves buying new buses, rail cars, and paying more drivers, conductors, and cleaning staff but if new buses and trains are full when they hit the streets and rails and people were only paying 2x what they are now the system would not be at a loss for money. Each train, even with 24 hour service, would be averaging $1000 an hour. They cost 1/4 of that to run. http://www.septa.org/inside/reports/ASP2007.pdf

    You erroneously assume that riding the bus saves gas. Across the country, buses use more energy per passenger mile than cars. It's funny--by riding a typical bus, people actually contributing more to air pollution and carbon emissions.
    Your erroneously assuming that, things are going to be exaclty as they are today, that people are still going to be able to live in auto-oriented suburbs except they'll just start taking the bus. And, as i pointed out above, even at 5mpg even buses with paltry ridership are still more efficient than cars. As ridership increases the efficiencies also increase.

    You're also assuming, that, as the price of petroleum outpaces the price of energy in general that hybrid and electric-traction buses (off-the-shelf, proven technology) won't become more popular.


    You also ignore the benefits of automobiles. While autos DO have a cost, they enable people to save money at supermarkets and discount warehouses.
    I can't believe no one else has taken you to task on this. The paragraph of fallacies. I can walk to three different supermarkets. If i wanted to go to BJs i can take the bus or a taxi or i can use carshare and drive myself.

    They enable the masses to travel to diverse recreational sites.
    Because if people owned cars less they wouldn't still rent them from Avis or Hertz? Tour buses and other charters don't take people to tourist detsinations? Including national parks?

    Since the mass-production of the automobile, American home ownership rates have increased by half.
    The UK and Spain have similar (or higher) rates of home ownership but not nearly the level of car ownership.

    Of course, transit-dependency killed over a thousand people in New Orleans, while those with cars drove to safety in air-conditioned comfort. And while many will knock sprawl, parks and green spaces are accessible today because of the densities automobiles allow.
    I lived in Charelston in '99 when hundreds of thousands of people weathered hurricane Floyd in their cars on I-95 and I-26 because so many people tried to evacuate at once that it caused total gridlock.

    You live in NYC but you don't know that you can take Metro-North to the Appalachian Trail? You've never heard of Central Park or Prospect Park? Fairmount Park in Philadelphia is 7,000+ acres. I could ride my bike there in 5 minutes. I'd also posit that, if not for sprawl, we'd have a heck of a lot more open space easily accessible to the majority of people.


    Just because we like transit and see problems with autos doesn't mean we should be blind to the facts or fall victim to kneejerk reactions. On the contrary, we won't convince people away from cars with made-up and easily debunked statistics about the true cost of automobiles, exaggerated claims of the environmental benefits of transit, or hallucinations about how cheap transit is.
    I never said that transit is the be all and end all. I'm the one who said that free transit is not only not necessary but likely to cause more problems than it solves.

    I've also been saying that we don't need to convince car owners of anything. Rich people will keep on driving and everyone else has 5-10 years before they have to move and/or start taking the bus a lot more and/or buy a plug-in hybrid that gets 100mpg. As we've already dug up most of the easily accessible sequestered carbon and put back into the atmosphere it only makes sense that it's going to get more expensive.

    And as with all transportation arguments i'm going to ask why, as planners, people are more fixated with the "how" of moving people around rather than the "why." If you build a city around transportation of course it will be necessary.
    Last edited by jresta; 25 Apr 2007 at 2:34 PM.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  2. #52
    jresta,
    I don't think transit will win converts by itself, nor do I think peak oil will even drive people away from the auto (hybrid cars are still cars, with almost all of the same problems). I want public transportation to become the dominant form of travel in American cities, and so I think some work needs to be done.

    The automobile has huge problems, of which we are all aware. But auto still beats out modern-day transit when it comes to the things Americans seem to care about. It frustrates me when people just overlook that and expect other people to as well. We don't necessarily need to "convince" people that transit is better--but we should be working on making transit fit their needs.

    Most of the concerns that people have can be addressed with some effort, creativity, and substantial additional investment.

