How Can We Cut Our Energy Use for Commuting?

How can we cut our energy use for commuting? What methods are working for you? What methods make most sense in our current credit environment? This is mostly an open thread, to give people an opportunity to talk about what is and isn't working for them. If the economy is sputtering, peak oil is around the corner, and hurricane related shortages are becoming more common, these methods are going to more and more important in the days ahead.

Some ideas that have been suggested include:

1. More work at home plans, possibly a few days a week.



2. Using a four day (or three day) work week. (See The Four Day Work Week: Sixteen Reasons Why This Might Be an Idea Whose Time Has Come.)

3. Moving closer to work.

4. Using public transit.

5. Using car pools or van pools.

6. Using a more efficient car.

7. Using a motorcycle or moped instead of a car.

8. Using a bicycle.

Of these, work at home (1), four day work week (2), and car pools (5) seem to be the lowest cost alternatives, since they do not require the addition of any other infrastructure, and do not require moving. Using a bicycle (8) is also inexpensive, and gives a person exercise as well. More use of public transit (4) requires infrastructure investment and a longer time frame. In a credit constrained environment, they may not be as feasible.

Leverage your efforts. When I discuss the issue with family and friends, I ask them to imagine that gasoline is $10/gal. How much would that impact them? Then I point to the patterns of gasoline prices over the past few years, and argue that the odds are very high that gasoline prices will continue to go up. Therefore, they should plan ahead by making sure to put fuel efficiency at the top of the priority list the next time they look for a car. I have managed to talk several people into downsizing vehicles, and I don't know anyone who regrets it.

Why not repeat the success of the Internet. Change from devices to networks to manage highly repetitive travel with PodCars, as discussed at the ASPO meeting. Automate the commuting processes with ultra-light, non-stop vehicles. This was not on the list of options. TOD needs to be open to alternatives. More of what is not working will not likely work.

Smaller cars (one ton instead of two tons) still waste vast amounts of energy moving parasitic mass (mass not cargo or passengers). Current automobiles are less than 4% efficient. At best they will never get more than 10% efficient. There is no such thing as a fuel efficient car.

In the next 6 years we can
increase public transportation by 20%, cutting oil and congestion and emission.

Well, I

1. Work four days a week. This was genuinely to spend more time with my family. That was more valuable to me than the extra money.

2. Share one (compact) car with my family of four. Does 45 (UK) mpg average.

3. Have kids (age 4 and 5) that walk or cycle to school most days.

4. Have a disabled wife who uses an electric tricycle for short journeys.

5. Cycle to work every day, all weathers.

6. Use the bus at the weekends as it is cheaper than the car parking charges (for one or two people staying more than a couple of hours)

7. Have hired a large vehicle once in the last five years to carry more people in comfort.

8. Get bulk groceries delivered once a month by the supermarket.

but I

9. Moved further away from work (from two to four miles) because the area was better to bring kids up in. (and has a strong green movement). At least that way I get more exercise cycling...

Any other suggestions?

Hello RalphW,
I live in a college town where the enlightened University and town have FREE buses so as not to clog traffic and parking. The busline runs past midnight! I can walk, ride the bus or bike into town. I walk to the grocery store (6 minutes). I car share if I need a car. Haven't used it in nearly two months.

Have had 3 bikes stolen this last year, two were locked and one was stolen right off my porch during a rain storm and forgot to lock it when bringing in groceries. The Mayor had his moped stolen right out of his driveway this week(the robbers must have rolled up and put it in a truck or van).

When living in Holland a few years ago, I was acutely aware of theft of bikes there. They ride crappy single speed bikes (no hills)Americans would throw out. They have two locks on every bike. Theft is a major problem so they deal with it by using bikes that are low in value and difficult to steal. They also have an indoor bike "parking lot" where you are given a ticket that matches the one on your bike and you have to show it before you leave(good if you take the train somewhere and you want your bike to be there when you get back).

I am 54 and adjusting to bike riding took abit of time. When riding a bike you have to be very aware of your surroundings and it took a bit of time to become comfortable in traffic.

One of the things bikes are NOT good for is carrying loads. If the loads are bulky or imbalanced it made the bike dangerous to ride....

I am curious about the trike your wife uses. IMHO these vehicles could have an electric motor added, could carry cargo without balance and stability being thrown off and would be easier than riding a 2 wheeled bike for older and health challenged individuals.

What kind of trike does your wife use?

tracy

Hi Tracy,

Yup I live in a university city as well. The university bans undergraduate students from bringing cars to the city, but our buses are expensive and limited service in the evenings/sundays.

Bike thefts are very widespread here. I don't leave a bike in the city centre or near a pub on a Friday/Saturday night, because it will be smashed in situ even if the drunk can't break the locks.

There are loads of bike designs for carrying loads. for example
http://www.cyclesmaximus.com/
http://www.xtracycle.com/

This is what my wife uses. OK for modest loads. (She is coy about her age...)
http://www.electricbikesales.co.uk/shop/index.php?act=viewProd&productId...

This is my favourite possession. 50 litre box to carry groceries. Unfortunately out of production and spares hard to find.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=nShYV5nsi0Q
It also has the advantage of being unstealable because no-one else can ride it :)

Hi Tracy,

Cargo bikes are the up and coming bikes these days. For example, the Yuba, Bakfiets, and the Xtracycle. In my mind, these cargo bikes are car replacers.

I have an Xtracycle (which is a regular bicycle with an attachment on the back). With it, I can carry just about anything I would put in the trunk of a small car. For example, up to 6 bags of groceries (although I rarely buy that much at one time), the produce I buy weekly from the locally grown network in town (recently has included pumpkins and lots of winter squash), an office chair (taken apart), or purchases from a series of stores (just normal day-to-day stuff).

There's something very empowering about carrying so much stuff, especially if one is a woman. It looks like something really hard, but these bikes are designed to carry the weight in a way that keeps the bike steady. Then, you just need low gears, but not as low as you would expect. I enjoy seeing pickup pass me carrying less stuff than I am.

One of the things bikes are NOT good for is carrying loads.

Here in Africa necessity is the mother of invention....

Malawi is one of the most bike-intensive societies I have seen. The energy situation is "interesting" and vastly different to that in the rich North: http://www.ecoafrica-travel.com/2008/09/08/malawi-energy/

One of the things bikes are NOT good for is carrying loads. If the loads are bulky or imbalanced it made the bike dangerous to ride....

I got a two child trailer by Schwin for $150 for my kid to ride in behind my bicycle. (I think those 'saddle seats' raise the center of gravity way to high) The trailer works great. He weighs about 35 lbs but it says it is good for two 50 lbs kids. I hardly know it is behind me when we ride. The biggest trouble is the trailer is a little wide and I tend to cut corners on the trails and the kid goes 'off roadin'.

I have seen other trailers or rear wheel extensions that seem to work pretty well too. I would strongly recommend a trailer if anyone wants to haul or carry stuff, like groceries.

Many in the US have moved farther away from work, too. But here we don't mean going from 2 to 4 miles. Often it's 10 to 20 or more. I wish we had a better attention to compact development.

That's the ultimate infrastructure investment: Getting cities denser.

God bless you Ralph W! Amerka is not at war for YOUR oil, nor are the icecaps melting because of your lifestyle choices. You are a real patriot, not all the idiots with made-in-China "Support our Troops" ribbons on their gas hogs.

May we all inspire many more - 300 million, say - to go and do likewise.

In August 2005 I began using the new "express bus" service that was offered (in addition to the fact that my employer is an underwriter of the program and gives me free access to the bus as a benefit). At the time I was also carpooling and so, on my non-carpooling days I usually rode the bus.

My two two carpool buddies have both had babies and altered their work-schedules (more teleworking) and I have been riding the bus much of the time. I can typically go about 4 weeks on a 16 gallon tank of gas (though I can stretch that even further).

When I do drive my car to work, it is usually to be able to run a collection of errands at lunch all at once and because there are some places the bus or the bus schedule does not allow me to reach fairly easily.

It has made a remarkable difference in my gasoline consumption and our buses are running about 2/3rds to 3/4ths full on most of the runs. In a couple of years, when our offices move, it will become even more convenient as it will require just a single bus from the park-and-ride without the connection to the city bus at the end of the express bus route.

I think we need to look at different financial models for ownership of 'public' transport by local businesses and people. A large local employer could run a bus service for its workers with drop offs/ collections at other transport hubs. If as a company you have 100 workers each wanting a pay rise to pay increased transport costs it would be cheaper to pay for transport rather than giving pay rises (although given the current climate that would be tricky)

Providing secure on site recharging for electric transport would also be a good move by an employer looking to help its workers.

Electric bikes / scooters costing less than one years worth of commuting petrol and doing 50 miles for less than the cost of a hot drink are going to be taken up like hot cakes. A 20 mile commute switched to electric will save about 400 gallons a year.

I have noticed a tendency for our County (probably the largest local employer) to centralize services near the major city. This has reduced overhead costs for local government, but increased the cost to County employees and the people they serve. Similar trends have occurred in business, a kind of externalization of transportation costs. This puts everyone in a pickle now because County (and other) social services are in greater demand than ever and yet those needing them most have the hardest time getting to distant offices.

In the short term I would say that 1 and 2 are the best bets, but decentralization is needed over the long term. Local businesses and governments need to look at the needs of each population center and try to meet them where they are. Some good examples include Cuba placing a health clinic within every neighborhood and the ubiquitous neighborhood grocery store in Europe. Also, busing kids (or more likely driving kids) to large schools might need to give way to neighborhood schools.

I think you are right. Ultimately decentralization is what is needed to reduce transportation costs.

We need neighborhood schools that kids can walk to and small local offices for businesses. Perhaps some of these could be in the unnecessary large homes we have scattered all over.

Decentralized is the wrong model. EVERYTHING will NOT be within walking/biking distance.

I agree with neighborhood schools for k-6 or perhaps K-8, but a fairly high population density is required to put high schools within walking/bicycling distance of everyone.

The better model is a chain of TOD centers along Urban Rail. Much of what you need is within walking distance, but other choices and more are at other TOD nodes.

I am 4 blocks from a barber, but I use another barber 4 miles Uptown, one block from the streetcar line. If I need to go to a public library, I either walk 1.3 miles or take the streetcar to the main library or a branch (often I walk one way and take the streetcar the other). Tulane and Loyola libraries are 3 and 4 blocks from the streetcar.

I can go for months quite happily within a 3 mile radius of my home (I admit that it is an extraordinary 3 mile radius, but that is what I chose).

And simply scrapping most of Suburbia (see what the USA did from 1950 to 1970 to downtowns and many well built (unlike Suburbia) neighborhoods). The topsoil was been destroyed, miles and miles of wide roads, sewers, water mains are required to support low density populations (just think how far water and sewage have to be pumped), low density populations are inherently energy inefficient to service (home health care, police, US Mail, UPS, pizza delivery, plumbers, etc.).

Many large metropolitan areas can only support a few locations of many specialty businesses and these should be easily accessible by Urban rail. Hospitals come to mind, but also central post offices, courts, plumbing supply houses (for items Lowes does not carry), bakeries (bread, not cupcakes), dairies, printing, etc.

One of my pet peeves is the relocation of central post-offices from downtown to remote Suburbia, reachable only by driving.

Best Hopes for MORE centralization,

Alan

Suburbia cannot be adapted to small farms, the topsoil has been scrapped away (and what is left has been concreted over, poisoned, etc.)

Suburban McMansions cannot be efficiently transformed into neighborhood schools, remote offices, bakeries, etc. They are poorly built (once the design life till major maintenance was 30 years, now 20 years) and the floor plans, lighting, plumbing, etc. will make tearing down and rebuilding more cost effective than remodeling an aged building (near major maintenance) into a "sub-optimum" layout at a "sub-optimum" location.

And if rebuilt, why not rebuild a couple of blocks away from an Urban Rail stop instead ?

It depends a lot on how much resources we have.

If we have close to as much resources as we have now, Alan's model works. If we skip that level, because the credit crunch takes out most electricity, for example, it won't work at all. If we can somehow keep things together, it may work for a while, but long term, it doesn't work.

One of my concerns is that we "aim too high". One possibility is that we will spend our remaining resources trying to build something that might have worked in 2008, but by the time it finally gets built in 2020, won't work with what we still have available then. We will have trains to take people to jobs in the financial sector which no longer exist. There may not be enough food produced and shipped to the cities to keep them going. Lack of electricity is likely to affect basic services like the New York City subway system.

It seems like we would be better off using our remaining resources assuming we will not be able to keep massive infrastructure of whatever type maintained (roads and bridges, electric transmission wires, trains with imported parts) for very long.

My response

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/systems/toronto.arch/resource/...

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/systems/toronto.arch/resource/...

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/systems/toronto.arch/resource/...

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/systems/toronto.arch/resource/...

Amidst the social collapse of Liberia and Cambodia (two doomer nightmares), the railroads were still used by homemade bamboo railcars. There are reports that villagers resisted those that tried to tear up the tracks for scrap because of their utility.

So, in a worst case, rail is STILL useful, and it will be useful under just about any scenario short of Cambodia & Liberia.

Modern rail is VERY long lived (50-100+ years) and, compared to maintaining bridges & roads, far less material intensive for it's value.

Abandon interstate highways and maintaining streets and devote the resources that would have been used to maintain rubber tire infrastructure (other than light duty bike paths) and devote those resources to building new rail if we are truly short of resources (which we are not today).

The following projects could be "throwing dirt" in 12 to 36 months.

http://www.lightrailnow.org/features/f_lrt_2007-04a.htm

*IF* we are facing collapse in the near future, stop fixing roads today and devote every available penny to building rail today.

Alan

BTW, just outside of Sacramento is the Siemens light rail vehicle factory. Alsthom has a major plant in upstate New York, etc. Bombardier is Canadian.

