Does the Public Transit Model Still Work?

Under the fold is a letter from Mojo Man, who wonders about the efficacy of the public transit model.
I live in Denver, and the workers at the bus company (RTD) are on strike right now, and I find something very interesting. There was a lot of worry pre strike that the traffic would be snarled, parking would be outrageous in our downtown area and there would be major problems and headaches. While it's true that there are people and businesses who are suffering, it seems as if the majority of people are getting on fine. In the following link ( ) you'll see peoples comments. There are more than I thought that say traffic is better!?

This brings me to my assertion that the public transit model is outdated and hurting rather than helping the problem. Think about this: I've read that public transit uses the lions share (47%?) of our oil in this country, and yet the aggregate ride-share (percentage of total trips on road) is probaby somewhere between 2-4% of all trips taken. I know the transit ride-share in Denver hovers around 1.5%! [editor's note, by Prof. Goose]anyone have numbers on this?

RTD is subsidized by a 1% (recently hiked from 0.6%) sales tax in the district and spend countless millions of dollars on programs for an absurd minority of the tax payers that live in the area. Running in Denver is light rail, bus, "call-n-Ride" (small vehicle on-demand service) and access-a-Ride (ADA mandated). They always seem to be trying to think of new ways to get people on the bus and yet make no difference what so ever. The real kicker to all of this is the following:

The drivers are on strike because there has been a 3 year wage freeze and there are many drivers who have worked upwards of 100 days with no break, not even a day off. RTD has to mandate over time because they can't hire enough drivers to serve the routes currently running. With a 1.5% rideshare in town, one has only to wonder what would happen to a district so incapable of handling tiny demand if the rideshare were to suddenly jump to say, 25%. The transit here not only does a poor job of providing a solution in the world we live in today, it would be a failure at providing any sort of releif in a post-peak oil world. I think this strike and the statements of people in Denver make that very clear.

Mojo Man

Heading out the  door, so more late tonight/tomorrow.

Buses may use 0.47% of US oil, but NOT 47% !!!  No way.

Diesel buses suffer from several problems in a post peak world.  One is the diesel that they do use (same for Amtrak).  Anther is their difficulty in attracting pax.

Studies have shown that diesel bus only trips attract few "choice" riders (those that have a choice.  Trolley buses do a bit better (smooth, quiet, no exhaust, image), but rail cna and does attract significantly more.

Trip counts are tricky.  You drive home from work and stop by grocery, pharmacy and gas station.  You have made four trips, not one.  Most analysts use two metrics, commuters in corridor (many corridors are 100% auto/SUV, add them into an urban area and transiot #s drop) and trips in a corridor.

More later.

The problem with using overall citywide patronage percentage figures is, as pointed out, that it ignores corridors.

The Manchester Metrolink, for example, carries significantly more passengers than the old rail lines it replaced. (From the article, around 18m per year vs. 5m on the old rail lines). However, a (very anti-rail, pro car) MP tried to rubbish this success by claiming, probably correctly, that Metrolink had only reduced the number of car journeys in Manchester by 1%.

What was not stated was whether Metrolink had meant an increase in the total number of journeys (people now travelling by Metro who didn't previously travel at all), or whether city centre congestion had been reduced (which it probably had).

Agreed.  47% is probably a number from some foaming-at-the-mouth anti-transit site.  All diesel was only 18% of all motor fuels in '95 (the FHWA site seems down this morning, or I'd use more recent numbers).  

To dance around it a bit, the EIA says we use 382.4 million gallons of gasoline/day or ~140 billion gallons a year.  That doesn't include diesel or other motor fuels.

The American Public Transit Association 2005 Factbook says transit uses about 897 million gallons of fossil fuels per year.

That means that transit fuel consumption is .6% of just US gasoline consumption per year.  (Note: it would be much easier to word that if the FHWA site weren't down so I could compare transit's share to all motor fuels instead of just the gasoline portion.)  I expect that Alan's right and .47% is much closer to reality.

I think almost nothing can be concluded from this example. The 47% figure is wildly wrong, but I'm not going to take the trouble to track down the correct one. Next, IF the 1.5 % is correct, then nothing can be concluded from the effects of its being interrupted because it's way too small a figure. Public second guessing is will swamp the actualities.

One needs a public transportation system in which a major part of the public DEPENDS on it in order to conclude anything.

I'm not sure that it's possible to increment one's way into a workable public transportation system anymore. Incrementing our way out of it was accompanied by the growth of the suburbs. And the suburbs were designed around the car. Without a massive, comprehensive system no one is going to abandon their cars. (I have friends who drive into Manhattan from here in Jersey City, despite very good train service!)