    Off-topic:

    I think we mostly agree (except for perhaps the effect peak oil will have on driving habits). I don't want to get bogged down on minutiae, but just in case you really wanted answers to your questions, I posted most of them below.
    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    I'm still at a loss as to how local roads being locally funded by non gas tax sources is a wash.
    As you said, local roads were around long before the automobile so it probably isn't fair to attribute their cost to autos. As I said, local roads aren't just for private cars. In addition, the cost of local roads is usually imposed upon the property owners whose land value is increased by proximity to roads. And a significant portion of automobile user fees are diverted from road construction to other uses like mass transit. Obviously, the question of where the money goes and how to count it is pretty complicated. But just about everyone that tries to crunch the numbers finds that the costs of autos are almost borne entirely by automobile users. There isn't a large subsidy coming from non-automobile users.

    What reliable data? Where? hyperlink.
    Here's a few I have off-hand. These aren't the most reliable, there are others--but I'm in a hurry.
    That source has no context and even if it did it's measuring BTUs, in other words, heat, and doesn't support your argument at all.
    I think you misunderstand what BTU's are. They are a measure of energy, just like watts, horsepower, joules, and calories. THe point is that for getting from your house to work in some places, buses use more energy than cars. That's directly correlated to the amount of fuel used. It's something to be aware of. We can solve it using hydrogen or natural gas fueled buses, and by trying to maintain enough ridership at all times so that buses don't cruise empty.

    Who is confusing the two? As you say, it's a symiotic relationship and as i say you can't have an effective transit system without dense, ped-oriented development. I'm all about it.
    You said that if people switched to transit, they wouldn't have to travel as much and would be able to stay near their home. That isn't true and wont' be true unless and until pedestrian oriented communities develop. Transit can help these develop just as tod helps transit be successful. But just plopping down a bus line doesn't make people travel less. I believe we need to get to the core of our urban fabric. We need to require all future development to be pedestrian friendly, relatively dense, TOD. Transit alone doesn't allow people to stay close to home. Ped-friendly communities, with the help of transit, do.

    Which economist? What study? How did he come to 5 cents per mile for externalities?
    I was referring to "A Review of the Literature on the Social Cost of Motor Vehicle Use in the United States" by Dellucchi and Murphy and published the Journal of Transportation and Statistics Jan 1998. There's plenty of others out there if you care to look.

    You're confusing one choice with another. You're assuming that people choose to live in auto-dependent places. You're neglecting the fact that most people don't have a choice or don't even think in terms of it being a choice because there is no alternative. You either buy a house with a garage in a subdivision or you live in a trailer.
    I'm not confusing the choices. The poll I linked to found that 90% of of those people who have a choice (i.e. have public transportation available) choose to drive a car. You and I are in the minority of people who choose not to drive a car. The statistic was not uncited, I included a link to the published newspaper article detailing the poll's source, methods, and results.

    I've also been saying that we don't need to convince car owners of anything. Rich people will keep on driving and everyone else has 5-10 years before they have to move and/or start taking the bus a lot more and/or buy a plug-in hybrid that gets 100mpg.
    I think this is the only place we really disagree. I want to get people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. Since the creation of the auto, it has constantly eroded transit's market share. I think we need to take affirmative action to counteract that--not imagine that everything will change in the future.

  3. #53
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    jresta,
    I don't think transit will win converts by itself, nor do I think peak oil will even drive people away from the auto (hybrid cars are still cars, with almost all of the same problems). I want public transportation to become the dominant form of travel in American cities, and so I think some work needs to be done.
    The price of gas along with other factors has already pushed people to change their driving habits. VMT is down and transit ridership is up. My only concern is whether we're doing enough to prepare for the coming demand.

    The automobile has huge problems, of which we are all aware. But auto still beats out modern-day transit when it comes to the things Americans seem to care about. It frustrates me when people just overlook that and expect other people to as well. We don't necessarily need to "convince" people that transit is better--but we should be working on making transit fit their needs.
    I agree. We should be improving transit. As far as "what americans seem to care about" - you're still pretending as though most people have a choice. Unless you're living in 25-30 particular metro areas in the US you don't have a choice. You're still bringing a "choice" factor into a market that, by and large, doesn't have any.