GE, EMD (former GM, now Warren Buffet owns half) and Brookville make locomotives in the USA.

We could "make do" with domestic, if sometimes foreign owned, resources

*If* you want to reduce the risk of social collapse, then promoting renewable energy (and perhaps some nuke) and electrified rail that trades 20 BTUs of gasoline or diesel for one BTU of electricity is a sensible and prudent strategy.

Trying to salvage Suburbia, throwing good resources after bad, seems a good way to accelerate decline.

A total absence of electricity is unlikely IMHO. Rotating blackouts (avoiding electrified rail and focusing on households) is much more likely. France uses 2.3% of their electricity for transportation (those TGVs are hogs at 300 kph, slow them down to 200 kph, France would not collapse, and TGV electrical consumption should drop by half and overall transportation should be below 2%).

Switzerland uses 3% of it's transportation energy to move 1/3rd of the ton-miles and 1/6th of the pax-miles by electrified rail.

Alan

It is interesting how quickly discussions on this forum quickly devolve from personal plans to use a bit less energy to apocalypse.

I am not sure how we got from trying to reduce commuting costs to a complete collapse of finance, social services, agriculture, and other vital industries. I really think that these are two topics and don't belong in the same discussion.

It is clear that patterns of development that have occurred since the 1950's (some 60 years or so) and have been accelerating are very energy inefficient. It might well be that much of what was built in the last 20 years is not supportable and will be abandoned simply because it is entirely dependent on personal vehicles for transport. Very low density developments that are far from city centers are very difficult to service using any other transportation method.

Even for the worst of these developments, some parts are within easy walking distance of major transportation corridors and some parts aren't. It should be possible to service the parts that are close to major transportation corridors. It would make sense to densify these areas. This change in development patterns is not rocket science. All I am suggesting is that areas along transit corridors will densify with the greatest density occurring near major transit stops with lesser density between transit stops. Areas that are not within walking distance of transit will have far less density and are likely to be far less desirable.

Surprisingly, the market is in fact starting to recognize this pattern. The mortgage crisis and real estate crash is not occurring everywhere, but is concentrated in areas that have poor transit and very low densities.

Trains are not the only answer for transit. A full range of capacities is required to match demand to capacity. Everything from jitney cabs to small buses to full sized buses to extended buses to light rapid transit to heavy transit solutions are required.

In addition, creativity to segregate ridership by how far patrons are going will have to be used. The days of only using buses that stop at every corner are probably numbered. Intelligent use of express buses to segregate the load are also required.

It is obvious that settlement patterns will have to change drastically over the next 20 or 30 years. Perhaps it is fortunate that much of the development in the suburbs and ex-urban areas is shoddy and won't last much longer than that anyway.

These changes are large, but not cause for complete despair. We are so wasteful energy that we could cut our use by 50% and still not seriously impair our lifestyle.

It is interesting how quickly discussions on this forum quickly devolve from personal plans to use a bit less energy to apocalypse.

Gail's post was:

It depends a lot on how much resources we have.

If we have close to as much resources as we have now, Alan's model works. If we skip that level, because the credit crunch takes out most electricity, for example, it won't work at all. If we can somehow keep things together, it may work for a while, but long term, it doesn't work.

One of my concerns is that we "aim too high". One possibility is that we will spend our remaining resources trying to build something that might have worked in 2008, but by the time it finally gets built in 2020, won't work with what we still have available then. We will have trains to take people to jobs in the financial sector which no longer exist. There may not be enough food produced and shipped to the cities to keep them going. Lack of electricity is likely to affect basic services like the New York City subway system.

It seems like we would be better off using our remaining resources assuming we will not be able to keep massive infrastructure of whatever type maintained (roads and bridges, electric transmission wires, trains with imported parts) for very long.

My counterpoint is that this is nonsense.

In extremis, if we are only able to produce 1/8th (12.5%) of todays electricity, we could devote a tenth of that to electrified rail (1.25% of current US electrical production) to electrified rail and the remainder to essential services (sewage, minimal lighting, industrial, energy efficient cooking) and still maintain an industrial society (one without air conditioning, electric hair dryers, electric hot water heaters and a TV in every home).

I also pointed out that any rail we build in the next 5, 10 or 15 years will be useful under almost any scenario, even scenarios of social collapse (not that I expect social collapse).

If we are to abandon anything today, it should be Suburbia. No more good resources after bad.

Addressing the balance of your post, I have pointed to the suburbs of Boston, served by commuter rail, as viable models of Rail Suburbs. Walkable communities of mainly well built housing, with over half the employment locally, and clustered around the rail station.

The energy efficiency of fossil fuel buses do not make them very viable post-Peak Oil. Specialty gap fillers, and feeders to urban rail; maybe. They cannot carry the bulk of the people transportation load.

Best Hopes,

Alan

It seems like if you have electric trains, you really want them to be dual fuel. That way if there isn't electricity, they can still run. We had railroads many years ago, but they weren't electric. I believe they were coal.

Electric railroads are inherently dual fuel. One can always run diesel under wire (all freight on the 104 mile electrified rail from Philadelphia to Harrisburg is diesel, too short to justify a changeover).

My "7 year plan" is to electrify 20% of the track miles, carrying about 80% of the ton-miles. The old locos will still be around for some decades, operating on the un-electrified track. And electrified rail lines always keep a few diesels around for rescue locos.

However, even in nations with routine blackouts (see China and South Africa in recent years), I have NEVER heard of a single instance of them blacking out rail.

Even the Paris Metro, under German occupation, when coal and electricity were diverted from French homes for the German war effort, the Germans still let the Metro run.

The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the world's most strategic RR by at least one order of magnitude. Russia could not hold onto Siberia without it ! Yet is was completely electrified in 2002. Putin is very concerned about security, but electrification is not considered a risk.

Too little electricity used and far too much value produced.

That is the key, too little electricity used by electrified rail to matter. And too much value created.

I do know that when Washington DC had brownouts and blackouts during a heat wave, DC Metro slowed to 40 mph to save electricity (vs. 55 mph top speed normally). My feeling was that this was more a PR stunt, but perhaps not. But DC Metro was never browned or blacked out.

After the San Francisco earthquake, they got the streetcars running the next day (at 3 mph through the tracks twisted by the earthquake and hurriedly realigned). On the day after the earthquake, supposedly all of the available electricity in SF was diverted to the street and cable cars.

If there is ANY electricity, electrified rail will get most or all that they need. People may be dying of heat stroke for lack of air conditioning in homes ill suited for life without a/c, but electrified rail will get what it needs. And all it needs is 1% or 2% of the electricity.

Meeting a/c demand in a heat wave can take over half of the electricity. That used by electrified rail will simply not make a difference, too small.

As of 2006, all of the New York subways, Amtraks' Northeast Corridor, Long Island RR, BART, subways in Chicago, Philly, Boston, DC, LA, Miami, Atlanta, Baltimore and light rail everywhere took only 0.19% of US electricity. About as much as hair dryers. Or about two month's typical growth in demand. And the USA gets about 7% of it's electricity from hydro, another 3% from other renewables and 19% from nukes.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html
(other renewables was 2.4% in 2006, but has grown since then).

I hope this clarifies why I am not that concerned about a lack of electricity.

Alan

Long haul diesel rail fuel efficiency is typically 436 ton-miles per gallon. That is a spectacular efficiency and a model for how to use fossil fuels efficiently. Electrifying such efficiency, combining the cost to mine, make, string and protect the copper wire with transmission losses to operate, would result in a net energy increase.

Resources should be focuses on increasing urban public transportation where we move a person at 18 miles per gallon.

Converting from diesel fuel trains to electric trains trades 2.5 BTUs of diesel (rural plains) for 1 BTU of electricity. In mountainous & urban areas, the trade is 3 to 1 because of regenerative braking (electric motors run in reverse as electrical generators, recycling the energy as they slow, just as Urban Rail does).

I not not propose# the French goal of "electrifying every meter" and "burning not one drop of oil" to run our railroads. Rather I propose a crash program to electrify the main lines, 20% of the track miles and about 80% of the ton-miles (Pareto principle), in 7 years. Simply electrifying should increase capacity by roughly 15% (faster acceleration and braking > tighter headways).

There is no need to electrify a spur to an Iowa grain elevator that may see a dozen trains/year.

For a main line that sees 50 trains a day, the 2.5:1 or 3:1 ratio in energy savings (and the switch from oil to multiple source electricity) clearly makes sense. It is not that expensive to electrify (in 2004 $, $2.5 million/mile, so the EROEI should be good).

OTOH, electrifying that Iowa spur to a grain elevator is probably both a poor economic and energy investment.

Alan

# Once we electrify the main lines, a non-crash program of electrification should continue on an individual line and spur basis.

Is it practical to switch engines on electrified rails and non-electrified rails?

Converting from diesel fuel trains to electric trains trades 2.5 BTUs of diesel (rural plains) for 1 BTU of electricity.

Your point is to double efficiency, which is good. But in terms of priority, there is at 240X (240 times; 436 ton-miles per gallon freight rail divided by 18 200 pound person miles per gallon in urban transport; 2000*436/18*299) efficiency difference between long-haul freight and commuters.

Efforts to make commuting as efficient as long-haul freight seem a priority with much greater returns.

Converting freight from heavy trucks to electrified rail will trade 20 BTUs of diesel for one BTU of electricity.

We *KNOW* this technology works, there are over 100,000 km of electrified rail in operation in every climate and Switzerland made the "big switch" in the 1920s (some single lines earlier).

Most nations operate a mix of electrified and non-electrified rail, few are 100% or almost 100% electrified. So not an issue.

An appendix to my "Multiple Birds - One Silver BB" TOD article listed the % by nation (source Indian Railways).

Alan

I agree that shifting from trucks to freight rail will add efficiency. But there are not rails everywhere trucks go.

How are your efforts going to convince rail companies to electrifying existing freight rail? It seems that if it can improve their profits they might be willing to invest.

Trains don't have to go everywhere. You just need an intermodal container transfer facility (ICTF), a siding and a crane (or monster forklift) and space to stack containers, near (75 miles) the point of origin and destination. US oil imports are about equal to transportation use of petroleum; our domestic production covers the rest. 1/6 of transportation use is rail and another 1/6 is trucks. Intermodal containers (and road railers) make it easy to move cargo by both rail and truck (and ship for intermodal containers). The sensible approach is to use trucks for the "last mile". And this is often done on longer trips but there are still many long haul shipments being done by truck. From the fuel use, we can estimate that 80% of freight miles are done via train. But a study on I-81 shows that half of the trucks were still on long haul journeys (over 500 miles). If you cut truck use by half, that gets to 90% and eliminates 8% of our fuel usage.

We already have 50% of the domestic fuel consumption for ground freight on trains (with the possibility to improve that to perhaps 75%). It is much easier to move trains off petroleum than trucks.

The US BTS Commodity Flow Survey has some statistics for all modes of transport:
54% of ton miles are shipments over 500miles (the nominal threshold for intermodal)
78% of ton miles are shipments over 250miles
40% of ton miles are by truck only
40.2% of ton miles are by train only
0.2% by air
9.0% by water
7.2% are intermodal (1.5% truck/rail, 1.0% truck/water, 3.7 rail/water, 0.6% USPS/UPS/etc., 0.7% other multiple mode).
1.4% unknown mode.

The amount of intermodal seems low but that might have to do with what constitutes the beginning and end of a particular shipment.

21.9% of ton-miles are coal (120 miles average). 8.4% are grain (138 miles average). But those aren't going very far. At first, it seemd I may have been too optimistic about the addition traffic that can go by rail/truck intermodal. It seems that interstate shipments weren't indicative of the overall pattern for truck shipments (an awful lot of ton miles aren't going very far or are already on rail) from the impressions I got from the survey. And they don't have truck shipments broken down by distance in the report.

However, another agency does.

Truck Shipments
Distance Ton-miles (million)
Total 1,255,908
<50 98,671
50-99 74,521
100-259 181,888
250-499 225,526
500-749 179,851
750-999 132,964
1000-1499 163,825
1500-2000 114,645
>2000 84,018

Thus, 53% of all truck shipments are going over 500 miles (which does agree with the interstate numbers, after all) and thus are good candidates for intermodal. An additional 17% are over 250 miles. If going to intermodal reduces truck miles to 150, then assuming the middle distance in each range and only 2000 miles for the top range, we get a 56% reduction in total truck miles by moving all shipments over 250 miles to intermodal. Shipments may have to go a bit further since the nearest intermodal transfer facility may not be on-route but the extra mileage will be on carbon-free grid energy.

This assumes that the average distance to an IMTF is 75 miles. Some more some less. More remote areas are likely to have fewer shipment tons, so those areas will have less weight in the average. So some areas can be more than 150 miles from the nearest IMTF.

I believe you are correct that long-haul rail has a great future. If the investment in electrification is worth it, I believe the rail companies will electrify their rails to increase their profits.

Roughly 180,000 miles of railroad put a rail line close to just about everywhere with people (except Hawaii and Puerto Rico) and "not that far" for even lightly populated areas.
Abandoned ROWs can be put back into service where needed.

Virginia pays for new rail spurs as an industrial incentive and to get trucks off the road.

BNSF, on their own, is very seriously looking at electrification. My efforts are having some impact elsewhere.

However, some of my time and efforts are wasted combating gadgetbahn like jPods, reducing the time I can spend on positive change and mitigation.

Alan

Spend your time as you wish. I think it is wasted both fighting Podcars and long-haul rail. Both are efficient and efficiency is needed.

Your efficiency comparision fails to consider the far greater freight payload than passenger payload. Trains and trucks each carry the equivalent of over 42,000 passenger miles per year, total freight per person would be equivalent to driving 100,000 passenger miles per year. Cars also have an average occupancy of 1.57 people, which you left out in your calculation. So ultimately, trains and trucks use about as much fuel as cars. And you overlooked that the existing rail network is much easier to upgrade than replacing 300million cars and 70 times cheaper per mile of track than building new light rail.

