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America:Cars, Suburbia, and Conspicuous Consumption

by ManfromMiddletown Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 05:27:25 AM EST

Crossposted at Economic Populist

My basic argument is that America's oil addiction has less to do with inefficient engines, than with an economic system that promotes conspicous consumption as a means to indicate social status.

America is dangerously dependent on foreign oil.  

In 2007, the United States imported around 13.44 mbd (million barrels daily) from other countries.  This represents an almost 2% reduction over the preceding year.  Nonetheless, oil represents a huge economic Achilles Heel for the US.

At the current $145.29/barrel
price for crude on the spot market, a year's worth of oil imports would cost the US $713 billion.  Or 5.2% of 2007 US nominal GDP.  Or almost three times our trade deficit with the People's Republic of China. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is bound to impact the US economy.

I'm going to be lazy today, and err to the use of graphics to make my point. Much of the current energy debate in the US centers on how inefficient our motor vehicles are compared to the rest of the planet. Look they say at the following graph that shows just how inefficient our vehicles are.  This is the average fuel economy for various national fleets.

Promoted with edit to put more content above the fold - afew


Information released from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey shows that there is a great deal of truth to this.

First, while the oil shock of the late 70s produced a noticeable increase in fuel efficiency, since the early 1980s increases in engine efficiency have been channeled into greater horsepower.

So we've been buying more powerful cars, and it's not only that.  We've been building larger vehicles.

America's automotive proclivities demonstrate perhaps better than any other single area the extent to which our country has become inclined to conspicuous consumption, the waste of economic resources by individuals so as to convey their social standing to others.  I'm convinced that much of modern American society is better understood through a careful reading of Thorsten Veblen than an exaggeration of what was said by Adam Smith.

After all, Smith himself famously said that defense is superior to opulence.

The irony of this though is that just as SUVs have become an object of conspicuous consumption, environmentally friendly vehicles like the Prius have arguably become the same. Yet much as our latter day leisure class finds merit in the supposed social superiority of their little hybrid, Jonathan Tasini reminds us that merely because an object is environmentally friendly does not mean that it is socially beneficial.  Who know that the Prius came out of sweatshops?

Back to the main point.  While the Prius people have managed to convert what is ostensibly a socially beneficial act into yet another manner in which to demonstrate the intellectual (and hence social) deficiency of those who haven't the money to engage in this type of conspicuous consumption, the single largest component behind increasing oil consumption is an increase in vehicle miles traveled.

From the Energy Information Administration:

So lets take a look.  I'm going to convert some of the numbers here for ease of use.  In 1983, energy intensity was 66.2 per 1000 miles, by 2001, that number had decreased to 49.5.  

Converting this to miles per gallon.

In 1983, vehicles received on average 15.1 miles per gallon.  In 2001, that had increased to about 20.2 miles per gallon.

Yet between 1983 and 2002, gasoline consumption increased more than 40% from 80.3 billion gallons in 1983 to 113.1 billion gallons in 2001.

But you say.  In 1983 there were only 233.8 million Americans while in 2001 there were 285.1 million Americans.  So that means that in 1983, each American consumed 281.6 gallons of gasoline annually. While in 2003, each American consumed on average 396.7 gallons of gasoline.  

So clearly it wasn't that the increase in population that made America consume more gas, so what did?

Math isn't my forte, but I'll give it a try.

National      
Gas         = Population (Miles traveled/Miles per gal.)
Consumption  

So, yes rapid increases in population can outweigh any increases in engine efficiency.  However, there's a component we've overlooked: Miles traveled.

In order to avoid double counting, I'm going to use vehicle miles traveled rather than passenger miles traveled Some times  more than 1 person is in a car, so you have twice number of passenger miles that you have of vehicle miles even though the same amount of gas is used.

So in 1983, 1215 billion gallons were consumed, while in 2001, 2287 billion gallons were consumed. In 1983 there were only 233.8 million Americans while in 2001 there were 285.1 million Americans. So that means in that without double counting 1983, on average each American traveled 5,197 miles annually, while in 2001 each American traveled 8,022 miles.  This a 54% increase since 1983.

We've been blamed bad cars, but might, just might it be that all the self-righteous Prius People skitting who live 30 miles from work might be at fault?

I mean, as US DOT numbers show most trips are taken to and from work.

Then again, maybe not.  

So let's get down to business.  What would happen to our national gas consumption if we had the same number of people, and the same engine efficiency, just reduced the miles traveled per person to the 1983 number?

National
Gas        =285.1 million(5197/20.2)
Consumption

That would bring the gas consumption per person down to 257.27 gallons, or 73.35 billion gallons annually. Again as things stand now Americans use 113.1 billion gallons.  That cuts gas consumption by more than a third without even touching existing engines.  This has the same effect as increasing the fleet average fuel efficiency to 30.2 gallons per mile.

Perhaps in asking how to allow people to drive more efficiently to cut gas consumption, we are asking the wrong question.  Maybe we need to ask what improvements in urban planning are needed to get people out of their cars.  