    As you said, local roads were around long before the automobile so it probably isn't fair to attribute their cost to autos. As I said, local roads aren't just for private cars. In addition, the cost of local roads is usually imposed upon the property owners whose land value is increased by proximity to roads. And a significant portion of automobile user fees are diverted from road construction to other uses like mass transit. Obviously, the question of where the money goes and how to count it is pretty complicated. But just about everyone that tries to crunch the numbers finds that the costs of autos are almost borne entirely by automobile users. There isn't a large subsidy coming from non-automobile users.


    Here's a few I have off-hand. These aren't the most reliable, there are others--but I'm in a hurry.
    I had a feeling from the beginning that you were citing people like O'Toole and Cox but wanted to let you say it before i accused you of it. They're not reliable sources. They've been debunked and discredited by just about every expert who has thought about it for more than 5 minutes.


    I think you misunderstand what BTU's are. They are a measure of energy, just like watts, horsepower, joules, and calories.
    no, i understand perfectly well what a British Thermal Unit is. A BTU is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. 143 BTU is required to melt a pound of ice at 32 °F. As is the case with the calorie, several different definitions of the BTU exist, which are based on different water temperatures and therefore vary by up to 0.5%

    And i'll repeat that your souce doesn't explain the context.

    Even in its non-context you're comparing a place like Wichita, which i'm sure does run empty buses to a car and ignoring places like Boston, with high ridership with numbers producing 1/3 the Btu's of a car.

    You're using the classic Wendell Cox sleight of hand. Compare bus systems in auto-oriented suburbs and sunbelt "cities" to private cars and use it as a case for why transit is inefficient or, at best, try to average them in to national totals to bring down the numbers.

    THe point is that for getting from your house to work in some places, buses use more energy than cars. That's directly correlated to the amount of fuel used. It's something to be aware of. We can solve it using hydrogen or natural gas fueled buses, and by trying to maintain enough ridership at all times so that buses don't cruise empty.
    The key part here is "in some places" but not in places where transit is actually viable.

    You said that if people switched to transit, they wouldn't have to travel as much and would be able to stay near their home. That isn't true and wont' be true unless and until pedestrian oriented communities develop. Transit can help these develop just as tod helps transit be successful. But just plopping down a bus line doesn't make people travel less. I believe we need to get to the core of our urban fabric. We need to require all future development to be pedestrian friendly, relatively dense, TOD. Transit alone doesn't allow people to stay close to home. Ped-friendly communities, with the help of transit, do.
    Exactly. Ped-friendly communities with the help of transit allow people to travel shorter distances. Not places like Wichita or Orlando.


    I was referring to "A Review of the Literature on the Social Cost of Motor Vehicle Use in the United States" by Dellucchi and Murphy and published the Journal of Transportation and Statistics Jan 1998. There's plenty of others out there if you care to look.
    I read it. They don't offer up a cost per gallon. They just say that other estimates are inaccurate. You're also citing a study from 10 years ago that is using data from 90-91. 16-17 years ago. Things have changed a little since then.


    I'm not confusing the choices. The poll I linked to found that 90% of of those people who have a choice (i.e. have public transportation available) choose to drive a car. You and I are in the minority of people who choose not to drive a car. The statistic was not uncited, I included a link to the published newspaper article detailing the poll's source, methods, and results.
    You're still confusing them. I'm not talking about being able to drive to work and being able to drive to a park&ride. I'm talking about being able to live a place like Boston or Seattle or Madison as compared to living in a place like Houston. For the vast majority of people in this country there is no choice. It's suburban subdivision or nothing. In that type of environment taking transit to work - or anywhere - is not a viable option.
    [/QUOTE]
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  4. #54
    jresta,
    I really think we're almost in complete agreement. I don't really care that much about energy/pass.mile, whether the auto subsidy is $.005 a mile or $.05 a mile, or even if the "true cost" of the social impacts of automobiles. I still support transit even if it isn't as it doesn't have as great an advantage in these factors as we sometimes imagine it is. I feel like we're debating over little points that don't matter.