See my other comments on this diary.

Correction. I had been using a statistic a while back that said that rail and trucks each used 1/6 of transportation sector energy. Apparently, this is true for trucks but not rail. Good numbers are hard to find. According to EIA, trucks use 16.3% but freight rail uses 1.9% and passenger rail uses 0.14%. Thus savings from moving rail to electric are less than I thought but the savings from electrifying rail and moving half of truck freight onto rail are considerable, 1.9% for rail plus 16.3%*3/4*0.5=6.1% = 8% total savings using 4:1 fuel economy difference suggested by ton-miles/gallon figures. But since rail and truck carry about the same amount of freight, these energy numbers suggest a 8.58:1 ratio which would boost the savings to 7.2% of total transportation energy for moving trucks to rail plus 1.9% for the original rail or 9.1% total.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/pdf/appendixes.pdf

It is often claimed that electrifying our (US) entire mainline railroad network would be prohibitively expensive. That is not true.

While freight rail has very good ton-miles per gallon, it carries so much freight that it uses 1/6 of the transportation fuel. The cost of electrifying the rail lines and adding pantographs to the locomotives is much lower than the cost of the power plants that supply the power. It is also more than an order of magnitude cheaper to bring electricity to existing rail than to bring new rail to passengers. It costs $200K to electrify one mile of track (plus power plant costs, i.e. fuel costs) but one mile of new light rail track costs an average of $35 million. Track electrification costs less than outright replacing roughly 0.5% of passenger vehicles with priuses which would only reduce gas consumption by roughly 0.15% but freight electrification will cut petroleum imports by around 16%. Replacing cars after they wear out improves the economics. A single 5% one time price increase on freight, continued for 10 years, would cover the cost of electrifying the rail without borrowing money; by comparison, fuel costs have been raising rates by 5% each year which over the same ten year period is a 63% hike and that doesn't stop after 10 years. You can electrify all 140K miles of existing mainline, and convert the locomotives, for about $35billion - the price of only 1000 miles of new light rail.

Rail electrification is picking the low hanging fruit first.

I have analyzed 100% mainline electrification (140K miles) in a number of comments on dailykos.

To get 80% of the train traffic requires upgrading 50% of the track (the high traffic density mainline), not 20% as another commenter suggested. My calculations are based on upgrading not 50% but 100% of the mainline track, leaving sidings which would account for a trivial amount of fuel use un-electrified. By covering 80% of the traffic you would need 80% of the generating capacity (which is the primary cost), to cover the other 20% is only about 25% additional cost. The average freight rail journey is somewhere around 1000 miles so a couple miles of siding at the endpoints of the journey are insignificant.

On the most used 50% of the line, each mile of electrified track will see at least 20 million (gross?) tons of freight per year. Suppose it took 1 ton of equipment every 53 feet, that would be 100 tons per mile or 500,000 times less than the traffic that mile sees every year. Each mile of high traffic density track (at 700 gross ton-miles per gallon) uses at least 28571 gallons of diesel fuel per year producing 87tons of CO2 emissions per year. 100 tons of steel for catenary infrastructure would be 180 (pipe) to 283 (wire) tons of CO2 emissions. Thus, the CO2 payback time would be around 3 years - on the least used part of the high density half. Payback on the least used half would take longer but would still help keep price escalation of fuel in check. The cost of the electrification is about 2 years worth of fuel cost at $4/gallon and the cost of producing the electricity using nuclear plants would be roughly half the diesel fuel cost, if fuel prices stayed at $4/gallon.

If failroads can improve their profits by electrifying rails, why are they not doing it? They are "for profit companies."

Railroads pay no taxes, none, on their diesel and they pay high property taxes on infrastructure like electrification. Traditionally, railroads are appraised at unfairly high levels by local taxing authorities (free money from non-voters in their POV).

Railroads after WW II often tore up perfectly good second tracks to lower their property tax bills, operating with one track instead of two.

"The Meadowlands" in New Jersey (NY Giants stadium, etc.) were once massive rail switching yards for NYC port, but high property taxes forced their abandonment.

Alan

Alan says:

Trying to salvage Suburbia, throwing good resources after bad, seems a good way to accelerate decline.

We can keep Suburbia accessible with motorcycles and very small cars and electric cars.

Heating is more of a problem. But sitting in SoCal near the ocean I can tell you that heating is not necessary in some parts of the US and world.

As for services to Suburban homes: Sufficiently raise the costs of moving plumbers, appliance repair people, and the like and I can see many ways for the market to respond. One way: Cross-train repair people. A single person can drive far fewer miles to do all repairs because they can stop at once house to fix a fridge and another house to unplug the sink plumbing.

I see many many ways to adjust to higher energy costs.

Very small scooters and electric cars (several GEMs in use in New Orleans) work best in a low speed urban environment. The distances and speeds required for all but the oldest/closest suburbs work against them.

Commute 48 miles each day (2x24) by scooter on high speed roads or move to walkable TOD ? For those not already already in Suburbia with an upside down mortgage, that is a no brainer !

Multitasking repair people, perhaps. But where do they get specialty repair parts ?

Provide one day/week postal delivery in Suburbia and 6 days/week in dense urban areas should balance the energy requirements of the two.

And those miles of water and sewer lines (both requiring pumping energy) will not go away.

Perhaps some of those many acres of streets will. I have wondered just how many acres of paving (streets, parking lots, driveways, garages, sidewalks, auto dealers & repair) there is for every Suburbanite ?

Best Hopes for Less Suburbia,

Alan

... TGVs are hogs at 300 kph, slow them down to 200 kph, France would not collapse, and TGV electrical consumption should drop by half

While I agree that the TGV consumes considerably more at 300 km/h than at 200 km/h, indeed you are correct in suggesting it is about double, it is important to keep in mind how efficient the TGV is even at 300 km/h. The TGV Atlantique on the section Paris - St. Pierre des Corps, with two intermediate stops and a top speed of 300 km/h (average speed 240 km/h), consumes 22.0 kWh/train-km. Over the section St. Pierre des Corps to Bordeaux, with four intermediate stops and a top speed of 220 km/h (average speed 144 km/h), energy consumption drops to 13.2 kWh/train-km.

Now, to put that in perspective, see my calculation at http://strickland.ca/efficiency.html

The TGV Atlantique has 485 seats. If it averages 60% full, then it's carrying 291 passengers. Divide the above by 291 and you get 76 Wh/passenger-km and 45 Wh/passenger-km. Expressed in gasoline-equivalent passenger-miles per gallon, that is, respectively, 275 passenger-mpg and 460 passenger-mpg.

Calling a vehicle that gets 275 passenger-mpg an energy hog is, I think, a bit unfair. Note that this is assuming a 60% load factor - with all seats filled the figure is 459 passenger-mpg. The "slow" TGV (220 km/h), when full, would be 767 passenger-mpg.

Take an incredibly fuel-efficient car that does 55 mpg (at 100 km/h) and fill it with 5 adults and you get the same efficiency as the 60% full TGV Atlantique at 300 km/h. At triple the speed and 40% empty the TGV still is as efficient as the most efficient cars filled with five passengers. Make the comparison more fair and the TGV wins, hands down.

Calculations based on table on page 74 of
http://www.inrets.fr/infos/cost319/MEETDeliverable17.PDF

The other point is that, while it may be far more efficient to slow the TGVs down, given today's realities the high speed is a necessary feature and probably saves energy on the whole. Why? Because the alternative, generally, is flying. Shift even a small percentage of the TGV's market share to air travel on the same route and you have a net increase in energy costs.

Now, if you assume a severely energy-constrained world, this will not be an issue as air travel will simply cease to be a viable alternative. Energy use by trains, as noted, can be dramatically reduced by cutting speed. The same cannot be said for aircraft. Indeed, over "short hops" (e.g. Paris-Bordeaux), jet-powered aircraft can do almost nothing to reduce their energy usage, as very little time is spent at cruise altitude. Jet engines are dramatically less efficient at lower altitudes.

Good work ! I uprated you.

However, Gail is arguing that we cannot find enough electricity to run electrified rail.

*IF* society runs short of electricity, one of the steps is not to black-out electrified rail, but slow it down. (As DC Metro went from a top speed of 55 mph to 40 mph during a summer heat wave).

Alan

One fifth of our electricity comes from nukes. Half comes from coal. Why will this stop in the next 10 years?

Why would a credit crunch cause electric power plants to stop working? They wouldn't be able to afford the coal? But if demand drops so will prices. What would cause a massive collapse in electric power production? Collapsing demand or collapsing ability to produce?

Some points to consider:

1) Telecommuting is fine, but remember that heating costs for the home will likely rise as it has to be kept comfortable for longer. Local home-based 'telecottaging' can be better, and more social.

2) Flexi-time and missing the queues of traffic can cut costs for those that have to drive.

3) VR/video conferencing rather than physical meetings can cut long journey, and in particular flying.

I keeps wondering how much of this telecommuting work is real work? How many jobs where video conferencing might work will still be around? Yes, I do all of the above 3, but still suspect it will be only a short time before the profile of work changes. Even this small financial mess is causing - or being blamed for - lots of job loss.

cfm in Gray, ME

Well one picture that Telecommuting paints for me is a way for people whose physical labor is at/near home, maybe running a small shop or farm (furniture/carpentry , mechanical repair or fabr., food production), and they have the backup job(s) that are desk-based (writing, legal, consulting, internet sales, political office, online-teaching? etc..), and could be done with their own devised flex-time, also at home.

Sure, there are plenty of positions in the current economy that are probably superfluous, but I don't agree with any suggestion that the only valid tasks to be done are hands-on. Telephony, Internet and such long-distance connections do offer a valuable opportunity for us to handle trade, diplomacy, cultural interaction and any number of other exchanges that have historically required a great amount of travel. It also provides work and contact opportunities for younger, older and people with disabilities and mobility problems, so that they can be contributors, where they have so often been isolated..

Best,
Bob

Good point, unless you live in a place with mild weather, heating and cooling your home is a non-trivial expense.

But the energy you're putting into your workspace follows through to your living area. If the building is tight and insulated, the two together would make the best and most economical use of a structure that is otherwise sitting empty and unused for a great fraction of its life.

Of course, in my case our home is my office and workshop, and the apartments for US and two other families, so our oil-furnace expenditure (in this case) is shared among several cooperative needs. Waste heat from my shop in the basement generally will drift up to support the heating of the first floor apartment, and so on up to the third floor.

One can far more easily dress up to stay warm than strip down to stay cool.

I can work in a 50F house with enough clothing and with gloves that have bottom fingertip areas removed for typing. Try it.

I supervise people face-to-face and remote. I find the speed of communication faster face-to-face. One reason is that discussions are much more impromptu. I hear someone in the hallway discussing something I need to know or for which I can contribute solutions. Doesn't happen with my remote people.

I live close to work and I also have an option to work at home. So I am among the lucky ones. Some days I am required to travel to an alternate office. I also am more conscious about the trips I make to the grocery or other stores. Can I combine the trip for other needs, can I delay the trip until a later time when I am in the vicinity the desired destination for some other reason. Since becoming peak oil aware, and more so the price of gas, I don't make frivolous trips in the car. My son does despite my scolding.

I am one who certainly could bike to work...but lack the discipline to make my kids get up early enough and ready for school so that we can all make it to where we need to be on time. I think that for a lot of folks, this will be the case. The busy life does not allow them to make the correct choice when it comes to energy consumption. Call it lazy if you will, undisciplined, or just the way it is.

It all comes down to a way of life for most of us I think. Education, awareness, and ultimately...the realities of energy prices and availability will change us.

In February of this year, I took a job 3 miles from my home, and ended 9 years of a 50 mile each direction commute.

I bicycle to work 3 days a week, although I'll probably drive more during the winter.

This involved about a 10% paycut, but, between the reduction in gas usages (from a 10 gallon fillup twice a week to once a month), the elimination of the need to replace my commuter car (and the elimination of a car payment), I'm breaking even expense wise, and I have close to 2 hours a day of my life back.

My concern is that, facing peak-oil, peak-credit, and worldwide peak food, my job itself (along with the overall economy) is at risk. I suspect we'll be seen energy savings in commutes because far fewer people will be making any type of commute in the coming economy.

Michael

How about more neighborhood coworking sites for telecommuters, freelancers, and others? See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coworking

This is what Wikipedia says about Coworking:

Coworking is an emerging trend for a new pattern for working. Typically work-at-home professionals or independent contractors or people who travel frequently end up working in relative isolation.[1] Coworking is the social gathering of a group of people, who are still working independently, but who share values[2] and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with talented people in the same space.[3][4]

Some coworking spaces were developed by nomadic internet entrepreneurs seeking an alternative to working in coffeeshops and cafes, or to isolation in independent or home offices.[5][6][7]

Business accelerators, business incubators and executive suites do not seem to fit into the coworking model, because they often miss the social, collaborative, and informal[8] aspects of the process, with management practices closer to that of a Cooperative, including a focus on community[9] rather than profit.[10] Many of the coworking participants are also participants in BarCamp[11] and other related open source technology activities.[12][13][14]

See the Wikipedia article for references.

The term in the UK is telecottaging - which I tend to prefer since it sounds more local and quaint than 'co-working'. Plus there is no requirement for those that work together to be working on the same subject area.

That also sounds like it could be something completely different!

Which makes it even better since you can watch the reaction of people when you mention the term....