Americans are going to have to be blasted out of their SUVs. Very likely we will also have to bomb the suburbs and the malls (joking, whatever agencies lurk here, just joking!) The serious point is, however, that there is no easy way to increment our way out of the system we have built. I would like TODders to argue with me on that one. Well, that's like asking wolves to howl at the moon, isn't it?

Hello DavebyGolly,

The best short & long term mass-transit solution is the bicycle:

In both biological and mechanical terms, the bicycle is extraordinarily efficient. In terms of the amount of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance, investigators have calculated it to be the most efficient self-powered means of transportation.1 From a mechanical viewpoint, up to 99% of the energy delivered by the rider into the pedals is transmitted to the wheels, although the use of gearing mechanisms may reduce this by 10-15% 2 9. In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also a most efficient means of cargo transportation.

A human being travelling on a bicycle at low to medium speeds of around 10-15 mph (16-24 km/h), using only the energy required to walk, is the most energy-efficient means of transport generally available. On firm, flat, ground, a 70 kg man requires about 100 watts to walk at 5 km/h. That same man on a bicycle, on the same ground, with the same power output, can average 25 km/h, so energy expenditure in terms of kcal/kg/km is roughly one-fifth as much.

Building enclosed and elevated [solar powered or windmills for heat or cooling] bicycle freeways is by far the best solution.  There is no detritus requirement except to build the infrastructure, then everything is biosolar after the system is up and running.  Food ingestion for transport distance is the most efficient we can do.

A nationwide crash program to build this would save so much energy that those unable to pedal, due to age or handicap, could drive Hummers, and it would still be just a drop in the bucket.

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

Hello TODers,

Or imagine a pedal-powered commuter train of thirty riders in a highly aerodynamic bullet on steel wheels to lower rolling resistance to a minimum:

From WIKIPEDIA again:
Even at moderate speeds, most cycling energy is spent in overcoming aerodynamic drag, which increases with the square of speed; therefore, power needs increase approximately with the cube of speed.

Typical speeds for bicycles are 16 to 32 km/h (10 to 20 mph). On a fast racing bicycle, a reasonably fit rider can ride at 50 km/h (30 mph) on flat ground for short periods. The highest speed ever officially attained on the flat, without using motor pacing and wind-blocks, is by Canadian Sam Whittingham, who in 2002 set a 130.36 km/h (81.00 mph) record on his highly aerodynamic faired recumbent bicycle. This stands as the official record for all human-powered vehicles.
Sam, obviously a world class sprinter, had to break his own wind, and suffered the full effects of drag.  But a bullet train would share the frontal wind resistance and the final drag over thirty riders allowing them a much easier pedaling effort.  In other words, for the same individual effort of going 10mph on an unfaired rubber-tired bicycle, the thirty man team might be able to cruise at 30-35 mph-- which is far faster than most commuting rush hour speeds!

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

A great big connected peloton.  Hmm - hazardous connecting bikes together.  What you could have is a big moving wind drag (like sail), and all the bikes get in the dam behind it.  Move at constant speeds - 10mph. Then you co-ordinate the intersections intelligently.

The problem remains - trucks.  Then the intersections have to be really smart.

Hello TripHop,

No, think more wildly.  Thirty recumbents on a four steel wheel frame, but only 2 or 3 ft high, same width, fully enclosed like the Japanese bullet train, but no gaps.  Frontal resistance and trailing drag minimized. Dedicated rail path with no intersections.  

When I ride my bicycle, I try my best to synchronize with the streelights so I do not have to use my brakes--I HATE scrubbing off my own energy.  Those pedal commuters who have to cover a longer distance would welcome a 'chain gang' effort to reduce the required energy vs. covering this distance alone.

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

assembling and disassembly (start/stop) would be an issue if there was any kind of connection.  Magnetic, possibly.  It could be done.  As for the streetlight synchronization - not too hard for automanous vehicles linked to the road system.

My system would have these sails moving to and fro and people accelerate to them from the curb and break from them in a converse fashion.  Dynamic - riders join and leave.  Hills present a problem - and thats where your powered system would excel.

A resurgence of pedal propulsion will save energy and cut obesity. But a "devil's advocate" can point out the 10 calories of petroleum per calorie of food made. I'm sure an anti-bicycle person will take that and motor off with it.

Bike use is a lot better for energy consumption than car use, but it would be interesting to take the 10-1 ag conversion into account. My point is there is no free lunch with the energy. Your theoretical pedal train has one problem. At the start of the trip it will need electric motor assist becuse there are few passengers to pedal. Pedal plus batteries? (store extra pedal power when full)

Bicycles have the same problem of motorcycles: It's a 2-wheel balancing device. Ice can cause a car to go into a flat spin, but 2-wheel devices wreck right on the spot. Usually, you can recover from a spin when your car starts to yaw, but bikes fall down, not yaw. Fortunately for bicycles you are going slower.