    Here's my deal: I think transit needs real advocates to support it. I felt that some people here think transit can succeed on the basis of its moral superiority alone. I don't think that's an effective advocacy strategy. I don't like it when people say things like "Ah, cars are so evil! They have huge social costs! People only use them because of massive subsidies! And transit is completely without problem. Heck, it doesn't use any fossil fuel at all!!!" I think that attitude hurts the cause. So I've been playing a bit of the role of devil's advocate. Moreover, those statements are exaggerations. Yes, cars have huge social costs. But the monetary figures people slap on them are exaggerated. Yes, some costs of driving aren't borne directly by highway users. But the subsidy theory for the success of autos is wrong. And yes, transit is efficient and can help us end our fossil fuel dependency. But it's not some sort of magic bullet.

    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    The price of gas along with other factors has already pushed people to change their driving habits. VMT is down and transit ridership is up. My only concern is whether we're doing enough to prepare for the coming demand.
    I think that alternative fuel cars, super-high-mileage vehicles, and government action (subsidizing driving, reducing gas taxes, etc.) will be taken so that people can continue driving. Likewise, rising energy prices will also drive up transit costs. I don't know the future, and I hope you're right.

    I agree. We should be improving transit. As far as "what americans seem to care about" - you're still pretending as though most people have a choice. Unless you're living in 25-30 particular metro areas in the US you don't have a choice. You're still bringing a "choice" factor into a market that, by and large, doesn't have any.
    I'm not pretending most people have a choice. And I believe we should be giving most people a choice. 90% of people who reported they did have a choice reported that they chose a car. Obviously self-reporting is imperfect. Maybe what each person defines as a choice is different. Even in NYC, where auto driving is horrific and transit is as-good-as-it-gets, 25% of people still shun transit. Europe's driving rates are beginning to rival ours, despite their excellent transit. (source)
    So while you're right that most people have a choice, I believe that simply giving them a choice between typical transit and an automobile won't draw most of them away. We need to give them a choice, but then also make that choice an easy one for transit.

    I had a feeling from the beginning that you were citing people like O'Toole and Cox but wanted to let you say it before i accused you of it. They're not reliable sources. They've been debunked and discredited by just about every expert who has thought about it for more than 5 minutes.
    I realize they aren't the most reliable, they're what I had handy. Other sources, like the BTS, report similar info. And I've seen print sources that say the same thing:
    *Beshers, External Costs of Automobile Travel, Mar 94
    *Dougher, Estimates of Annual Road User Payments Versus Annual Road Expenditures, Mar 95
    *Lockyer/Hill, Rebuttal to Argument Against Prop 157 (Toll Roads), California Legislative Office, 1992
    Of course, there are also some reputable sources that say automobile travel receives a good sized subsidy. Yes, there are some subsidies and you can count user-fees in different ways if you want. I honestly really don't want to debate the exact number. The only reason I brought it up is because I don't like when people say "transit is only unpopular because of a vast conspiracy and massive subsidies." I feel like that is chasing some sort of phantom, and isn't a productive way to advocate for more spending and investment in transit. I think we can both agree that even if auto users were made to bear the full cost of roads/parking/highway patrols etc., they'd still use autos. That's all I was trying to get at.

    no, i understand perfectly well what a British Thermal Unit is. A BTU is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. 143 BTU is required to melt a pound of ice at 32 °F. As is the case with the calorie, several different definitions of the BTU exist, which are based on different water temperatures and therefore vary by up to 0.5%

    And i'll repeat that your souce doesn't explain the context.

    Even in its non-context you're comparing a place like Wichita, which i'm sure does run empty buses to a car and ignoring places like Boston, with high ridership with numbers producing 1/3 the Btu's of a car.