I work for a metropolitan transportation planning agency as a bicycle & pedestrian & "smart growth" planner. I've been using bicycling as my primary mode all my life, so I haven't changed much. I did purchase a bike with much better cargo capacity (see: http://www.xtracycle.com/ )

For most American cities bicycling is going to have be a major part of the solution. Transit simply cannot efficiently serve the suburban sprawl surrounding our cities. The street network connectivity is awful; most people will have to walk over a mile or more to a bus (if there's a bus available). Reconstructing our cities -- from auto-oriented to transit-oriented -- is expensive work, and with the economy going the way it is, counties and municipalities will be struggling just to maintain the necessities.

Re-orienting development away from sprawl and toward denser, more walkable, mixed use communities can cut down on short car trips. Communities that invest in walkable urban (cf Leinberger) development will be more attractive to employers and employees. Short term behavior changes, toward bikes, walking, transit can be reinforced by good long-term public policy.

12 years ago we very deliberately opted for a very modest home that was closer into Atlanta and two blocks from a MARTA rail station. Everyone thought we were nuts as we could've bought a huge new McMansion only thirty miles out for the same money. Now we're not looking so nutty.

I started cycle commuting five years ago through downtown Atlanta making a commitment to be "car free" two years ago. It's nine miles each way and very hilly with heavy, very cycle-hostile traffic and infrastructure. I've ridden in temperature ranges from 17F to 102F.

We ride with our young children to and from school and my wife has the bug now and even does grocery shopping by bicycle.

I'm 46 with bad knees. It's not a big deal to do this everyday. In fact, it's the most enjoyable part of my day. I should mention that my first knowledge of the Atlanta gas shortage was by reading about it online.

I like this approach. Individuals need to decide to reduce their car dependence. We live about 4 miles from Dayton and this Spring I started to commute by bike as often as I could. We'll see how I do through the winter. I'd like to say I was thinking ahead when we bought in a close, older suburb, but really we were most focused on the schools. It just worked out that way.

It's just too easy to complain about gas prices rather than taking a careful look at how we've set up our lives. People need to take action and get themselves to more walkable bikable communities. www.walkscore.com is a great place to get a sense of the places that are less car-dependent.

Acknowledging that now is a tough time to sell a house and move closer to work, this is what people need to do. And remember, you'll probably get a great deal on the next house you buy.

I've made the same choice myself, but the bigger problem is that there isn't enough housing near work to go around for everybody, or even most people. I rent a small apartment in an expensive neighborhood near work. If even more people wanted to move in, I'd most likely get priced out. Without a concerted effort on the level of city councils and planning commissions to build lots of housing near employment centers, individual choice is irrelevent on the macro level.

#9 Drive more slowly, inflate tires, tuneup engine, etc ...

In view of problems with bicycles being stolen, and the difficulties of storage at work, I am surprised more people don't consider skating.
If you do look at this option though, be very particular about investigating the many options available.

If anyone lives in a densely populated city, and has access to the levers of power, this Taxibus system sounds the best way of getting around I have heard of, and the capital costs would be low compared to a greatly extended bus fleet:
http://www.taxibus.org.uk/

I do some recreational inline skating, and I'd say it's VERY impractical for commuting. You have to be careful on even the smallest bumps because of the small, hard wheels. The weak brakes make any hill descent or emergency stop a white knuckle experience.

A folding bicycle is a good compromise between the speed of a full size bike and easy storage at the office. Most of them are still too big to carry onto a bus though. The bike racks on the bus only take two, and they're filling up much more often these days.

There are skates that are suited to rough terrain which also have hand operated drum brakes:

missing_image

I don't think skating would be a good option for many people because the roads are too rough for it. Even biking can be challenging because of the roads where I live. I used to inline skate along the multi-use path in our city, and even though it was relatively new and smooth, it would still tear up my wheels.

The theft and storage issues are certainly problems that need to be addressed though.

I have become a suburban bicycle commuter, and its been the best lifestyle change I've ever made. I do it as much as possible, and would say that even including the winter I am at 90%. I have good lights for the night (best time to ride!) and studded tires for snow (still new and cautious on the snow, so I do drive more in the winter, but often do a "partial" bike commute on the low-traffic leg to get better at snow riding). My commute is about 7.5 miles each way, and I am fortunate to live less than a quarter mile from a trailhead, and this trail takes me about 1/3 of the way.

We do still have two cars, though I've been thinking about getting rid of my Ford Ranger. I'm on track to use it less than 1000 miles per year. The other car is a Prius, which is used as much as possible if either of us do drive.

We have an electric commuter train system here, the South Shore Line, and it goes right through the entrances to our plant. I've been wondering why there's no stop there? There are over 4,000 people working here, and though the commute from the entrance to the specific buildig one works can be as much as 2 miles, some people leave junkier cars at the entrances anyway (to drive them to their specific buildings). Even better, two miles would probably be just a nice little ride on a compact folding bike that workers could carry with them on the train. I think I'm going to email the train company now about this.

I still don't understand why people are so hung up on sinking so much of their money into cars... it is unbelievable how much America has its head up its ass. We're still hooked on being turbo-consumers. How much good is a Prius doing in Atlanta right now with the gas shortages going on? This is coming from a Prius owner, and a steelworker who is certainly being affected (though accepting) by the lower demand for cars.

It's time we made a choice: either continue literally driving ourselves into the ground, or start actually doing something (more than talking) about alternatives... and I don't mean alternative ways to keep the cars running at all costs. I agree with James Kunstler in that compact, walkable, mixed-use development should be our top priority - where daily transport (and needs, inlcuding work) can be done on foot or at least on bike, and where special long distance travel can be done on trains (preferably electric).

Hi Gail,

As I have posted earlier, I have been vehicle-less for over a year now. I live 70 minutes away from work by bicycle, and I can cycle about 6 months of the year. Some truly dedicated folks will cycle all 12 months in our snow and ice - hats off to them.

The other thing I have done is slowly move all my banking and other transactions to businesses who are in my neighbourhood or along my major bus routes. This has not been as easy as it might have been because my bank of 20 years recently decided to improve service by consolidating functions, closing neighbourhood branches, and moving to a "big-box" mall. It is still on the bus route, but harder to get to. I have been slowly changing things over to the neighbourhood credit union. This has required a fair bit of determination on my part - but I like the results of the changes in my life - more time and more money are now mine.

Regards,

Al

Drive Slower.

What is the point of owning a Prius if you drive it at 80mph? I see it all the time on the interstate. Unless your highway miles are balanced with a good portion of city miles, you probably are not doing much better than a Suburban being driven at 60mph...

Alternative transp. - longboard skateboards are the rage on campuses.

I really doubt a Suburban gets 38 mpg at 60 mph. According to owner reports, a Prius gets mid 40's mpg at 75 mph and drops steeply after that to 38 mpg at 80 mph. That's not much better than a Corolla. I've averaged 36 mpg on road trips that included both heavy traffic and 75-80 mph cruising.

http://digg.com/autos/PROOF_VW_s_Newer_Cheaper_Diesel_Beats_Prius_MPGs?t...

A little hyperbole is fun. ;-)

A data point - I drove a Prius the other day, about a 120 mile trip; the Prius got 59mpg.

I wasn't going 80, that's for sure.

We used to live about 10 miles from where I work, but with traffic it was taking me close to 45 minutes. At the time gas was "soaring" to $1.40 even $1.50. We moved to a neighborhood just a few miles from my office.

Telecommuting isn't an option due to the type of work I do (my physical presence is needed). However my employer is very supportive of alternative transportation and I ride my bike everyday, rain or shine. It's allowed us to go down to one car. My wife and share it and we've not once had a contention problem. It's always there when one of us needs it.

I live too close to make mass transit a viable option. I'd have to talk about half the distance to work just to get to bus stops and riding my bike is much quicker.

I live in the sprawling Houston Texas suburbs, 20 miles from work, there is no local bus service where I live.

I use these options:

1. Carpool. I ride my folding bike to/ from our carpool meeting place. Bike comes with me in the trunk of the car

2. Drive 1/3 of the way to a police station, park the car, ride bike 2/3 of the way to work

3. Bike ride 2/3 of the way, then when I am in the city limits, take the bus to work (bike comes with me... bike racks on buses)

There are many ways to drastically reduce one's fuel consumption. All it requires are imagination, innovation, and a bit of skill.

http://sustainable77095.blogspot.com

Gail
I think an important consideration is the technology which can substitute for physical presence. video plus collaboration tools.

all of your options are less convenient for people, so they will only do it when they are forced to

assuming gas goes to $10 and they are forced to, we have to mitigate loss of productivity. this is critical

Most cities and towns ONLY think of cars when it comes to transportation. Madison, Alabama is clearly that way. As a family we would very much like to ride to work, school, grocery and run other errands on our bicycles. We have both two-wheeled bicycles and a three-wheeled trike that can carry quite a good sized load.

The crux of the problem here, as well as most everywhere I've visited in the southeast, is the city and town planners only set up infrastructure for cars and for cars only. To attempt to ride a bicycle, especially a trike carrying groceries on the streets and roads of Madison and most other towns is to put your life in grave danger. Even when the street is wide, with four lanes and a turning lane, cars will come two abreast and force the bicyclist off the road with a loud horn rather than simply slow down and move over a little. I saw it on County Line road, a wide five-laner, just three days ago. Most drivers consider bicycles a toy!!!

Building wider roads does not help bicyclists, pedestrians or riders of small electric bikes. It only paves the way (literally) for a more car-centric future which unfortunately, due to impending oil shortages and peak oil, may not come to pass. I'm afraid hard earned taxes are being wasted to build an infrastructure that is totally misallocated in terms of what is coming in terms of peak oil. Those large funds, if only a portion, could be put into building bike lanes and bike/pedestrian "paths" across our towns and cities, linking subidvisions to other subdivisions, to schools, shopping, church, etc. Instead, our city leaders and planners only think of building more roads for more cars.

We ride our bikes in our subdivision and are able to get to only one grocery store. I have ridden to work once. It is only six miles and would normally be an easy feat but it proved to be far to dangerous. On the narrow Wal-Triana road with no shoulders and traffic going 40 or 50 MPH in those narrow lanes I can see it only a matter of time of ending up in the hospital, or worse. It isn't worth it.

Our city planners, in our cities and towns, need to be told and told again loudly to start thinking about a future in which alternative forms of transport will be required. This future is coming now. Simple paths connecting neighboring subdivisions would be a start. Bike lanes along otherwise narrow and congested roads would help.

I'm confident many more people will get out and walk or ride to many places in their communities if safer provisions were made. It would improve the health of citizens by providing needed and practical exercise, reduce the smog and reduce our dependence on oil. Until the city planners see this and start building these lanes, unfortunately, we are marooned in our subdivisions or apartment blocks with only our cars as the only viable transport.

In our political world today, we mostly hear "drill baby drill" and "pave baby pave" as in paving and building more roads and highways. When will we finally kick the oil habit? Only when Peak Oil forces the issue? I would like to think we could start changing and doing things now in terms of infrastructure investment that would head off the complete, total fall of industrial civilization that would be certain to come if we continue "business as usual".

Let's try to get our city governments on board to start planning for more bike paths. Thats a start, anyway. Then we can start talking about commuting to work and grocery and other places and keeping the car parked for longer periods.

How about smarter stop lights? How many times have you been sitting at a stop light when no traffic was coming?

Absolutely! I'm betting the reason many stoplights are inefficient is simply because no one takes the time to program them properly. In my area there is one light that is uncanny in its ability to keep traffic flowing quickly no matter what the time of day. Then there are others that are incredibly frustrating. Are there any traffic engineers out there who can speak to this problem?

Better yet, are there cities and towns who have successfully analyzed this problem and made a comprehensive change in how they manage their traffic lights? Can their example be used to convince other cities and towns to change?

I'm betting most cities and towns look at this as an expense issue as it brings in no revenue. Reprograming traffic lights is likely a time consuming effort with diminishing returns as programming time increases.

However, not only do you have the idling waste of fuel you also have the additional deceleration and acceleration fuel use. Death by a thousand cuts:(

What about roundabouts, especially on smaller roads? They take care of the energy (and GHG) cost of stopping and starting at intersections. Care needs to be taken to accommodate cyclists safely, as apparently roundabouts are statistically riskier for bike riders.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundabout

The controllers generally have to be replaced with ones that can talk to each other in the first place, (many of the traffic lights in Portland have vacuum tubes in their controllers.) And then they actually have to be wired so that they do talk to each other which generally requires tearing up the streets to run wires from each intersection to the ones near it. (And that is expensive: $100k/intersection or so.) And then they can be reprogrammed...

In Montreal, the town is developing a network of cycling tracks. These are small lane (bidirectional) separated from the streets by a concrete demarcation. In many places, cars must park ten feet away from the sidewalk because of the place reserved for the cycling lane. There are also a number of racks dedicated for locking your bikes in every commercial streets.

The major problem is winter. The cycling tracks are covered with snow. This doesn't stop some of the cyclist that would keep using their bicycle regardless of weather and amount of snow on the ground.

Every now and then there are demonstrations where some of the more activist cyclists gather and block an intersection to demand more rights for cyclists on the street. There is also an annual event called le Tour de l'Île where thousands of cyclists gather for a day and tour the city just for fun. On that day, many streets must be closed to cars by the police to let the bicycles make their tour. I am sure these demonstrations have helped raise the city official awareness of the population desire for cycling tracks.

The provincial government is developing a long range network of cycling tracks between cities. I know of a couple of disaffected railways that have been converted into cycling tracks.

draffen,

I think the Atlanta area is as bad as Madison. The roads are hilly and there are too many cars for the road. Drivers don't pay much attention to bicycles

When I suggested buying bicycles, my husband said he felt that it was just too dangerous. There is not much of anything we can get to without going over busy streets. Walking is better for that.

Building wider roads does not help bicyclists, pedestrians or riders of small electric bikes. It only paves the way (literally) for a more car-centric future ... I'm confident many more people will get out and walk or ride to many places in their communities if safer provisions were made.