The Prius people strike me a lot like methadone junkies, the question they ask isn't how to kick the habit, but how to keep it rolling.  And the real tragedy is that keeping people in their cars perpetuates one of the key means by which individuals indicate social status in our unequal society.

I hope I haven't rambled on to much.

(I first wrote this for The Economic Populist, and American blog focusing on economic issues, but I thought I'd cross post it to get feedback and comments here.)

Display:
I'm sorry if this seems a little (or more than a little) scatterbrained.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 06:18:53 PM EST
Are you saying that using a car for commuting purposes vs. some form of mass transit is an indicator of social status to Americans? If so, I would argue that it could be but within limits.  I think a lot has to do with commuting distance and the lack of inexpensive, efficient mass transit, a situation that you note before zeroing in on the social status cause.

I would also look at convenience of having a car at the work place as a reason.  When you live thirty miles from the work place (many do because of the high cost of housing closer in) and the mass transit lines only run during rush hour, early and late departures from the work place are eliminated, otherwise one is stranded at work.  The real mystery to me is why so many people endure the arduous commute here in Washington, forsaking the faster high occupancy vehicle lanes just to drive their cars to work alone.  I carpooled to work here for almost 30 years to half a dozen locations and only drove alone a few times at most.  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 10:50:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think it's a status symbol for most people.  Most, I suspect, either don't have many options, or don't realize what options they do have.  And I suspect you're right about convenience.

If you live twenty or thirty miles out of DC, you don't really have much to choose from, unless you live near a VRE or MARC station.  And there are all of -- what, four or five between here and Richmond?  As you said, it's drive or go nowhere for most.  Even in the close suburbs, the train coverage can be pretty pitiful.  Building that Purple Line around the Beltway would help a great deal in grabbing some outer suburbs and cutting congestion downtown.  (I'll even get on-board with your dumb Dulles Line if we can do that. ;)

People will carpool when gas gets too expensive to drive individually.  Many in my office are starting to do it now.  Then they'll trade their SUVs for midsize cars or (gasp!) compacts.  We'll be a nation of Dirty Fucking Hippies before you know it.

And it's not places like DC that we really have to worry about right now.  DC's got too much money for its own good anyway.  It's out in the Provinces where people are getting hammered.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 11:27:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're right above, and headed in the right direction with the Dulles Line.  We do have too much money in and around Washington.  That's why so many come here to begin with.  The economic opportunities are there and people just stay.  Most of the country does not have economy we have here, but we also put up with a lot.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 09:35:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a lot has to do with commuting distance and the lack of inexpensive, efficient mass transit, a situation that you note before zeroing in on the social status cause.

Why is there a lack of mass transit?

I would argue that much of the resistance to mass transit on the part of the wealthy is a belief that it is below their station in life.  

Put simply, poor people ride the bus. And to ride the bus indicates that you are poor, and therefore have less status.

And in the end, what you are buying when you spend that money on car commuting is not the utility of having the vehicle, but the status it conveys.  And after all.  

And if it were utility alone that people were seeking, why do they drive a large vehicle that has an oversized engine instead of something that got them from point a to point b?  Looking at choices within the mode of transportation, why is it that the obvious choices to achieve the same purpose, independent transportation, at less cost are overlooked in order to drive a larger, fancier vehicle that conveys status?

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:34:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember Maggie Thatcher's little thing about mass transit?

"A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure."

Evidence of Anglo-saxon disease, among many other evidence.

by redstar on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:39:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yet another facet of the Anglo Disease.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:45:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm reminded of this Andy Singer cartoon:

by Magnifico on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:37:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course he can. Should be biking or taking the train instead :-P

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 09:58:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Forget the wealthy.  

I know middle class Americans who, quite seriously, assert that they've not worked so hard their whole lives so that they should sit next to some foul-smelling stranger.  Someone just told me this!  Seriously, they were complaining about the cost of gas to drive to Texas.  I said: take the train.  They said: I'd rather be broke than have to spend a day sitting next to someone else's ... "body odors."  Now we can pretend mass transport smells nice, or we can be honest and admit it smells icky often and that secretly we believe ourselves too accomplished and civilized to have to tolerate it.  The very same people who want their President to be a down to earth guy you can have a beer with are elitist pigs who are afraid of cooties.  The same people who don't support the theory of evolution are confident they have evolved because they don't stink like the savages they are trying to save.  Our DL considers the pinnacle of civilization a hot shower.  DL also prefers to take a cab than a train.  I am guilty too.  I don't care if people think I'm poor.  But I don't want your weird smells all over me.  

I should do a diary on how our desire to smell civilized contributes to climate crisis (fuel, water, etc...)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:53:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
haha!

or, you could just do like me and not wash before using public transport.

if you can't beat them, join them....

by redstar on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:07:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or you could do like me and strategically plot your apartment hunting near the station that serves the uber-wealthy commuter line.  