    You're using the classic Wendell Cox sleight of hand. Compare bus systems in auto-oriented suburbs and sunbelt "cities" to private cars and use it as a case for why transit is inefficient or, at best, try to average them in to national totals to bring down the numbers.
    BTU is energy. I'm not sure what context you need. The info breaks down the data for different modes of transportation and categorizes it into different classes of city sizes. It also lists the source with a full ORNL report. I'm not looking at Wichita at all. Subways in NYC and buses in DC or Chicago seem to use about the same amount of energy to travel the same distance as cars. I don't think the BTU chart is a make or break point. It's not that relevant. It was really just a sidepoint and me playing a bit of devil's advocate. The reason I listed it was to try to debunk those who think transit's moral superiority is all it needs to succeed. I think relying on moral superiority is not an effective advocacy strategy.
    I believe transit usually is more energy efficient, and can be GREATLY more energy efficient when we do it right. Moreover, My point is that moving everyone from cars to transit might not by itself avert an energy crisis or save the environment. Peak oil will drive up transit costs at the same time it drives up auto costs. I'm a big fan of alternative energy.

    The key part here is "in some places" but not in places where transit is actually viable.
    The chart shows places like Chicago, DC, NYC, and Portland. If transit isn't viable there, where is it viable? Again, I don't think the chart is that relevant. I just think it's a reminder that we need to invest more effort and money into making our transit systems efficient, and that we need to not assume transit's moral superiority will win out.

    I read it. They don't offer up a cost per gallon. They just say that other estimates are inaccurate. You're also citing a study from 10 years ago that is using data from 90-91. 16-17 years ago. Things have changed a little since then.
    You're right, I'm sorry. I meant another series of reports he did, which is here. Still old data. My real point, as you can glean from the first report I cited, is that the studies giving inflated social costs for autos are using even older and using very old data in statistically unsound ways.

    You're still confusing them. I'm not talking about being able to drive to work and being able to drive to a park&ride. I'm talking about being able to live a place like Boston or Seattle or Madison as compared to living in a place like Houston. For the vast majority of people in this country there is no choice. It's suburban subdivision or nothing. In that type of environment taking transit to work - or anywhere - is not a viable option.
    I'm not confusing them! I'm specifically looked for poll data that focused only on people who say transit is an option. You're right, we don't know what people mean when they say "transit is an option for me." Some surely do mean only park&ride is available. But it is still significant that 90% of people who self-report having available mass transit options choose against using them. And as long as the majority of Americans live in areas less-than-ideal for transit, we need to think about ways to get them on board too.

  5. #55
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by brandonmason View post
    jresta,
    I really think we're almost in complete agreement. I don't really
    care that much about energy/pass.mile, whether the auto subsidy is
    $.005 a mile or $.05 a mile, or even if the "true cost" of the social
    impacts of automobiles. I still support transit even if it isn't as
    it doesn't have as great an advantage in these factors as we sometimes
    imagine it is. I feel like we're debating over little points that
    don't matter.
    You claim to be pro-transit. That's probably where our agreement ends.


    I think that alternative fuel cars, super-high-mileage
    vehicles, and government action (subsidizing driving, reducing gas
    taxes, etc.) will be taken so that people can continue driving.
    Likewise, rising energy prices will also drive up transit costs. I
    don't know the future, and I hope you're right.
    You're right. People will still be driving 5 years from now and 15
    years from now. But they probably won't be doing it in the numbers or
    as often as they're doing it now.

    I'm not pretending most people have a choice. And I believe we
    should be giving most people a choice. 90% of people who reported
    they did have a choice reported that they chose a car. Obviously
    self-reporting is imperfect. Maybe what each person defines as a
    choice is different. Even in NYC, where auto driving is horrific and
    transit is as-good-as-it-gets, 25% of people still shun transit.
    Europe's driving rates are beginning to rival ours, despite their
    excellent transit. (source)
    So while you're right that most people have a choice, I believe that
    simply giving them a choice between typical transit and an automobile
    won't draw most of them away. We need to give them a choice, but then
    also make that choice an easy one for transit.
    I also shun transit. Well, i don't shun it, i just don't need it very often.
    I walk or bicycle almost everywhere. Transit comes in handy on days like yesterday
    when it was raining or on days like today when I have to make a 7 mile trip.

    That Washington Post article was written by two guys from the Reason
    Foundation. That's about as right-wing a think tank as you can get and who
    up until a few months ago were still denying climate change with some
    of their writers taking money from Exxon-Mobil while doing it.