I agree completely. I pretty much stopped riding my bike after getting hit for the second time. (And no, I am not a klutz - in one case the driver was charged). Most roads in most North American cities are unsafe for cyclists, given today's attitudes.

I have been carless by choice - in California, even - but I simply will not regularly ride my bike on city streets because I am not willing to risk severe injury. Such as, for example, happened to a friend over the summer who regularly bikes to work - he got schmucked by a left-turning car and has been in a cast for 4 months so far.

(I am no longer carless - the transit system where I live now is completely, hopelessly inadequate.)

I commute about 7 miles. I'm in a slightly different position: my presence here allows a lot of other people to stay home. I used to think about trying to work from home occasionally. But for the moment, I am one of the employees who live closest to work, and I've kind of embraced my roll as "enabler." It really helps a number of other people to have me here.

We'll see how it goes. I've talked with my neighbor about sharing errands once gas hits $5.

Another option not on your list: Commuting on foot.

I have been walking to and from work for about five months now. I am fortunate in living just 1.7 miles from my workplace. That is a fairly long walk - it takes me 45 minutes - and that is probably about the outer limit of what most people would consider walkable. A lot of people living that distance from their workplace would consider a bicycle instead. That would be a good option for some people. For my particular situation and the particular route I take, walking really works out better for me.

The bad news is that I'm not really saving all that much gasoline, because a drive of only 1.7 miles each way doesn't use up all that much fuel anyway. Where commuting on foot really demonstrated its value was during our recent gasoline shortages. I was not dependent upon gasoline and did not have to worry about it.

A couple of brief suggestions for those walking more than just a few blocks to work:

1) Invest in good footwear.

2) Invest in a good pack; you'll probably be wanting to pack a change of clothes, and maybe a lunch unless there is food service at your worksite. Also get a clip-on red flashing LED light to attach to your pack (you can get these at any bike store).

3) Cache a spare change of clothes at your workplace, "just in case".

4) Invest in a good rain parka - preferably yellow for visibility - and carry it in your pack. Also get a rain cover for your pack.

5) Use a hiking staff. If you are carrying a pack, you are top-heavy, and a staff will help you to keep your ballance, especially if you trip or stumble or have to navigate unpaved, non-level terrain. A hiking staff is also very useful for fending off dogs and other animals (including maybe the human type).

6) I'd also recommend carrying a cell phone and pepper spray even in the safest of neighborhoods, just in case you encounter trouble.

You may not be saving much gasoline, as you say, but you are saving a bunch in carbon emissions. Thank you! I haven't been able to find the statistic I read on how much greater the CO2/mile is on short trips as compared to longer ones. Taking a stab, I seem to remember something like 60% of the CO2 emitted on a 5-mile trip is emitted in the first 60 seconds. Anyone know?

I think you're talking about pollutants like carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons. CO2 is just proportional to total fuel consumption, but pollutants like CO and HC are highest after a cold start. Cutting out short trips and cold starts help air quality more than fuel consumption. The Prius actually has a thermos bottle to store hot coolant to warm up faster.

I have been commuting on foot for my whole life. My recipe is public transit in the morning when I am too lazy to wake up in time for the walk and I come back on my foot when I am done working.

Your recommendations make it sounds way more complicated than it is. You need good footwear, good clothing considering the season and climate you live in and carry a small umbrella in your bag.

Yes, people living in urban areas might not need as much stuff, especially if they lived only a few blocks from home. My distance precludes my heading back home for lunch, so I need to be equipped for the day. I live in a small town in a very rugged area. The weather could change abruptly. I could encounter not just dogs along the way, but also wildlife, even possibly black bears. My route doesn't feature sidewalks, but mostly unpaved trails and roadside right-of-ways, and includes a couple of steep hills. YMMV.

During the recent gasoline shortage in the Charlotte NC area there have been fewer cars on the road. As a bike commuter I haven't been bothered by their reduced numbers. In the future both gasoline price increases and gasoline supply disruptions will mean more room for bicycles on the road. I can imagine a tipping point after which entire lanes are turned over to bicycles.

Actually it doesn't have to happen overnight. Individual communities could begin with some sort of Ciclovia, a program of temporarily shutting down certain streets or lanes to automotive traffic on weekends or holidays. This might help as a mental transition for those people unfamiliar with just how wonderful bicycles are as a form of transportation. It might also help if we find ourselves without the resources to pave lots of new bike paths or the money to launch PSA campaigns to educate drivers.

Also, for some of us it's possible to get a job closer to where we live.

I am a bicycle commuter, and have been since 2005, when gas first went over $3 a gallon. Living in Southern California and commuting by bike was what first caused me to notice how seriously broken our social "system" is. I got to the point where I would say my prayers every time I rode to work and every time I rode home. Now that I live in Oregon, I still say my prayers.

One thing about Oregon - most people commute here in all weather, unless it's an "ice day." I tried riding on ice once and only once (it didn't end well). But there are some who ride even on ice. I wonder what kind of tires they have.

I started with a cheap Giant Sedona, upgraded to a Novara Safari, then finally switched to a Surly Long Haul Trucker with front and rear racks. Some day I might buy a trailer. My company also has a program where we can purchase mass transit all-zone monthly passes using pre-tax money.

Just for reference Winter cycling made easy. er.

Thanks! I'll look at it. I asked a few people at bike shops what they did when riding on ice, and the only thing they could say was "Be really careful."

I've like the look of the Surly LHT and I think that's what I'd get if I got another bike. I have a Trek Hybrid now. How long have you had it? Are you using the Surly racks? Do you use them often? I want something I'd be able to carry groceries or other small loads on. I've considered the xtracycle but I'm not sure I like it.

I got my Surly around January of 2007. I have the Surly Nice racks. I have used both on occasion, though I usually just use the rear rack. I got my Surly while I was living in Southern California, and it was when Surly was only selling LHT frames instead of complete builds, so I had to have a local bike shop build it up. Based on the disagreements I had with them and the things I have changed since I got my bike, I'd have to say that most bike shops in Southern California still don't "get" the idea of a bicycle as utilitarian transportation.

I do see an increasing number of Xtracycles nowadays, and Surly offers a bike designed from the ground up around the Xtracycle. Surly calls their model the "Big Dummy." Unfortunately, it is sold only as a frame, so you'd have to get a sympathetic bike shop to build it up for you.

My commuter is a trek hybrid but i also have a trek mt. bike with a Xtracycle hard tail extension. It takes more time to get where i'm going because so many people stop to ask me about the bike, but it hauls...

Nokkian studded tires are GREAT! This will be the fourth winter I've used them; I can't believe how well they work.

I got my electric scooter a month ago. Since then, I have only used $8 of gas in my regular vehicle. I am very happy.

It's a cheap Chinese bike but it totally works as a proof of concept vehicle.

http://kaishanebikes.com/k500ws.html

Another $500 in better parts at the factory would produce a pretty amazing little vehicle. I can't wait to see how good they get when Honda takes an interest and starts making these in mass-scale.

I probably drove 40 miles on the first day, just because I was having so much fun. So the claims of 100 km range are probably true. Another couple batteries, wired up in the storage area would give you close to 80 miles range, or more speed.

I go 32 Km/hr, so I got to work in 10 minutes. With all the stops I kept up with downtown traffic. But a bit more speed would be nice. I can modify the circut board and add batteries. Some people are going 50 Km/hr on these things.

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=cl7V5iHOYbQ

Nearly silent, I drive and mostly just hear the rush of the wind. For $1500 it seems a very cheap part of the solution, as I need to wear a suit and look very polished in my job. A bicycle would not work as well.

So many people (in cars or walking acrross the street) ask me about it and so far their reaction has been very favorable.

(9) Cut down to one income per family when practical. It used to be that it was not economical for a mother to work outside the home. If commuting costs get high enough, and if food and energy prices rise high enough that a lot of money can be saved through the work of a stay-at-home parent (through eliminating day care, cooking from scratch, gardening, hanging laundry, etc.) stay-at-home parents may again become economical. It certainly reduces commuting costs.

I raised a garden this year, and to figure out if it was worth it, I weighed almost everything I've harvested (it's still going so I'm not done yet -- beets and parsnips still to come). I had to buy everything I needed, including a small rototiller (elbow and wrist issues cured me of the notion of doing it all by hand).

I am exactly $28.32 in the hole -- all hard goods included, and by the time the rest is in, I'm certain to be at break even (woo-hoo: free rototiller). It's even better if I depreciate all of the hard goods I bought over a 5 year period at 20%/yr -- that way, I've made a profit of $486.08. I did use post tax dollars in my calculations, but that seems fair enough to me -- a dollar spent at the grocery store is one on which I'm taxed. Since the gov't hasn't yet figured out how tax garden produce, a dollar's worth of home grown tomatoes is worth more than a dollar's worth of labor.

Anyway, back to your point about single income. Over this summer I've realized that of these three categories, you can have two: job, free time, medium sized garden (mine was 40x60 ft and even at that, I'm sad to say that the weeds got the best of me in the end).

Personal ways to save gas are pretty straight-forward - with the exception of the simplistic libertarian response of "just move closer to work". This as a strategy for a majority of people is naive. It's not easy to uproot families. Most households now have multiple income earners working in multiple locations. So moving closer for one could be farther for someone else. But the biggest flaw in this as a response to rising gas prices is that the vast majority of jobs now are not long-term jobs. We have a flexible job market and the vast majority of workers no longer work a single job from graduation to retirement. It's unrealistic to expect one to move to a new home for each job change.

If one is interested in taking steps to solve the problem beyond just personal mitigation, the single biggest thing to do is reform our land development regulations to allow mixed use everywhere and set growth boundaries and public infrastructure limit lines. Densifying our urban cores and allowing new development only in infill, and creative transit-oriented or transit-ready neighborhoods is the solution to the systemic problem we face. And make no mistake, cities will continue to grow. Rural areas are by far more gasoline and car dependent than cities. Shrugging off the required retrofit of our cities as "too capital intensive" in my view is not a wise approach. If the demand is there, capital will find it with or without Wall St. as we know it today. Plenty of cities were built without the global financial system we have today.

If a car gets 25 mpg, but it's driven only have as much as another car, it's effectively getting 50 mpg. And if it is only driven half the distance and half the time, than its comparative rate increases to 100 mpg.

I suspect that commuting to work will no longer be an issue of concern. Most people, and I do mean MOST people, wont have a job (read employer) to commute too.
Yep, you read that correctly. But work wont be eliminated (sorry for those who saw an upside) No Sir Ree Bob! While you wont travel to work, you will still be surrounded by it. As soon as you get out of bed, leave the door of your humble abode, you will be surrounded by work!
Work will be easy to find in the near future...just wake up or walk out the door of your home...it'll be everywhere and it will be all yours....it just won't be for an employer...it will be for you. Besides, the coffee at the employers sucked, the toilet paper was thin and of poor quality, someone always stole someone elses lunches, no ones gonna miss the place anyway. The only regrets will be "Jeeesh, I didnt steal enough pens and pencils"

I've found if you try to change the way you get around, other people will look at alternatives as well. For example, my sister got totaled her car and my brother, my dad, and my sister had to drive one car, and I began riding my bike to friends' houses. She started riding her bike around casually and found she liked it, so she started to bike more than driving and found she liked it better. Similarly, my dad now takes the bus when he goes to the beach. It's significantly cheaper than driving and considerably more relaxing.

Hello TODers and Gail,

Thxs for this top post plus the opportunity to post my reply. Imagine you and another person are postPeak seeking ELP employment with a dairy farmer to milk his cows twice daily. If you have planned ahead and can live in a small trailer or cabover camper [please see my post near the bottom of today's Drumbeat]: then you can work for just food, thus outbidding the other person who has to minimally work for BOTH FOOD AND SHELTER.

Same thing on a urban scale: you, and your family, can live in your camper on your employer's parking lot, then use a bicycles and/or scooters to run the daily errands. Since your housing costs are practically nothing: you can continually take paycuts to keep your job.

Obviously, the above doesn't apply to those wealthy enough to have a paid-off mortgage on a house or an Eco-tech survival farm such as Richard Rainwater, Dick Cheney, the Shrub, Matt Simmons, and others.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Some more thinking on this topic:

If you run any potential risk of losing your house to the daily worsening mortgage/financial crisis, then please ask your employer to electrify his parking lot for the employees moving into portable living.
This can be done very cheaply if the employees get together, then take a huge pay cut, thus freeing cash for the employer to electrify the parking lot. This will be much more energy-efficient and quieter than if these campers are forced to run lots of gensets for camper power. My feeble two cents.

My car gets 30 mpg highway. Not awsome, but better than an SUV. It is not feasible for me to buy a new car.
I would buy a better milage car if I could afford it.

I tried a bike; my commute is 34 miles. Most of the ride was fine on a bike; the last mile up hill at 30 degrees was a killer for me. Also an hour each way vs. 20 minutes was a consideration.

So recently I considered mopeds vs. motorcycles. I can afford $3500. There was a new motorcycle advertised at $1800 for 150cc model...my suspicion is the quality would not be high for that price.

I saw an excellant 150cc moped for $3500. My concern is I consider this to be a Long Decent investment IE I want it to last for more than five years. I figure road maintanence will take a hit eventually and mopeds are probably harder to control on rough pavement simply because of small wheels; probably mostly to do with gyroscopic stability...a smaller gyroscope will turn easier than a large one. MPG? about 70.

My choice is a Ninja 250R...it is the same price ($3500), aslo gets 70 MPG, the shock travel is 5 inches vs. 3 inches on the moped. Honda Rebel is comparable in all respects except the fuel tank. Rebel=2.6 gallon tank. Ninja=4.8 gallon tank. At 70 mpg the Ninja would go 140 miles farther on a tank of gas; so the reason I chose the Ninja over the Rebel is a larger fuel tank;)

I will save up and get the Ninja next year. Also need a motorcycle licsense!