Everyone smells good on my train.  It's the rich people's train.  See, they don't have a complex abuot taking the train to work, these lawyers and ... lawyers, so far as I can see.  Because it has ac and everyone's freshly done up and the conductors are charming and it's very clean and everyone is well behaved.

Good smelling train-->filthy rich people takin' it.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are "Express Freeway Fliers" in LA that leave from a lot by an off ramp of the Ventura Freeway in Encino and go directly to downtown.  From there you have access to Metro-Rail, the Blue and Gold lines and what ever else they have added in the last two years.  Almost everyone getting on these buses wear suits and carry briefcases.  As late as 1999 it was a good value.  There are several other similar lines.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 09:25:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All that you say can be true.

And yet, to what extent are the preferences that we assume to be our own derived from our social experiences and the context in which we grew up?

Economists want us to believe that our preferences are our's alone, chosen by us, so that making them clear we are expressing something of ourselves.

Any good marketing executive will tell you why this is ridiculous.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:24:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our DL considers the pinnacle of civilization a hot shower.

Wait, are you claiming it might be, you heretic?

I've mentioned this before: from the point of view of the middle class, busses are dirty and for the poor, but trains are acceptable for the middle class.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 04:20:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that we'd be amazed at the good that a campaign that showed a few celebrities taking the bus, and getting local notables to take the bus in cities would do to change that.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 04:29:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think it would do anything, other than give Faux News an opportunity to use the term "Hollywood liberal" a few times before going back to blaming speculators or Mexicans or whatever new bogeyman the assholes have come up with this week.

Nothing's going to change in any significant way with fluffy pitches from Madison Ave.  It might give a few people a warm, fuzzy feeling to have the knowledge that they're "doing their part" or something, but it's meaningless without a fundamental shift in people's understanding of the possible and necessary with an eye toward the future.  The only way people are going to swallow their pride and take the damned bus is by making the cars too expensive.

Which is why we should be raising gas taxes to push people that way, and using the money for subsidies and projects out in places where there's no alternative.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 04:54:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Confucius Lives Next Door  journalist T.R. Reid tells the story of living in Tokyo and being constantly surprised by the signs encouraging socially beneficial behavior.  He asked himself, "Does this mean that the Japanese have to constantly be minded to make them do right?"  

In the end he concluded the opposite, in "Western" cultures we focus more on punishing bad behavior through social sanction giving people the idea that everyone is cheating and only idiots don't do so.  By reinforcing good behavior the Japanese get better outcomes that we in the West do by punishing bad behavior.  Because everyone always hears about what was done right.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 05:43:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And that's fine, but I seem to recall Asian nations using such positive reinforcement mechanisms as thousand-dollar fines for littering, bans on chewing gum, and use of forced labor to shame those guilty of antisocial behavior.  Which isn't to say that actual positive reinforcement doesn't play a role, but Reid strikes me as being simply infatuated with Confucianism more than anything.

Nothing against Confucianism, but I suspect it is, in typical journamalist fashion, a shallow, Tom-Friedman-goes-to-Infosys take.

It also sounds a bit similar to the old line from the 1980s about magical Japanese business techniques that would leave the rest of the world in the dust.  But, while the Japanese do a lot of things really well (you'll find I'm a big cheerleader for their automotive work), it didn't quite work out that way.

And, in any event, I'm willing to bet that making the gas too expensive will do a lot more to move people in the right direction than a Lindsey Lohan poster.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 07:01:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in "Western" cultures we focus more on punishing bad behavior through social sanction giving people the idea that everyone is cheating and only idiots don't do so.

I don't know about that. Do you remember the campaigns against roadside littering and the use of seat belts and child seats. Sure there are sanctions, but I believe it was conscience and constant reminders that created the changes in behavior. (I know that these days littering has returned, but is it because of punishment,the lack of enforcement or just because there are no more ads?)  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Jul 9th, 2008 at 03:56:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... train system, including extending the line to newly established suburbs that it had not originally serviced before it was closed, they integrated local bus routes with the train ... and found that people would take a short bus "to catch the train".

See, that's a good excuse, because it saves the hassle of parking at the train station.

... but actually taking the bus all the way somewhere ... that's for losers.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 10:47:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait, are you claiming it might be, you heretic?

Almost.  I prefer a hot bath...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 04:44:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gah, that should have been "might not be."

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 05:00:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The hot shower featured prominently in Nomad's writings about sustainability and civilisation:
It's remarkable how little one really needs for hiking in the bush. Good shoes and a proper backpack are half the enjoyment. A good bed-bunk and a hot meal at the end of the day: also important. Practical tools: a hat, a pocketknife, a compass. But the one thing everyone, bar none, craves for after 2 days of hiking: a hot shower. I can only conclude that showering (or bathing) has become part of who we are. We can no longer go without.
After diverse other accidents, he was sitting freezing in a bus stop in a town a day's ride from Paris, when a hippie came by, and told him: "Why don't you come with me & stay at the farm of my uncle for the night? There is hot shower!" (My friend: "In those days, I didn't dream of girls or something, I dreamt of a hot shower!" -- Nomad's rule of Civilised Luxury No. 1 seems to hold.)
what are the bare bones in today's society? So I drew up a shopping list. It is not that different than DeAnander's list, and I used my South African experience to re-evaluate and Africanise my nomadic wish-list from Sweden.