    I'm sorry, i guess i haven't been clear enough. Most people living in
    medium to large sized metros probably have access to transit on some
    level, however inconvenient. Most people in this country, however,
    don't have a choice as to their built environment. Living in a
    land of cul-de-sacs will greatly reduce the ability of a person to use
    transit and, when it is possible, will greatly reduce its convenience.
    In other words, people from the suburbs who also work in the
    suburbs (most americans) don't use transit because it's incredibly
    inconvenient.
    Having access to transit in suburban Charlotte and
    trying to take it to my job on the other side of Charlotte is about as
    useful as flying from Charlotte to Greensboro. In either case driving
    will take half the time.

    I honestly really don't want to debate the exact number. The
    only reason I brought it up is because I don't like when people say
    "transit is only unpopular because of a vast conspiracy and massive
    subsidies." I feel like that is chasing some sort of phantom, and
    isn't a productive way to advocate for more spending and investment in
    transit. I think we can both agree that even if auto users were made
    to bear the full cost of roads/parking/highway patrols etc., they'd
    still use autos. That's all I was trying to get at.
    Every form of transportation requires taxes to fund capital programs.
    The only difference between transit and automobile systems is that
    with cars the operating costs and the capital costs of the rolling
    stock are the responsibility of the user. At the end of the day the
    highway system is never going to be cheaper to operate and maintain
    than a transit system.


    BTU is
    energy
    . I'm not sure what context you need. The info breaks
    down the data for different modes of transportation and categorizes it
    into different classes of city sizes. It also lists the source with a
    full ORNL report.
    A Btu is a unit of heat. Not energy. The comparison wouldn't even make
    sense that way. Your link says nothing to the contrary. I was a
    diesel mechanic in the army. You can ask any gearhead and they'll tell
    you that diesels run a lot hotter than gasoline engines. If you had
    read your source you'll see that they say the same thing. It seems
    counterintuitive but diesel engines use a lot more oxygen than gas
    engines and burn the diesel at very high (oxygen to fuel) compression ratios.

    But whatever, call a Btu what you want, comparing a bus to a car is
    still an apples and oranges comparison and a ridiculous one at that.

    Why not just compare gas mileage between cars and buses? Surely the
    comparison between electric buses and trains can be broken down into
    kilowatt hours. Why use something vague and confusing like Btu's to
    make the comparison unless you're trying to be vague and confusing?


    I'm not looking at Wichita at all. Subways in NYC and buses in DC
    or Chicago seem to use about the same amount of energy to travel the
    same distance as cars. I don't think the BTU chart is a make or break
    point. It's not that relevant. It was really just a sidepoint and me
    playing a bit of devil's advocate. The reason I listed it was to
    try to debunk those who think transit's moral superiority is all it
    needs to succeed. I think relying on moral superiority is not an
    effective advocacy strategy.
    If you're premise doesn't hold your conclusion can't follow.

    The source you gave uses Wichita as an example of a bus system with high Btu per passenger mile. (But it doens't explain what kind of buses or the methodology). Sure electric motors produce a lot of heat but that doesn't mean that they're using more energy to move the same amout of people the same distance.

    I believe transit usually is more energy efficient, and can be GREATLY
    more energy efficient when we do it right. Moreover, My point is that
    moving everyone from cars to transit might not by itself avert an
    energy crisis or save the environment. Peak oil will drive up transit
    costs at the same time it drives up auto costs. I'm a big fan of
    alternative energy.
    Well, that's not what you've been saying. Of course, transit isn't going to save the world. No one is saying that it will. The "facts" you've been kicking around, in fact, say the opposite is true, that transit will make things worse.

    Transit isn't the point, it's how and where people live that is the point. Transit just increases the viability of dense places.

    The chart shows places like Chicago, DC, NYC, and Portland. If
    transit isn't viable there, where is it viable? Again, I don't think
    the chart is that relevant. I just think it's a reminder that we need
    to invest more effort and money into making our transit systems
    efficient, and that we need to not assume transit's moral superiority
    will win out.
    Transit is certainly viable in the places you mentioned but averaging in empty buses running around suburban metros is just an attempt to skew the total to make it look like transit isn't that great anywhere. When, in fact, the effectiveness and energy efficiency of transit in a place like San Francisco is vastly superior to that in a place like Nashville.