I commute part time on a motorcycle, and it doesn't save a whole lot of money over a car. After gas, the big expenses are tires and engine maintenance like valve adjustments. Read some of the owner message boards online before you buy.
Here's one for the 250R: http://faq.ninja250.org/wiki/Main_Page

Japanese motorcycles are reliable enough to easily last 5 years. Sadly, many succumb to crashes and theft before then. Sportbikes are high theft models because of the expensive plastic body panels.

I've ridden motorcycles for thirty years, and I have a few tips for people looking to start riding to save money. My comments apply to the US. European and Asian riding has an entirely different outlook.

1) Buy small. You really don't need anything larger than a 250 for commuting unless you are doing sustained 75mph interstate riding. I rode my Kawasaki 250 Super Sherpa on/off road bike 800 miles in two days last weekend, including several interstate hours. No problem. A big bike won't get much better mileage than a car. A small bike is easier to maneuver, and gets better mileage. It is cheaper to maintain, too. Tires were mentioned already. Motorcycle tires wear out much more quickly than car tires, and are actually more expensive than car tires in a lot of cases. Small bike = cheap tires. MC sparkplugs are $8-15 each, and so on. Single cylinder = cheap.

2) Buy used. There are always good used bikes around, especially small ones, as horsepower is a powerful drug and people want bigger, bigger, bigger. Don't be afraid of a ding in the tank from a bike being dropped while stationary, especially since if it is your first bike, you'll probably drop it at some point anyway. Be afraid of bikes that have gone down at any speed, and usually you can tell by scrapes on the frame even if the plastic has been replaced.

3) Avoid bikes with lots of plastic bodywork, especially for a first bike. MC plastic is one of the most outrageously priced categories of products in the universe. $1000 for a tipover is not unheard of on a big sportbike.

4) Take the MSF courses.

5) Get a good helmet and wear it.

6) Learn how to do routine maintenance yourself, unless you like paying $50 for a two quart oil change at a motorcycle shop.

Good, CHEAP motorcycles include the Kawasaki KLR250, the Kawi Super Sherpa 250, the Kawi Ninja 250(plastics problem), the Suzuki GN250, Honda Nighthawk 250 and the Buell Blast(half a Harley). If you must go bigger, the Suzuki GS500 and Kawasaki EX500 are plentiful and good, but you are getting into the plastics problem. There is an entire generation of great mid-sized bikes from the 80's that have been discarded in favor of more horsepower. Yamaha Seca 400 and 650, Kawi Gpz550 and KZ550, Honda 500 and 650 V-Twins, TransAlp, CB400, CB500, CB650, Suzuki 550 and 650(shaft drive), Suzuki 650 Intruder, the list is endless.

I'll get yelled at for saying this, but stay away from used Euro bikes as first bikes in general unless you want to hemorrhage money. BMW, Ducati, Triumph all make sexy bikes that cost an arm and a leg to maintain and repair.

I can't believe how many people I know who buy a huge cruiser as a first bike. Usually followed immediately by a huge repair bill when they crash it.

Drizzt, I have the Ninja 250, purchased in 2000. My commute is about 40 miles round trip. I do love the Ninja, but I've only averaged about 1700 miles per year. For various reasons (cargo capacity, weather, sharing the ride with another), I usually drive my minivan.

As dwcal mentions, some motorcycling expenses sneak up on you. I'm particularly grumpy about Michigan's insurance assessment for catastropic claims (MCCA). That is charged to every vehicle, and turns what would be a $40/year insurance bill into a $220 one. Having multiple vehicles licensed means I get to pay that multiple times.

Please take the MSF new rider course! And dress for the fall, just in case. (I wiped out once, during the break-in period ... loose gravel in an intersection + front brake on.)

Rider's Fuel Economy Comparo

http://www.ridermagazine.com/output.cfm?id=1744003

They test 9 mostly 250cc bikes that get 65-77mpg.

A sign of the times is that the Ninja 250R has been wildly popular lately, to the point where the 2008 models sold out long ago. Kawasaki has acted like good capitalists and raised the price of the '09 models from $3499 to $3999, and good luck getting one out the door for under $4500.

Honestly, for a first bike I don't think a brand new Ninja 250R is a good choice, It is that plastics issue. You dump it once and you are close to a grand to fix it.

A used dirt oriented bike or cruiser without plastic body panels is a better choice, IMHO.

KLR250/Super Sherpa/CRF230S/DRZ400S/GN250/250 Nighthawk/Buell Blast/Kawi KLX250S/Yamaha WR250 or XT225/XT250.

Wow, my 250R was $2500 new in 2000. If new ones are up to $4000+ maybe it is still worth what I paid.

I still think it a reasonable bike, especially for someone that doesn't want to wrench an old bike. I don't particularly like plastic body parts, but when I dumped it, only the blinker light lens was broken. Some minor scratches on the plastic, but you have to look hard to see them. And it isn't like the plastic parts are critical ones that have to be replaced for the bike to run.

Rather than pay for bike shop maintenance, I bought the service manual and special tool to adjust the valves. I still need to come up with something to balance the carbs.

A standard transmission is more fuel efficient than an automatic transmission car as one may switch to neutral more often and coast down hills or towards stop lights. Being in neutral at stop lights also consumes less fuel.

It is difficult to use a motorcycle in the winter. One had a better time on a bike in Florida or Arizona. If one slips on wet road, gets hit by a blind driver, or has a froht tire blow out going down the mountain, the ICU bills might add up, over ten thousand dollars a day.

9. Stop immigration.

Drive slower!

It requires no new investment by the individual or society. Just slowing down from 70 mph to 65 mph cuts air resistance by 25% but increases travel time by only 7%.

Consider changing the times of your commutes in order to avoid traffic jams. I have spoken with people who found that by leaving work 30 minutes later only resulted in them getting home only 5 minutes later on a 30 mile commute. They spent 25 minutes of sitting or just creeping along getting very few if not zero mpg.

It may not apply to many people, but for me the biggest fuel expense is the long drive to the grocery store. I've cut this way back in a couple ways. Working with neighbors to do joint shopping is one. More importantly, I buy stuff like potatoes, dry beans/rice, cabbage, etc that keep a long time. Milk, bread, and fresh veggies are what used to send me to the store frequently - yogurt keeps far longer than milk, I make my own bread or buy sourdough varieties which keep longer, and grow my own vegetables or buy stuff like cabbage & carrots that keep well. In addition to saving 25% of my monthly gas costs it also ended up cutting my grocery bill by more than that.

Gail,
In terms of Peak Oil, the relevant question is "how can we cut our liquid petroleum use for transport". This is because gasoline and diesel use for commuting is less than 50%, probably about 30%.
It's great to see the testimonials of what the most environmentally aware people are doing but what about the other 99%, I don't see them bicycling, moving closer to work, but I can see them buying more fuel efficient cars if average fuel economy standards are improved and/ or gasoline taxes were to be raised.
In Australia it costs about $20,000 to sell a house, and if this requires moving closer to the city center probably another $100,000 for an equivalent home. Even if petrol increases X10 fold its hard to see the payback in fuel savings. However, paying an additional $20,000 for a hybrid or PHEV ( when available) would make sense, as there are savings for all VMT not just commuting.
Since most European cities have fuel prices > $US 8/gallon, and excellent public transport, compact cities AND still have more than 50% of travel by private cars, it's not sensible to think that enough Australian's or people in USA are going to embrace public transport sufficiently to solve post-peak oil shortages. Furthermore the infrastructure isn't available and will take decades to build.
CNG conversions, EV's, PHEV's, much higher fuel economy standards, gasoline rationing and use of car pools could give a very large reduction, the other proposals are really feel good measures that wont contribute much.

I agree. People here in Sweden don't seen to feel the effects of high gas prices (yet) even though gas currently costs 7.50 USD/gallon. Except on the countryside, they feel the price hikes.

Since both me and my wife pay 100$/each per month for unlimited access to excellent public transportation in the greater Stockholm area, we have decided to sell our car. We only use it a couple of times/week, buying groceries & weekend excursions, but our total-cost-of-ownership last year was almost 8000 dollars. Running costs (gas) only accounted for 20-25% of the total costs and I believe that not until that changes to 30-35-40% or higher will people think about shifting to other alternatives here because that's when they feel the squeeze and make the connection to gas prices. Before that point they will only grumble and pay up.

Having to pay a toll (more formally a "congestion tax") from Jan 2006 to pass into central Stockholm on weekdays has reduced traffic quite some. The cost is 1.50-3.00$ depending on the time of the day.

Oh, and we plan to join what I would call a "carpool" but what is apparently called "carsharing" in English.

I got some 2007 statistics on the public transit in greater Stockholm.

24% of all travels were by public transit, 3% by bicycle, 29% walking and 44% by car.
Counted in passager miles the ratios are 28% public transportation, 1% bicycling, 3% walking and 68% by car. This shows that bicycling is underdeveloped.

51% of all commutes are less then 29 minutes, 39% 30-59 minutes and 11% are longer then 60 min.
(And I am crazy man with a 130 minute commute, bicyle, rail and walking with a $5000 annual cost that gives me unlimited national rail travel that I dont have the time to realy use besides commuting. :-( )

53,1% of the cost is via taxes, essentialy income taxes. The long term trend is to increase the ticket financing, most regional public transportation organizations in Sweden aim for 50%.

Cutting fuel used for commuting to work is important, but why not focus first on the lowest-hanging fruit - i.e. fuel used for recreation and amusement? Why play with gasoline-powered toys at all? Why burn billions of gallons of fuel to GET TO places where we play? If you add up ATVs, powerboats, flying places to ski or hike or whitewater kayak, driving to baseball games, driving our kids to soccer, etc. we're talking 10-20% of current US gasoline consumption, maybe more.

This is totally discretionary consumption; humans are creative and we can easily find thousands of ways to have fun that require little or no fossil fuels.

WHY ISN'T ANYONE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING SO OBVIOUS? How can we be so blind?

The best way to cut back on oil consumption is to change the way that people get to work. Commuters drive millions of miles every day to work and back.

Most office workers can work remotely as long as they have support of management and adequate facilities.

Home telecommuting used to be the only telecommuting option. This has worked well for some workers, but has not been broadly adopted by many workers and employers.

Remote Office Centers offer an alternative to home telecommuting. Remote Office Centers lease individual offices, internet, and phone systems to workers from different companies in shared centers located around the city and suburbs.

By working remotely, workers save gas, time and congestion on roadways. Not all workers can work remotely, but all workers will gain benefit from less cars on the road and less overall demand for gas.

Remote Office Centers and home telecommuting have the potential to save a tremendous amount of fuel. All you have to do is look at the congested commuter roads on the way into large cities like LA, NY and DC and you can see where all the gas is going.

Remote Office Centers are fairly new, but can be found in most cities by searching the internet for "Remote Office Centers" in quotes, of by going to a free web site that lists ROCs:

http://www.remoteofficecenters.com

Let me guess.

You work for "Remote Office Centers" and thought you'd pick up a bit of free advertising?

aullman
History
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The question answers itself...

Acknowledging that this site is not intended for outright self-promotion.. yours and PaulS's responses carry the implication that promoting an idea that happens to be one's business somehow invalidates the idea's merits. I think remote office spaces are still a good idea, and if challenged, should be challenged simply on the merits, while reminding people that this is not a Marketing outlet. I mean how many eyeballs have been sent to Tata, Nano, Smartcar or Volt links from this site by now? It's inevitable that this will tie into businesses that are working around these issues.

We need to see new businesses that help to reshape our energy habits. Advertising and Merchandising is not wrong, it just has to be kept in the right context and tone for this conversation. I think Bill James, (up top) has to step up to the plate by making sure his posts address the challenges to Jpods that have been made here, and make sure his now TOO familiar promotions of that system are about the debate it brings with it, as the same old rallying cry has become pretty monotonous.

Our Smart Car gets approx 60 mpg (US gallon), 70 mpg (imperial gallon). Wish Smart would hybridize them.

Smart have electric vehicles on test in London but won't sell me one:-(

No suggestions, but I thought I'd document what I do as other posters have done.

I've always aimed to ride to work, partly because I'm tight-arsed, partly because I live close enough to my city centre that it's quicker than the congested traffic and partly because a bit of exercise before sitting at a computer is a good thing.

I'm no fitness freak, so I aimed to live as close to the city centre as I could afford(5 km).

I work in the city centre, and my skills are such that I'm likely to find employment in or close to the centre. I didn't for a period, and put up with the train and half hour walk. When working, my partner can also find work in the inner city area. She's a bus in, walk home person.

I'm seven minutes walk from a supermarket, post office, chemist, and bank, with an extra two minutes to the train, so no car use there either.

50 metres away is a city bound bus that runs at least every 15 minutes 0600-1900, and less often 'til midnight.

Our single car does about 7,000 km a year, a large part of that on mostly optional trips away.

So, for all this convenience and low transport costs, how much would you expect to pay???

Well, thankfully for us, not many people value all these great attributes, so we could afford to buy here on not much more than an average wage six years ago.
People were happily paying more money to live in less convenient locations, and still do so!! (that is, those that can afford to buy at all in this inflated market)

I alternate between an electric bike and regular road bike. My electric bike gets over 1,000 miles per gallon in energy equivalent (actual measured value). My commute is 7 miles each way, with some very steep hills. I'm 61. Sometimes I catch the bus and put the e-bike on the bus.

You can get a high-end e-bike for $2,000 - $3,000 and solar panels to charge it for $1,000. This is cheaper than most cars and quickly pays for itself with savings on gas and parking: it costs me $4 for gas and $2 for parking each time I commute with a car.