...

Heating:

Hot water - for my shower and my shave

I favour the approach of smart and sexy solutions with the corporation of certain western commodities and privileges. Clean water, a warm house, a hot shower with the push of a button - why should we not be trying to preserve those at first? Once we fail to do that, perhaps DeAnander's return-to-innocence scenario might play out. But I'm unwilling to move straigh there as long as there is the chance to opt for the first scenario.


When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 06:25:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hot showers are no so much about getting clean and fresh as being nakedly sensual and feeling happy. I guess most people feel happy in a hot shower - that's why some of us sing.

I read of a judge who retired to chambers for a shower before any difficult summing up. It was not ritualized cleansing - he said that free-roaming shower meditation brought him perspective.

In Finland, the sauna has a very special role. The shower (or swim in the lake, sea or pool) after sauna is part of the ritual, but  the main event is sitting naked with others in 80 deg C semi-darkness and staring at a few hot stones on top of the stove.

Being naked with your friends is an affirmation of closeness and openness. In business saunas (quite frequent occurences) the hierarchy is reversed or levelled - the older guys higher up the ladder are tubby and out of shape, the younger guys trimmer. Stripped of the badges and trappings of status, the conversations are open, friendly, listening and cooperative. IMO the business sauna plays quite a big role in the comparative equitability of Finnish business people.

BTW mixed business saunas are rare, but I've hear the women's versions are even more levelling across the age spread.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 06:30:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess I never really understood the issue of mass transit smelling badly.  And I don't live in a rich area.  Middle-class might even be a bit generous.  But I never found the trains unpleasant (the occasional ranting crackhead aside), let alone unbearable.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 05:08:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would argue that much of the resistance to mass transit on the part of the wealthy is a belief that it is below their station in life.

I don't think you can blame the attitudes of the wealthy here. My impression is that their attitudes on this are  no different than those of the rest of Americans. In most of America they don't want to ride mass transit. In NYC,  the greatest single concentration of wealthy people in the US, they do.  Like the rest of New Yorkers they're acting rationally - the mass transit system is good, driving sucks. In areas where mass transit sucks only those who have to will use it. The only difference is that they use cabs  more often outside of rush hour (regardless of whether the cost matters, spending far more time to get where you want to is generally not appealing) and tend to shell out for the luxury of owning a car for out of town trips rather than relying on rentals.

by MarekNYC on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:58:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that if you take Veblen as correct, the wealthy establish the rules of "decent" behavior in a society, so that everyone has to conform to them.

In New York, this is a bit different.  New York is like a different country to many Americans, and once you get out of the five Boroughs, I guarantee you that car use will go up.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:05:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would say that the wealthy have a disproportionate influence, rather than outright setting social preferences. But along those lines, what we've seen over the past decade is a shift away from the desirability of suburban life and towards that of urban neighbourhoods among the well off. The problem is that there simply isn't enough housing available for those who want to live in such areas, forcing middle class families to live in the suburbs whether they want to or not.
by MarekNYC on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:25:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is undoubedtly true in areas like New York, but in most of the United States, the trend hasn't be to build up, but build out. Spurred on by the belief that cheap gas will always be there.

And as for the necessity of the suburbs.  Americans have this inane plantation ideal that makes them believe that they need a patch of grass larger than an old peasant's farm plot in order to survive.

What's wrong with public greens and parks?  What's wrong with having a small back garden with just enough space instead of a small field that required constant maintenance even though its a monoculture?

I think that simple zoning laws, like relaxing setbacks, and mandating a 1-1 match for new commercial space with residential space (matching the neighborhood income spread) above the store.  Would do a lot to change things quickly.

I don't think that urban living has to involve gentrification.  What's needed is concerted government involvement to ensure that the demands of the community, not the market alone are met.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:36:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think that urban living has to involve gentrification.  What's needed is concerted government involvement to ensure that the demands of the community, not the market alone are met.

As long as there is less housing being built in existing upper income urban areas or new higher end housing in nearby ones than there is demand for such housing, gentrification is inevitable. The upper income people displace the upper middle class, the upper middle class create new upper middle class housing by displacing the middle class, the middle income folks displace the poor who are screwed. Nimbyism and knee-jerk anti-development feelings among upper middle class liberals help speed up the process. Go to San Francisco - the whole damn city is turning into one big gentrified area. New York is far bigger relative to its metro area so there are limits on how far this can go, but Manhattan - same thing.