    You're right, I'm sorry. I meant another series of reports he did,
    which is here. Still
    old data. My real point, as you can glean from the first report I
    cited, is that the studies giving inflated social costs for autos are
    using even older and using very old data in statistically unsound
    ways.
    fine. so hopefully we can agree that the full cost of gas is likely to be more than $6 per gallon in todays money especially since the retail price has more than doubled since most of those reports were done.


    I'm not confusing them!
    I was saying that you're assuming people really have a choice as to where they can live and whether or not households can function without a car or even with just one car.

    I'm specifically looked for poll data that
    focused only on people who say transit is an option. You're right, we
    don't know what people mean when they say "transit is an option for
    me." Some surely do mean only park&ride is available. But it is still
    significant that 90% of people who self-report having available mass
    transit options choose against using them. And as long as the
    majority of Americans live in areas less-than-ideal for transit, we
    need to think about ways to get them on board too.
    According to your source 60% of people report having transit available. That means for the other 40% it's not even an option. 93% of those with an option said that driving was more convenient. No kidding. Most people live in the suburbs (slapping the name "city" on your municipality doesn't make it urban) where transit (and walking and cycling) is incredibly inconvenient, if not impossible, for nearly every trip.

    No kidding people are going to drive everywhere. Choice has been engineered out of the equation. The presence of transit in Marlton, NJ (a Philadelphia suburb) is about as useless to the average resident as the sidewalks mandated by the State. They routes don't go anywhere people need to go in the amount of time they have to spend in getting there.
    Last edited by jresta; 26 Apr 2007 at 1:18 PM.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  6. #56
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Oct 2004
    Location
    New Orleans, LA
    Posts
    368
    We can actually network and improve service so that the people in the suburbs do in fact have a transit system that is somewhat useful to them. It'll cost a lot of money, but then, we're used to spending a lot of money for our transportation system already... and if people move to transit, developers will drop transit-unfriendly development patterns from their list of 'things to build' like a bag of ants.

    The next problem we will have is the mandated sprawl in planning regulations, which mostly try to legislate in favour of lower density development and require significantly more sprawl than developers might prefer to build.

  7. #57
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    1,472
    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    We can actually network and improve service so that the people in the suburbs do in fact have a transit system that is somewhat useful to them. It'll cost a lot of money, but then, we're used to spending a lot of money for our transportation system already... and if people move to transit, developers will drop transit-unfriendly development patterns from their list of 'things to build' like a bag of ants.
    Yes. I think it's already started to happen. In this market, suburban real estate (except for the inner-ring) is in the toilet and the further from the regional rail lines you are the worse off you are, but the city keeps chugging. There is so much room for our suburban population to move closer in and to reclaim abandoned parts of the city that i think it will be easier and ultimately cheaper for large swaths of the outer suburbs to be abandoned (in much the same way the city was 40-50 years ago) than for the them to be remade into something less auto oriented.

    Some places in the outer 'burbs and exurbs will remain viable (towns with regional rail service) and some places in the 2nd ring 'burbs will fall apart and be tomorrow's ghetto.

    The next problem we will have is the mandated sprawl in planning regulations, which mostly try to legislate in favour of lower density development and require significantly more sprawl than developers might prefer to build.
    Developers flocking to the fringes is all about profit. Buy cheap land, build cheap houses, make a lot of money. As the market out there continues to shrink smart developers will follow the market back to the city (indeed many of our region's biggest homebuilders already have with major developments going up in all parts of the city).

    But the important part here is that i'm talking specifically about a place where people have a choice. People can choose an auto-only suburban town or a walkable suburban town with rail service, they can live in an inner-ring town with bus-service downtown. They can live in the city in a variety of different settings from high-rise to rowhouse to bungalow to victorian mansion.
    Last edited by jresta; 27 Apr 2007 at 11:47 AM. Reason: typo
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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