The health benefits of exercise outweigh, by far, the danger of riding in traffic. A study in Denmark found that middle-aged men who ride a bike to work have a death rate from all causes that is 1/3 the rate of those who don't ride.

I recently bought a Bob bike trailer, which is a practical way to carry loads such as groceries without making the bike unstable.

As far as theft, always use a U-lock and lock it to a solid object (some poles can just be lifted out of the concrete). I've never had a bike stolen.

I ride an e-bike about 2 days per week in the warmer half of the year. 9 miles each way, with some hills, make the e-bike a better choice for me. Could ride more than 2 days/week if I had to. (Bike route is about 1 mile, and 20 minutes, longer than car route, but a lot more relaxing.)

But, I realize that the electricity cost is irrelevant. The real cost of an electric bike, in money, energy, and pollution, is the batteries. A replacement battery pack for my bike is about $375, if it lasts 6 years that's $60/yr, if I ride it 60 roundtrips in a year (I actually only manage 40-50) that's $1/ride. That's at least 20 times the cost of the electricity to recharge it. It's almost as much as the cost of fuel (at $4/gallon) for my (rather economical) car to make the same trip. (A cheaper do-it-yourself battery pack can be made, with smaller capacity cells or cheap lead-acid batteries, but that would seriously reduce the range. The 24V 6AH original pack goes more than 20 miles.)

BTW I ride one of the lightest e-bikes (Giant Lite) but I wouldn't attempt to lift it onto the bike rack on a bus. Could really hurt my back. A stronger person than me could.

You left out cost of car but included at least part of the cost of the bike.

It makes a difference if you can displace the cost of car ownership or replacement using the bike.

At 50 roundtrips per year and 20 miles per round trip, you would be traveling only 1000 miles per year. If your car lasts 20 years before rusting to pieces you would only get 20K miles on it. Thus, the car would cost $1 per mile ($20 per trip), not counting gas, taxes, maintainance, etc for the same trips. Even if you used ran the car to 200K miles (for other trips), it would still be $1 per trip + gas as you would have to replace the vehicle more often. If the bike itself only lasted 6 years (in which case battery replacement would be moot) and cost $2000, you would spend $0.33 per mile in depreciation on the bike ($6 per trip). If it lasts longer, it is less.

If you used the bike 200 20mile trips per year (commute), replaced the battery every 500 trips, and used the bike for 15 years amortization on the bike and batteries would be $1.29 and amortization on a car (rusting out after 20years) would be $5 per trip (plus gas, etc.).
When you consider amortization, finances charges, insurance, taxes, etc. your car probably costs you $10-$20 per day before you even go anywhere.

And using the bike might be more practical for a wider range of trips if you carry a spare (8lbs) battery or charge it at work as well as home extending range to over 40miles/day.

More use of public transit (4) requires infrastructure investment and a longer time frame. In a credit constrained environment, they may not be as feasible.

It is simply a matter of priorities, not "available credit".

Public transit has ranked with libraries in public priorities while new roads have ranked with police and fire in priority.

Simply change priorities, raise gas taxes by several dimes, divert all of the new road and 2/3rd of the road maintenance (yes, potholes everywhere and weight restricted bridges, but society can function with those. They do encourage rail use) and budget ALL of those monies to building new Urban Rail. No credit required. Simply a matter of priorities.

The Federal government cannot find funding for 18% of the cost of the Dulles spur for DC Metro (saving 20,000 to 25,000 b/day when completed), but can find almost a trillion for the Iraq War and $700 billion for a paper bailout. Simply priorities.

The "credit constrained" argument is a weak straw man and simply NOT valid.

You do a disservice in raising this false flag.

Best Hopes for Better Priorities,

Alan

As for time required, the French build new tram lines in 3 or so years. But they have French bureaucrats running things.

And even a broke society can build Urban rail *IF* it wants to

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/systems/toronto.arch/resource/...

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/systems/toronto.arch/resource/...

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/systems/toronto.arch/resource/...

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/systems/toronto.arch/resource/...

I chose to live in Transit Orientated Development (perhaps the oldest in the USA, St. Charles streetcar started in 1834) and walk or take the streetcar most places that I need to go.

Minimal energy for heating and cooling (4,000 kWh this year ?) as well. Food delivery energy low as well.

Best Hopes for Energy Efficient Living,

Alan

The Chinese have recently opened the Beijing-Tianjin link and this is the fastest in the world (350kmh compared to France's 320kmh TGV). They plan to have 16 more high speed lines, a total of 9,400km built by 2020. The aim is eventually to have over 50,000 kms connecting all provincial capitals and all major cities.

And the French plan to build 1,500 km of trams (light rail) in the next decade. In every town of 100,000 or more.

But they are French and Chinese and we are only Americans.

Alan

Public transit has ranked with libraries in public priorities while new roads have ranked with police and fire in priority.

Oh, dear. Priorities get set politically. Always have.

The local road network reaches virtually everyone. The local transit network (usually) provides useful service only to a low single-digit percentage. "Useful" means at a minimum that it serve both ends of one's trip at the time one needs to go, and that the trip not take all week. But almost always, it might serve one end of the trip at best, and at less than even a glacial pace, and never on Sunday nor in the evening, and rather ineffectively midday or on Saturday.

Bottom line: for the overwhelming majority of voters, any transit project, even just diesel buses, is purely a money sink. And we may now have arrived in more straitened times when voters may be even less inclined to purchase free rides for somebody else, or to bedeck the mayor in urban jewelry merely to wear it to "conferences".

France, with its top-down administration by énarques well-trained in their centuries-old tradition of dirigisme, appears to enjoy a measure of leeway in ignoring voter attitudes (including BANANAism - the Channel Tunnel line was completed in France long before it was completed in England.) However, the USA is not France, nor are American priorities set by platonic scholars.

So here is the question of the day: in the real world of politics how exactly is something very expensive and nearly useless to nearly all voters and that many voters probably want far out of sight and earshot, supposed to fly?

In 1970, 4% of DC area workers took the bus to work.

Today, more people take public transit (most Metro or Metro + bus feeder) than drive alone to work in DC. (Single occupancy + car pools are still a few percentage larger public transit, but it is close).

All it took was some vision and about $10 billion.

MANY cities are willing to put up a good % of the cost if the feds can match it.

http://www.lightrailnow.org/features/f_lrt_2007-04a.htm

Just how many miles of interstate highway would have been built with 18% federal funding (what GWB refused for Dulles extension), instead of the 90% fed funding that Eisenhower gave ? <300 miles would be my guess.

"Without vision, the people perish"

Proverb 29:18

Best Hopes for Politicians, and a People, with vision,

Alan

So here is the question of the day: in the real world of politics how exactly is something very expensive and nearly useless to nearly all voters and that many voters probably want far out of sight and earshot, supposed to fly?

Let me take a stab at this. How about not considering urban mass transit as a discrete proposition, but as part of a larger package - a package of options designed, in sum, to serve just about everyone's transport needs?

You are right - not everyone will be using mass transit all of the time. However, just about everyone will be needing to get somewhere, sometimes, somehow. Rather than coming up with a one-size-fits-all solution (which usually ends up being a one-size-fits-none solution), why not a multiple-option solution? Make it possible for people to get to where they are going via one form or another of urban passenger rail OR some type of shuttle bus or jitney limo service OR some type of taxi or pedicab or rickshaw OR automobile or NEV (their own or rented) OR bicycle (their own or rented) OR motor scooter/cycle (their own or rented) OR Segway OR in-line scates OR on foot OR ???. Come up with a multi-modal package that gives different options, and let them pick what works best for them.

Difficult to do, surely. However, given the difficulty of securing public support in our system, such an approach might have a better chance of success.

If car travel becomes more expensive we now have modern alternatives which should cost a fraction of the cost of previous public transport if mobile phone and computer technology is utilised, whilst allowing on-demand service rather than scheduled timetables:
http://www.taxibus.org.uk/

Obviously this works most effectively in high density areas.
I would imagine however that as well as suburbs depopulating to some extent, more noticeably in the US than elsewhere due to their non-recourse mortgages, that many will remain in some of the suburbs but zoning laws will be altered to accommodate more local industry, and that many will develop local transportation hubs so that commutes will actually be mostly to that central local point with mass transit systems of conventional buses and light rail running from them to the city centre.
Under those circumstances it is not difficult to imagine that an efficient taxibus service might work, so that you phone up and order the car, which runs purely form the outskirts into the regional hub, rather than cross-suburb.

The notion that suburbs will be largely abandoned seems fanciful to me, save in specific locations and in their more far-flung extremities.
The cost of abandoning the house is far too great, at least where non-recourse mortgages are not available, so that most will struggle on with rather less convenient transport, scooters, bikes, public transport etc and more localisation of services and recourse to delivery services.

Gradually density is likely to increase, and sub-letting and taking in lodgers become more common.

In Europe it seems likely that country houses will sink in value compared to city locations, and a drift to the centres will ensue.
By and large though if you live in a village there is one major destination, or at most two, where people go to for their jobs, so most will probably just switch to the bus to get there and leave their car at home, whilst shopping more locally.
I certainly can't see any dramatic switch in the areas people live in happening in Europe due to increasing petrol prices.
The location of shops and industry seems likely to be more affected, with proximity to a railhead important again.

Dave,
You are forgetting that Europe has a much higher proportion of retired people and this is going to have a major effect on Australia and US as baby-boomers retire. If you are retired you can live anywhere providing the location has access to health-care, shops, gardens, entertainment. Country village life is appealing to many retired people, living close to commercial and industrial areas is less appealing. Commuting to work is not an issue, but easy access to shops is. Rural sprawl is probably the least appealing if gasoline prices keep rising even if you can cut your own wood for heating. Most suburbia sounds OK for retired people,if they like to garden, as does small town USA. In Australia, retires like to move to coastal towns but the real estate is becoming too expensive for many. Inland towns are becoming more popular because of the low cost of real estate.

Public transportation systems can be practically self-financing, if we start to recognize that land value is created by such things as investment in infrastructure and public services -- highways; bridges; schools; public health; effective emergency services for individual and widespread emergencies; good police, respected courts, prisons and restorative justice systems; libraries, etc.

When we acknowledge this relationship, it becomes obvious that the appropriate way to finance all these public goods -- and many more -- is via taxes which fall on land value, and which collect from landholders -- corporate, philanthropic, REIT, individual -- the lion's share of that value.

The presence of an effective public transportation system creates tremendous land value, which, in conjunction with modest user fees on those who ride such transportation, should be sufficient to fund such systems. See Chuck Metalitz's paper "Retrieving Transit's Benefits and Other Advantages of Funding Transit From Land Value" at http://www.hgchicago.org/rn05a.pdf Think what happens when an additional rush hour express train is added to a route: the served area becomes more desirable. Who should pay for this? I can't see any logic in financing it via income taxes or sales taxes or hotel taxes or taxes on rental cars; rather, it should be taxed by collecting some fairly significant fraction of the increase in land value.

You might also take a look at some of the history of some of our more successful mayors. See Mason Gaffney's article, New Life in Old Cities, at http://www.masongaffney.org/ --

Land value taxation has another vitally important benefit: it encourages the intensive use of locations well-served by existing infrastructure, and will help produce the density that makes public transportation really successful -- and thereby will help slow, stop and even reverse urban sprawl.

In fact, I despair at ever ending sprawl without first enacting land value taxation.

If you'd like to learn more about LVT -- its justice, its benefits in a whole range of areas -- you might explore http://www.answersanswers.com/, http://www.wealthandwant.com/ and my blog, http://lvtfan.typepad.com/

I live in an intentional community. Basically, there are 36 houses on 5 acres with all parking to the sides. This means that I know all 100 of my immediate neighbors, and although I have my own house, I share some common areas. The benefits are astounding:

1.) Instead of driving in babysitters for my 3 young children, I have a variety of babysitters to choose from--and they just walk to my house, or my kids walk to theirs.

2.) Carpooling is the norm. Neighbors often ask each other, or email each other, when they are going to a concert, event, the store. "Hey, I'm going to Trader Joe's. Need anything?" Is an especially common refrain.

3.) Sharing is the norm. We literally have a wood shop, a metal shop, a ceramics and art shop, a pool, a hot tub, a big grassy lawn, gardens, fowl, common guest house, a rec room, a kid's play room, 2 kid's playgrounds, and a big common house with dinning room, lounge and kitchen that we all share. This means that when our family wanted to build a bookshelf from some beautiful lumber rescued from the dumpster, all the power tools were sit up and ready to go--we didn't need to rent or purchase anything. This means that instead of going out to eat or driving to a friend's house to share a meal, we save money, gas and time by walking over to the common house to share a meal. I could go on and on about how easy having some shared spaces with my neighbors has benefited my life, and reduced my energy consumption...

4.) Peer pressure. Many of my neighbors are one car families. They use bikes and buses and carpools and borrow-a-car in a jam strategies. We are down to one car, too, and knowing that we can easily borrow if we need to was a big factor in our willingness to give this a try. Also, we were often encouraged to ride our bikes more, and this really did have an impact on us. We ride to Sunday morning farmer's market--sometimes with other neighbors. My husband, like many in our neighborhood, rides his bike or buses to work at the University. We bike ride to the library, friend's houses (who live close by, but outside of our neighborhood). These are all places that I would have meant to bike to someday, but without the peer pressure, kept on driving my car to.

5.) Town houses. Our homes were specially designed to be energy efficient, and that is a great help. Sharing walls reduces energy needs.

Yikes, this has turned out to be long. Mainly, I just want to encourage people to try out intentional communities. After living in one for this past year, I truly believe that this is how humans were meant to live. Living outside of an intentional community, it is a struggle to reduce & reuse. Living inside of one, it is easier to borrow or share than to go to a store. It is fun to stay home, because there is always something really neat happening over here--potlucks, pirate parties, debate-watching parties, throwing a pot, gardening with the kids, feeding the ducks, wielding a trellis, biking to the market.