Brownstones in my Brooklyn neighborhood went for $100K fifteen years ago, now it's $1.5M and that's not just the housing bubble but a fundamental shift in the economic class of those who live here. The new residents oppose building more housing, piously saying that it will gentrify the area even more. Somehow they don't see the irony. Not to mention the fact that the bad side of gentrification is not the fact that a neighbourhood gets upper middle class residents but that the poor are forced out. Not building new housing decreases the influx of better off people to a given neigbourhood while accelerating the displacement of the poor in both that area and in other ones (some of the would be residents of new housing go to other areas). Yeah, I'm ranting, but it pisses me off.

by MarekNYC on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:58:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with some of what you say regarding an aversion to mass transit, by the "wealthy" in particular.  I've known some people who would refuse to take mass transit.  However, I also believe that it's pretty much just those who consider themselves too wealthy or too good these days.

Another real issue (and I still maintain that a car can be a necessity when there are no real alternatives)is the cost of taking the bus or train. It's quite expensive around here (until recently) and the cost of the train is even higher during commuting hours.  One could drive a car for less than the cost of taking the train, especially if the non-commuting costs of car ownership were considered "sunk" costs (that is you had to have a car anyway.) I have long thought that mass transit should be more heavily subsidized at the expense of automobile ownership and highway construction.  That may be the only way to wean Americans off their cars but I don't give it much of a chance.

The reason people drive large gas guzzling vehicles has been the very affordable (OK cheap) price of gasoline in this country.  The recent dramatic rises in that price have caused many folks to reconsider their options, but if the price doesn't continue to rise they'll just buy new gas guzzlers after they get over the initial shock.  People like lots of room, plenty of zoom and a comfortable ride. A minority, like myself, don't care that much about such things but that's an anomaly.


I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 10:06:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One could drive a car for less than the cost of taking the train, especially if the non-commuting costs of car ownership were considered "sunk" costs (that is you had to have a car anyway.)

My dad did a back-of-the-envelope calculation once. I don't remember precisely what his input assumptions were, but the result was that good shoes cost about a Danish crown pr. km walked, public transport (in Scandinavia at least) cost about a crown pr. km if you commute every day and avail yourself of the bulk discounts, while a car costs about 2 crowns pr. km.

Of course, that's assuming that you ride all by yourself in the car, but it's still a thought-provoking little bit of arithmetic.

Say what you will about being able to drive a car being a privilege. I say that living in a country with an infrastructure that makes it cheaper and faster to go by train than by car is a greater privilege.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 11:03:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Family/Personal Business segment is the killer and it comes directly from zoning laws mandating total separation of residences and shops.  It is impossible in suburbia to walk down to the corner store to buy a pack of cigarettes ... or anything else.  There isn't any corner store.  Even to buy a packet of pins requires a car trip.

Want to take your kid to the park?  Get in the car.  

Catch a movie in a theater?  Get in the car.

Do anything other than sit on your fat ass consuming TV?  Get in the car.

The US has been malled to death by idiotic land use patterns, enforced by zoning laws.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Jul 6th, 2008 at 11:45:08 PM EST
Unfortunately, you get down to the local council meetings in a lot of places, and see how the Suburbanites often fight these things out of fear that Wisteria Lane might become interesting or something, and you appreciate just how deep the stupid goes.  The zoning laws are there because (1) the developers own every local government in the country and (2) people want to have big houses with big yards.

At the end of the day, the zoning laws exist to justify stupid projects, and to allow the local inspectors to have their little citationgasms.  They can be changed.

And they will change, of course.  Look at how property values are behaving in the city cores compared with the 'burbs, or even just at how land use patterns in the suburbs are changing from McMansions to walkable new-urbanist stuff.

Make it expensive enough, and people will get religion.

Whether people adapt quickly enough is another question.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:00:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder how much gas will be saved when suburbs decide to place a small grocery store in every neighborhood.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:10:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably a little, because suburbs are so spread out.  For most of the residents, you'll still be seeing people taking brief car rides.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:13:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... saved if those grocery stores are established along some form of electrified transport corridor.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 10:48:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... in those arguing for single-use, single-residence zoning in terms of:
... (2) people want to have big houses with big yards.

If people want big houses with big yard enough to pay the premium for them over stacked townhouses ... then why would it be necessary to mandate?

Its only necessary to force the development of big houses with big yards if there is the threat that there are some people who would prefer a different trade-off of money versus space.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 10:25:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The Prius people strike me a lot like methadone junkies, the question they ask isn't how to kick the habit, but how to keep it rolling.

More like how to keep some of their income.  The Prius is not a luxury car in any sense except the mileage and the technology employed. The payback over buying a 4 cylinder Camry is dropping by the month.  Hard to fault people for that.  People faced with a car buying decision don't have the choice of a better designed urban environment.  Come the day.  


And the real tragedy is that keeping people in their cars perpetuates one of the key means by which individuals indicate social status in our unequal society.

