free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 141. WASTEFUL VS. EFFICIENT TRANSPORT

Monday, October 24, 2005


Oil's greatest effect has been on transportation. Without doubt this sector has been changed the most by cheap, readily available oil. Around 70% of oil goes directly to the transportation sector and nearly 50% is used by cars. So, apart from looking at alternatives fuels, it's worth just taking off those car-based rose coloured spectacles, and look at what's been happening around the world.

As it turns out cars are a hopeless machine for moving around cities (or even going to them) – by virtue of flow, parking and accidents and not all that good at energy efficiency. (See 58. EXTERNALITIES OF CAR USE.)

Imagine the race between the hair and the tortoise, while that 1.5 ton 11mpg personal monster appears to be an example of sexy consumerism, in the real world those that can get to work quicker, more easily and using less energy are ultimately going to win the race.

Traffic congestion, already costing Americans $63.1 billion a year, is only getting worse, according to a new report from the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). Factoring in today's rising fuel prices adds another $1.7 billion per year.

  • Annual delay per peak period (rush hour) traveler, which has grown from 16 hours to 47 hours since 1982,
  • Number of urban areas with more than 20 hours of annual delay per peak traveler, which has grown from only 5 in 1982 to 51 in 2003,
  • Total amount of delay, reaching 3.7 billion hours in 2003, and
  • Wasted fuel, totaling 2.3 billion gallons lost to engines idling in traffic jams.Source
No wonder politicians have tried to solve this, and there are two schools of thought: Build more highways or encourage people onto mass transit. The first option sounds tempting (assuming you have the space) and sits well with oil companies, car makers and all the pimps of the highway lobby. And there is a great deal of political opposition to alternatives.

The absolute maximum highway capacity is 2,000 vehicles per hour (VPH) on grade separated freeways per lane, with various diseconomies of scale using on ramps as they fight for space down to less than 2,000 VPH for the whole highway (source). If those 2,000 vehicles have one person in them, they are extremely inefficient at getting people around in urban areas.

This compares to new rail lines in China moving 100,000 people per hour (source), with a 99% punctuality record (source).
Then you start feeding in the stats of an impending oil crisis and moving away from car based traffic in cities looks even more tempting. Some cities were built before cars or in topographically restricted areas - So mass transit has had to be the way.

The city of Hong Kong (China) has a population of 6.7 million and spreads out over Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. There is just no other way to get about. Fast, efficient mass transit means that less than 10% of households own a car(source).

Hong Kong has a metro system, owned and managed by the Mass Transit Railway. Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) operates the extensive train network. Hong Kong Tramways run a tram system with double-decker vehicles. Peak Tram (a cable car on rails) operates between Central and Victoria Peak. There is a light railway system, The Light Rail Transit (LRT), within the northwest New Territories (comprising the northern part of the Kowloon peninsula and Hong Kong's outlying islands). Four companies operate bus transportation in Hong Kong; Citybus, New World First Bus Ltd, Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) and New Lantao Bus. Also, because of the nature of the region, there are many ferries connecting the islands to each other and to the mainland.Source
And funding?
The Jubilee line extension in London was a missed opportunity. The £3.5 billion cost was a fraction of the £13bn Land value increases that come about as a result of its construction.Source(pdf)
Land Value Transfer (LVT) and property development to pay for mass transit already is happening in Hong Kong.
-- by Wildwell


At Monday, October 24, 2005 at 9:46:00 AM PDT, Blogger John O'Neill said...

I'm all for more public transit. However, in order to make it something most people actually want, I think we have to break the private automobile first. That is, we have to take away the things that make private cars desirable.

Otherwise, we can build the best public transit system in the world and people will still buy and drive cars.

I think we have to continue to analyze the private automobile, understand why it is so desirable, and come up with replacements for all of its benefits. Public transit advocacy takes care of only one small part (transportation from point A to point B, especially for commuters) of the car's features.

At Monday, October 24, 2005 at 9:50:00 AM PDT, Blogger John O'Neill said...

I just created a poll on how to eliminate the private automobile on that other PO site.

Feel free to drop by and share your thoughts.

At Monday, October 24, 2005 at 11:19:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At Monday, October 24, 2005 at 2:13:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people don't use mass trasit, not because it can't meet their needs, but rather, because they don't want to be associated with 'the type' of person who uses mass transit. It doesn't help this stereotype that most bus drivers (at least in Spokanistan) are pretty liberal with letting people on the bus, even if they look ... 'undesirable'.

These people tend to be the same ones who want to move my office from downtown (where I can easily get to it by the bus, and where I can walk to many business) to elsewhere, where it would be hard to get to with the current bus system, simply because they either don't want to walk 3 blocks from where they park to get to work, or because they can't stand even once per month having some homeless guy bug them for change.

I'm not sure if 'getting rid' of the 'undesirable' people who are using mass transit will cause bus ridership to go up, and I certainly think that even if it would, that it wouldn't be a good idea.

I don't know how to fix the problem until you get people to realize that not everybody was born into a great life or made good decisions. You might have to *gasp* deal with the reality that some people have a lot more money than others.

At Monday, October 24, 2005 at 3:05:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a US thing. Trains for example in Europe, Japan and the UK is often criticised for being too middle class!

On the personal rapid transit note, I think it would be a helpful feeder for standard Mass transit, but more of a taxi replacement than anything else.

At Monday, October 24, 2005 at 7:20:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Public transit advocacy takes care of only one small part (transportation from point A to point B, especially for commuters) of the car's features."

I agree. For instance, it's real hard to screw your date in the back of the bus.


Post a Comment

<< Home