Oddly, my unintentional community has many, but not all, of the same benefits.

A friend is delivering black pipe and vent pipe for a tankless gas water heater (relocated from shed to wall opposite bathroom, reducing runs) today as one current example.

I often ask car-less neighbors when I make a run for supplies (less often since WalMart opened up 7 blocks away).

Best Hopes for intentional and unintentional communities,

Alan

I have a plan that can cut US gasoline usage in half in 10 years, totally eliminating the importation of foreign oil. It's not a pipe dream. It can be done, we have all we need to do it.

The 21st Century Interstate Highway Project

We started before our girl was born, by

choosing to live in a small city (but with farms and seafood all nearby),

owning just one car to force us to find ways to do it with less, and making sure we have working bikes available to us. I also built a Bike Garage for us and our tenants, so accessing the bike is less cumbersome.

working close to home, her at the University, and I (freelance) out of the house.

I have occasional (2-3 annual) jobs far out of town, which means flying. (Sydney AU in Dec, for example) I don't have a good alternative to this yet, except to continue to develop local clients and take as much local work as possible.. However, Pre-production, Design, Scheduling, Billing, Editing, Post-Effects etc.. can all be done from my office on this Laptop, which draws about 30watts.

This week, we had a banner 'New-Commute Day', when my wife biked to work and I biked our Daughter both to and from school. The car seemed quite content to sit there and not have to work at all. I've got the parts on order now to make an electric assist for the Bike Trailer, increasing the number of days I can get the girl to Kindergarten and back. (from First grade on, we will be in easy walking distance)

Not perfect, but we're getting better. If we can keep our tenants, clients and grant-based jobs!

Bob

What about driving habits? A 5-30% reduction in fuel consumption just by changing how we drive is huge, and more or less free.

Problems I have, as a person from the Canadian Prairies, with the suggestions (at present):

3: Housing prices have gone up by 200% in the last 4 years. If you didn't buy a house near work 4-5 years ago, it's unlikely you'll be able to afford one now. If I moved closer to work, in a similar house, I'd have more than double the mortgage payments (interest rate has gone up too). Secondly, my wife and I work in entirely different locations. If one of us was near work, the other wouldn't be.

4: Although I can, and do take public transit, my wife's work isn't accessible by transit. Just not possible for her. Especially when she has to drop our child off at daycare on her way to/from work.

6: Can't afford a more efficient car. Great suggestion, but a bit of an insult to someone who is struggling financially.

7: Once again, costs money. Not an option for the seven months of year where the ground is covered by snow/ice. Not an option for my wife that has to transport a child.

8: Not an option for the seven months of year where the ground is covered by snow/ice. One cannot legally ride on the sidewalks. Also, they are covered in snow that is too loose to be ridden through. The streets have packed snow/ice that can be ridden on with studded tires, but there is no shoulder because it is filled with 3-4' high snow banks. So, one would be required to ride their bike on snow/ice in traffic with multi-ton vehicles that are also on snow/ice, driven by drivers that are already frustrated because traffic moves so much slower in winter.

Lastly, to those that would say my wife should get a different job that is closer to work: She only has a highschool education. At her current job, she makes $4/hr less than I do. I am a computer programmer with a computer science degree, a computer information systems diploma and 10 years of experience. She could only change her job if we were willing for her to take a 50% pay cut.

We are doing what we can, but a lot of things just aren't possible for most people.

I also live on the prairies, and I have been able to make some changes to be less energy dependent in my commute. I don't think it is impossible.

You have already made a huge difference by taking transit yourself instead of being a two car family. That is significant progress. Also, things change as your children age. I was a single parent of two small kids and I took them by bus to daycare every time I went to work. If that isn't possible now for you - it might be possible later on as your child grows up. I have to point out that the cost savings are enormous. By choosing (at that time) not to buy a car I was able to afford a much nicer house in a much nicer neighbourhood. (of course it is 2 blocks from the bus stop) It wasn't easy - but there was a hard financial benefit achieved.

I think too that examining how you think of things might yield some interesting awareness. For instance, reading your post I entirely agreed that your wife should not actively look for work, but I wondered if your field might have opportunities for telecommuting or for job change. And if both of you set the goal to be aware of opportunities for work closer to home - something might just come up. At least if you are aware, and aware of what the savings would be if you stopped driving or taking transit routinely - you would know if this job opportunity were worth exploring.

In any case, we can't all switch our lives with ease to a FF free existance. It will take thought and adaptation, and the same solutions just won't work for everyone. Maintaining awareness of possibilities might allow you to recognize those possibilities and take them when they arise though, and leave you and your family less dependent upon cheap oil.

Regards,

Al

I know how very difficult it is for a two-income household to co-locate their home and both workplaces. Been there and done that. It has only been in the past few years, living in a small town, where we both have finally managed to live close to both workplaces. As I mentioned above, I can actually walk to work, and it is only a short 2 mile commute for my wife. That's about as good as it is likely to ever get for most people.

I'd suggest that a good goal for two-income households is to try to arrange their lives so at least ONE person is able to get to their workplace without driving. Ideally, this should be the person with the most secure and steady job; changing jobs might require changing houses, which can be difficult and unaffordable.

If the other person needs to drive to work, then they need to at least be thinking seriously about a highly fuel-efficient vehicle. Affordability might be an issue, but one can buy something like a ten year old used Honda Civic that still runs reliably and gets better mileage than most of the cars on the road. I'd suggest making the acquisition of a fuel-efficient automobile a high priority EVEN if they are able to arrange car-pooling. While car-pooling is great, it can be difficult to get a group together, and even more difficult to KEEP a group together for long periods of time. There might be times when everyone is sick or going out of town or something comes up, so you are going to need a fuel efficient car as a fall-back. If the person's workplace is within 15 miles or so of home and is accessible without having to travel on highways, then an NEV might be a feasible and affordable option for a commuting vehicle.

So here I was reading EB and I saw this:

"Crunchy Con ... Yesterday I was driving back from lunch and listening to a radio talk show. The interviewee [Sharon Astyk] was making a lot of sense."

So somebody is "crunchy" but drives far enough for LUNCH to hear a radio talk show on the way. Puts this discussion of commuting in perspective. One of the stats that stuck best in my mind from the quadrillion words that I've read on TOD was the one quoted by Stuart Staniford that only 20% of US driving is commuting to work. 80% is driving for shopping, socializing, medical care, religious activities, etc etc. That's where the cutting back can and must be.

If somebody commutes 20 miles round trip, 250 times a year, that's only 5000 miles a year. The average US driver (? car? person?) drives about 3 times that far. (This quick sanity check does not quite reach the 80/20 level quoted above - what's the average commute distance?)

There are alternatives to everyone hopping in their cars and individually driving to lunch:

1) People could pack a lunch. (This is what I do.) That is what most of the "working class" have always done if their job site was too far from home. Many more of us in the future are going to have to get used to the idea that we are now "working class" too, and we had better also get used to the lifestyle. (What about hot meals? Thermos bottles are better now, made of unbreakable stainless steel. Furthermore, just about every employer has (and all should have) at least a small break area with a microwave and refrigerator.)

2) Some employers are large enough, of course, to offer their employees food service on their premises. (I am talking about a proper lunch room or cafeteria where something more or less recognizable as real food is served, NOT those *%*%*$ vending machines dispensing who knows what.) More might need to consider doing this, if there are no restaurants within walking distance of the facility and there is a sufficient employee population to support it.

3) For those workplaces that cannot feasibly support an on-premises food service, arrangements could be made for some sort of mobile canteen or lunch waggon or hot dog cart to come by at lunch time. If there are several employers in close proximity, perhaps they could cooperate in locating this mobile food service in a place convenient to all of their employees. (Take note: this is a future job opportunity for some people.)

4) There are also some places in the world where employees have a standing order, and hot meals are cooked off-site and delivered to subscribers at their job site at lunch time - sort of a "meals on wheels" for workers. (I know that Cuban-Americans call this a "cantina" service; I suspect that there are similar things amongst other populations.)(Take note: this is another future job opportunity for some people.)

5) Of course, there is always the option of several co-workers piling in a car and ride-sharing to a restaurant. Employees going out on a lunch break could also bring back food for those stuck at the job site. Both of these are done quite commonly. However, even with this, workers are still dependent upon cars and are using at least one of them every day at lunchtime.

This is not a trivial matter. People will feel that they need to drive to work in a car unless and until the lunch issue has been solved with an acceptable alternative.

You could use one of Pinnafarina's new EV's - due out in 2009 - you could also buy me one, as I think I am in love!
http://www.pininfarina.com/index/storiaModelli/B0.html

What a beautiful car!
Of particular interest is the combination of ultra-capacitors with a lithium battery, the first time I can recall them being so paired.
The 153mile range is a great benefit:
http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/10/03/paris-2008-pininfarina-and-bollo...

They are planning to offer solar panels for home or work installation to charge it.

Cost, of course, is the big question, assuming that they have the reliability and longevity right - they quote 125,000 miles without battery maintenance - the use of ultracapacitors to minimise deep discharge will help a lot in this.

Dang.. it is cute as a bug!

I'll take one for a LONG test drive..

I have just had another long and lustful stare at it, and realised just how clever Pinafarina are - in fact, this is a standard Eurobox, virtually identical to what a 4 door Smart would look like, dumpy and chunky, but the clever use of two-tone bodywork creates the illusion of a high-tech, fantasy shape, svelte and beautiful, as it fools the eye into not seeing some of the metal!

The Renault prototype is also fascinating, as it majors on economising on parasitic power use for heating and cooling, which is a major drain on an electric vehicle.

The use of heat-reflective paint and insulating bodywork featuring large surface areas contributes to the reduction of temperature fluctuations. Traditionally this prompts the use of climate control or heating systems which are big consumers of energy. Insulation is further optimized by the use of acid green-tinted glass for the glazed areas.

The bodywork functions along the same lines as a Thermos flask. It comprises two insulating panels with a sandwich of air. This air layer limits variations in temperature between the exterior and the interior of the car.

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/10/renault-unveils.html#more

There are numerous other innovations in this concept car, although of course how many make it into a production version is of course anyone's guess.

I live in the Florida Keys which are surprisingly well equipped with alternatives. There is a bus service that runs between Marathon and Key West along the only highway connecting the islands. It has seen increased ridership even though the City has banned bike racks. They were too popular! Many people ride to the bus stop and leave another bike at their destinations. I am contemplating buying a folding bike to carry on the bus but I ride a motorcycle which is almost as inexpensive as a $50 monthly bus pass. I work nights and ride against commute traffic and work 14, twelve-hour shifts a month (I'm a civilan police dispatcher). I have used my car so infrequently I have taken to keeping the battery on a charge after it idled so long it went flat on me.Anyone who tells me my $8,000 45 miles-per-gallon Triumph Bonneville (very low maintenance by the way)can't carry a load should check out my saddlebags, my topcase and my cargo net (conchscooter.blogspot.com).But I've been riding for 40 years and learning all the mistakes I've made over a lifetime would be harsh for someone seeking cheap transportation. Buy an Aveo/Scion/Smart instead.
The big problem in the Keys is the cost of housing and the cost of renting. Those of us that made the move when the economy was booming (propped up by those crazy derivatives) and got solid government jobs can hang on at least for now. New arrivals,lured by the climate end up in penury. Oh and let's not talk about rising sea levels thanks! I evade that issue by not having offspring.

9. Choose a job closer to home.

10. Convince employer to set up satellite offices that reduce commute distances.

On satellite offices: I've read that some US federal agencies do this around Washington DC. Some federal government employees can work some days of the week at closer offices. They go all the way in on days they have meetings or need to collaborate more closely.

Moving closer to work is more practical than it sounds because tens of millions of Americans move every year. Over a 5 year period the amount of moving becomes substantial.

Also, I know people who live closer to work on weekdays and commute to their permanent home on weekends.

This is a case of different strokes for different folks. In my life I have used bicycles and motor cycles extensively. I have gone to extremes at times, having once carried an 8 metre length of steel half way across Sydney (Aus) on a Honda 50. At 58 I regularly ride a Yamaha 400cc scooter. But I will say this. It does depend very much on ones environment. At times I feel very exposed on my scooter. A friend who was extremely active as a cyclist, in business (senior partner), and in community issues, recently ran into a car exiting a driveway during a lunchtime ride and is now a partial C5 quadraplegic.

To date, for people who have to travel a distance to work or during work the Aptera formula ( http://www.aptera.com ) is by far the most superior solution. This offers convenience, comfort, and safety all with low material consumption (construction), unbelievable fuel economy, fuelling flexibility, and minimum air and noise polution. This vehicle is truly a pointer to the future.

My 2006 Prius is working out very well in my situation.
I have a 72 mile daily round trip commute into center city Philadelphia from the western suburbs. I've gotten my average gas mileage up to 59.5mpg over the past 6,200 miles by practicing hypermiling techniques. My overall commuting time is about the same; maybe two or three minutes longer.

I used to drive a 1999 Ford Taurus that got around 23.3 mpg driving "normally". The take home message here is that the current technology and MINDSET employed by commuters allows a huge amount of room for improvement and everything needed to make the necessary changes is available right NOW.

The most striking thing about my current commuting situation is that it's impossible not to notice how hopelessly and needlessly inefficient people are behind the wheels of their Flintstone mobiles. They could save themselves some money even without buying a new car if they could only learn some new tricks behind the wheel. But they aren't interested. They're too... whatever; too impatient, too pissed off, too stupid, too, I don't know what all.

For me, parking is my greatest commuting expense. The city of Philadelphia just raised the tax on parking to 20% so now I'm paying $45/week to park vs a little over $20 for gas. Probably the hike in parking taxes is needed to offset rises in the cost of city services caused by Peak Oil.