I would argue that just commuting in a car is in fact a rather weak indicator of social status.  In LA you see a lot of 15-20 year old Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans on the Freeways.  How is that a status symbol? The indicators of social status are  Mercedes, Lexus, Rolls, etc. It does distinguish you from panhandlers at freeway off ramps and from immigrants riding bicycles.  It is getting hard to determine status from bus riding.

In cities without widespread urban transit systems cars per se are more an indicator of employment than of status.  High mileage motorcycles and scooters are becoming more popular, especially in warmer, drier climates.  With the highly likely continued upward trajectory of gas prices, many families may find themselves purchasing a motorcycle and becoming a one car, one motorcycle family.  Keeping a second old car for bad weather may turn out to be an excellent decision in families with two wage earners.  Might just keep both working.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 12:22:27 AM EST
The prius is a status symbol for those unwilling to use other forms of transit or suffer the embarrassment of driving an old Geo Metro that gets better mileage than the prius. It's a perfect demonstration of the trends shown in the two charts featuring MPG on the x axis.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:06:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's not go completely overboard on the anti-technology argument. The Prius meets far greater pollution and safety standards, and is a much bigger car. From the Wikipedia, the MPG ratings of the 1989 Geo Metro and the 2008 Prius are:

"Geo Metro XFi engin combined a shorter duration cam, leaner fuel map, two ring pistons, and a higher final drive gear model to achieve 43 city, 51 highway per the revised 2007 EPA mileage standards."

"2008 Prius 48 mpg-U.S. (4.9 L/100 km / 57.7 mpg-imp) for city driving, 45 mpg-U.S. (5.23 L/100 km / 54 mpg-imp) for highway driving"

As I see it, there are three options:

1.) Reduced standard of living to support growing global popluation.
2.) Technology supporting growing population and standard of living.
3.) Reduced global population to support growing standard of living, either voluntarily or by the traditional methods of famine, disease, and war.

We are pursuing a mix of the first and second options, and Mother Nature is working out the details of how to implement the third. For some reason, the voluntary significant reduction of the global population is not approved for discussion.

by asdf on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 09:47:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FYI

Looks like you have imperial gallons there.

Which makes British vehicles look like miracles until you realize that an imperial gallon is a full fifth more than a US gallon.

So that 60 mpg using imperial gallons is only 48 mpg using US gallons.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:22:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but when I lived in Virginia Beach, in the Navy, we had to have a car.  If you go to VA BCH, you will notice that it is one large strip between VA Bch and Norfolk.  One big sprawl.  So, to go to the bookstore, you had to drive, to go to the grocery store, you had to drive.  Zoning, I imagine, stripmalls by the highway and main routes separated large neighborhoods without any stores.

Now, I live in a very small town in Sauerland, Germany.  Not too far from Dortmund.  I don't have a car.  I walk about 200 meters to the Plus grocery, the doctor is another 200 meters in the other direction.  Everything I actually need is available in the Fußgänger Zone that starts at about another 200 meters from my apartment.  I rarely use public transport - I walk or bike.  My energy consumption footprint is minimal.

And to think, when I lived in VA BCH, they killed a high speed rail proposal

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 07:10:34 AM EST
One big sprawl.  So, to go to the bookstore, you had to drive, to go to the grocery store, you had to drive.

Think about this in terms of the policy debate about how to adapt to the high cost of oil.  One way to to up the mpg to sustain the sprawl model of urban development, while the other is to tackle oil use by making walking and transit an option.  

Why has the focus been on ways to make cars use less gas instead of ways to use cars less?

The reason that I bring conspicous consumption into the conversation is that it focuses on purposeful waste as a way to convey social status.  And I'm arguing that the persistence of wasteful economic behavior with auto mobiles and transportation has a lot more to do about conveying social status to others rather than any utility to accrues to the individual.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:43:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why has the focus been on ways to make cars use less gas instead of ways to use cars less?

The train factories don't have a lobby, while the car factories do?

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 10:51:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think at least part of the reason is, that efficiency can more easily be sold as convenient. The message is, you can save the environment by purely technical solutions without any personal commitment.

And I think in Europe it is mostly not that way at all. Gas taxes are gas taxes, independent which way you are going to buy less gas.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 11:26:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, anyone buying a car has the immediate option to use less gas.

Whereas going from a big sprawl to a low footprint city is not under the immediate control of the person making the decision...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Jul 17th, 2008 at 05:51:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I'm arguing that the persistence of wasteful economic behavior with auto mobiles and transportation has a lot more to do about conveying social status to others rather than any utility to accrues to the individual.

Of course, consumption is a way of showing off. So what alternative do you suggest?

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 11:23:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, showing off by having time to spend with your loved ones seems like a good way. Of course, once something becomes a way to show off, you'll have the biznizmen move in and try to biznizize it - hence the coaches and lifestyle magazines and other BS we get these years.

But when it comes to ways of showing off, I'll take lifecoaching over SUVs and SUVs over rhinocerous hunting any day of the week.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 11:31:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... officially a city, but in Ohio you are either a city or a village ... "town" is not a category ... and because Akron (and to a certain extent Cleveland) outer suburbia has grown up in the country around it, it still retains many of the retail center functions that small towns that do not have the same hinterland have long been losing.

And I can walk or ride my bike to the center of town, for the post office or the pastry shop or to catch the (only) interurban bus (on the rare occasion I need to get to a big box store), or walk or ride my bike toward the edge of town for the main market and bargain basement supermarkets.

But that's just good fortune and the fact that the town was already long established before the outer suburbia grew up around it. If the outer suburbia had grown up from scratch without the small town here, it would have been forced by zoning to be pure strip mall development to provide retail/professional services.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 07:45:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"town" is not a category

But you do have townships.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 09:50:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, every part of any Ohio county that is not incorporated as a village or a city is part of one township or another.

"Township" means countryside ... thought of course with suburbanization many townships are far less rural than the township where I grew up, which itself was less rural than the classical Ohio countryside township.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 10:14:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I had trouble "getting" the concept of townships for a while (I work with their finance data).  Obviously we don't really have them in the South, and I think they tend to really be more of a Northeast thing.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 10:29:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think they are spotty on the east coast (they had to be somewhere in the east coast to provide a model), but in the old Northwest Territory (now OH/MI/IN/IL/WI), they were a basic unit of the original frontier allocation of land ... and the county seat was originally too far away to get to on a regular basis in a rural county, so the township was also the most local unit of government, with elected trustees.

For instance, originally the local country primary schools were township schools.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 10:41:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The "township" concept is actually part of the public land survey system, which is used in all of the western part of the U.S. and the eastern and southern parts that were surveyed after about 1800.

The system is based on a rectangular grid, with 6x6 mile "townships" made up of 1x1 mile "sections." This forms the basis of the regular pattern visible from the air across most of the country.

Ohio was the first state surveyed using this system, and it's not as regular as the later states, so the townships aren't very square. As you go further west the system becomes more obvious, with streets aligned to the grid, "Baseline" roads (one such road goes through the middle of Boulder, Colorado), and obvious sharp turns at the places where corrections for the curvature of the earth are made.

Each township has one section reserved to support the township's school, and the regular pattern of government-owned sections can also be observed from the air...

by asdf on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 01:00:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... in school {mumble} decades ago. Except of course the part about the townships getting more regular once you left God's Own and headed further west ... no need to cover Iowa or Nebraska townships in Ohio History class.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 10:29:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That Pie chart looks good for Jeromes next oil based diary at Kos. for those people who say that oil prices are shutting out peoples ability to go to work. If that distance comes down to less than 17% in total, there's got to be some slack in other places that they can discard.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 07:22:41 AM EST
The thing that we don't know though, is the the division by distance traveled.  If people travel 18 miles round trip to work.  And make 9-2 mile round trips to the the grocery and shopping, then they take the same amount of gas even if the graph says that work travel is 10% of trips by purpose.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:25:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just noticed that too. A breakdown of total miles instead of total trips would be far more useful. The categories are ambiguous as well.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 01:54:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is publicly available microdata available. Right hand column 4 boxes down.

The next survey is set for release in 2009, which should be interesting to see.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 02:00:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Multiple links, much repetition

Retrofit Suburbia Redux (Eurotrib)
Retrofit Suburbia Redux and Liberty from Cars Day (Docudharma)
Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence (EENR)


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 07:39:50 PM EST
I'm sorry if this seems a little (or more than a little) scatterbrained.

Not at all; it's excellent.

I'm utterly convinced that we inhabitants of the USA must -- must -- cut down on driving, right away, immediately, now... and it's far too late for voluntary measures.

We need either gasoline rationing, or heavy gasoline taxes above some level of usage per person (with negotiable ration coupons, I think), or... well, write down your best idea on how to limit private driving.

We need subsidized public transportation, plausibly supported by gasoline taxes, especially short-distance intra-urban vehicles such as jitneys or small buses. These should pervade the urban area so that no one has to walk more than two or three blocks from home to get into a jitney. Some of the jitneys should deliver people directly to their destinations rather than running over a fixed route. Computer routing, recalculated whenever a new passenger states a destination or a new pickup comes in from the dispatcher, should greatly help to speed the trips. Live traffic reports must be funneled into the routing system (this feature is not optional, and will require new, funded traffic reporting).

And that is just the beginning. Next come mandatory measures pertaining to winter heating in cold climates, airline transportation, railroad shipping instead of trucking where possible, and... well, you get the idea. It's way past time to get serious about all this.

by Ralph on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 12:00:15 PM EST
... rail infrastructure in place, and bankruptcy court will see to it that the less efficient system of using long haul trucks will bite the dust.

That is, after all, a big reason why that rail infrastructure is not being put into place right now by the federal government. Lot more campaign contributions in trucking than there is in rail.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 10:32:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Imagine matching electrified rail for long distance travel with plug in hybrid trucks for local delivery.

The distribution issues that occur with regular auto traffic aren't as big when you have the limited distribution network that trucing requires.  Let alone for short distance deliveries.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 10:47:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't need on-the-fly re-routing (and I think it'd be a royal pain to implement). Just take a look at how Berlin does their subway. I'll admit that I've only used it as a tourist, not a commuter, but I don't think I've ever had to walk more than two blocks in downtown berlin to find a subway station, and I don't think I ever had to change lines more than twice to get from point A to point B. And they run all the time, at least during the day. Needless to say, travel times are very manageable.

Or even how Göteborg does its tram lines. I've used those as a commuter and damn they are good. Cover everything they need to cover, the trams run all the time in the daytime and every hour or half-hour during the night (depending on how far into the suburbs you need to go). Car? Pffft. Bus? Yeah, it's there - and the coverage is very good, actually, but it's not like you need it.

And it's not like Göteborg is a big city - about half a million people in a semicircle with a 20 km radius or thereabout. Half the area of Denmark has that kind of population density. We could cover somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of our population with light rail service to their local city/high-speed rail hub.

A little intelligent planning and a big check to a couple of German train factories and we could cut our personal car fleet by at least 50 %...

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 11:21:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The importance of continuous service must be underscored. In an urban environment, people should not feel the need for a car ; that requires evening and night service. Even if they are less frequent, or of a different kind. For example the Paris metro shuts at night, but this is compensated by a night bus service, the Velibs, and taxis... Whereas in many provincial towns, going out for the evening means needing a car. And once it's there, it begs to be used...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 03:26:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree that a ubiquitous and continuously running subway would be better than jitneys for most purposes. But we don't have that kind of time.

We will have to build the subway (or other light rail) at the same time as we are deploying jitneys and banning non-commercial vehicles from the city centers. Eventually most of the jitneys move out to the area beyond the light rail lines... assuming we ever get those lines built.

Transportation fuel has become a major near-term crisis for the whole world. The longer we wait, the worse things are going to get. At this point we no longer have the luxury of letting some envisioned optimal solution prevent the quick implementation of some kind of working system.

We no longer have a choice.

by Ralph on Thu Jul 17th, 2008 at 12:05:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Come, now, it doesn't take that long to slap together a sensible light rail system. But FWIW, if you want an over-the-counter solution, you could just levy a prohibitive congestion charge on cars going into the city and equally prohibitive parking fees on cars staying in the city overnight and then increase the bus coverage to compensate (I assume you have a more or less working bus network that can be easily expanded). Flourishes and details such as an exemption for trucks delivering goods (or centralised logistics and delivery system, if that would work better in your city) might be applied as needed. Then migrate from bus to subway and light rail as you go along.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jul 17th, 2008 at 04:50:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry if this seems a little (or more than a little) scatterbrained.

Not at all; it's an excellent post.

I'm convinced that Americans must cut down on driving -- immediately, right away, now -- and that it is now too late for voluntary measures. We need either gasoline rationing, or heavy gasoline taxes above some level of usage per person (with negotiable ration coupons, I think), or... well, substitute your own best idea on how to strictly limit private driving.

We also must have subsidized public transportation, supported by higher gasoline taxes. Within cities, that means using short-distance intra-urban vehicles such as jitneys or small buses. These quick-pickup vehicles should pervade the urban area so that no one has to walk more than two blocks to get a ride.

Some of the jitneys should pick up and deliver people directly to their destinations rather than following a fixed path. Optimized GPS routing -- recalculated whenever a passenger requests a new destination or a new pickup location comes in from the dispatcher -- should greatly help to speed the trips. A good system would arrange rendezvous points where passengers can hop from one jitney to another in order to untangle complex trips. Live traffic reports must be funneled into the routing system -- a capability that will require custom engineering, in combination with properly funded, comprehensive traffic reporting.

The above measures are just the beginning. Next we need mandatory measures pertaining to optimized heating in cold climates; restrictions on airline transportation; required railroad shipping instead of trucking whenever possible, and... well, you get the idea.

It is long past time to get serious about all this.

by Ralph on Tue Jul 8th, 2008 at 03:01:09 PM EST

I think $4/gallon gasoline is having an effect here in Columbus, ohio.  The bus I take when I work my part time job is full most days.  Buses are breaking down more as they are needing to use the older ones.  

I'll be glad to see the end of SUVs and mini vans because they act like they own the road and they block the view if one is driving a car.

As painful as it is to us here in the US, high prices are the only way that most people will change their habits.

Personally, I enjoy the bus as people seems so nice.  They tend to look out for their co-riders as opposed to drivers who'd just as soon run you down--at least here in Columbus.

I believe that the oil, car and tire companies bought out many street car lines and closed them down.  So, in some ways the car was forced on us.

by tobysmom (tobysmom) on Thu Jul 10th, 2008 at 10:42:29 PM EST
MfM, I hope you don't mind my chopping your diary about, but a fuller intro seemed necessary for the front page.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jul 16th, 2008 at 05:30:51 AM EST


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