A self-solving problem is how lots of people are now badly out of shape. Not for long! :)

Stability is tough problem in HPVs. Upright delta trikes don't handle turns too well, and even the stable recumbent trikes both are less visible and offer lesser visibility to the rider. I haven't tried a quadracycle yet, but if I ever get to Tennessee, I'll stop by Rhoades Car.

EVs at least have the weight of batteries to add stability.

Human-driven vehicles are too light to add stability in wind. A trike will blow over with a nice gust. But the two-wheel balancing ones are least stable. A trike can be outfitted with small motor and low-lying batteries to stabilise it. So can a bike but it's still inherently unstable.

Instability is the major deterrent to scooters and motorcycles. The second is exposure to weather. Cold weather sure deters motorcyclists! But sooner or later gas prices will have to deter driving cars. The scooter could end up being the choice of the working poor who must still commute. And eventually, the bicycle. Public transit in suburbs will remain unviable for some time if not for good. Bike to buses? Possible.

I've covered the issue of escalating gas prices on ordinary commuters in other threads. I used examples with actual cases with coworkers living gallons away. Any step away from the car is easally called a step down in living standards. You either use up more time to commute or expose yourself to danger or both. (car > bus: time, car > motorcycle: danger, car > bicycle: time + danger)

As a single example, about 90% of Miami's (Dade County) population will be within 3 miles (many within a mile or two, and almost none past 4 miles) of a station for their "Subway in the Sky" when their 103 mile system is completed.  Local financing is in place, but about 25 years yet to go since the feds cut matching from 80% to 50%.

If the average Miamian lives 1.8 miles from a station, biking to the station, parking or taking a fold-up bike, seems QUITE viable.

Why won't the Fed provide more money? (I know, it's rhetorical by now) Becuse it might help people who aren't rich! No reason the Miami's proposed L can't be built provided it's not ridiculously high-tech. A normal L, yes, but it's a monorail or other amusement park style thing it's aptly named  as it'll be pie in the sky.

One thing. If a lot of transit capacity is needed cheap, there are the old fashioned yellow school bus! No A/C but windows can be opened! That would be the "Cuban method" of ramping up transit cheap. Use what you already have, since the Fed's priority is the No Billionaire Left Behind tax cuts and gratuitous wars.

I just found out that my bike dealer is getting a few ZEM quadracycles in this month, so maybe I can try one of them:

He doesn't have much use for Rhoades Cars.

Lightfoot claims their semi-upright utility trikes are as stable as any quad:

I completely agree with you on the virtue of bicycles. I call what happened in China the Great Leap Backward, in that one respect at least.
It's sure worked for cuba, a country we need to look up to in this.

And 10 MPH is effortless once you're used to riding a bike.

Whew, someone got carried away at Wikipedia.  Someone else needs to go in and correct that entry.  Bikes can't be 99% efficient, since chain drive is only at best about 96% efficient.  Bicycles are the most efficient mass produced land vehicles for transporting people.  I would argue that sailing is more efficient for transportation overall.  

Cheaper and easier than building overhead bikeways, let's require bicyclists to become trained and licensed, and then make automobile drivers responsible for any collisions between moving motorists and bicyclists.  Then everyone can just bike on the roads like most of us who bike regularly do anyway.  

If oil became really expensive, I would expect to see suburbs slowly disappear and human transportation switch to walking/biking/buses/trains.  That's essentially where we were before the oil age, and it's certainly still available as a fallback if needed.  Except for the suburbs part, we could get most of the way there in 5 years if we had to.  The suburbs part means that it would take many decades.

Now my browser window with the link to the chain-drive efficiency finally comes up.  The link is, the maximum efficiency of the chain is 98.6%, dropping as low as 81%.  That doesn't count the efficiency losses in the rest of the drive train, and the limiting factor - losses to wind resistance - at higher speeds.
Bicycle riding (or anything human powered) is ultimately fueled by food.  I did some funny math based on the fact that food oils are very close to diesel in energy (people who run food oils in biodiesel cars report no change in mpg).  My my rough math and calorie conversions, a bicycle gets 684 mpg.

A sailboat goes on wind until it wears out(*), which kind of puts it on a different efficiency scale.

* - I think I'd rather pay for bike repairs ;-)

Sailboats can be kept going indefinitely, as can motorcycles and bicycles. My small sailboat was build in the 1970s, and there is no reason my young grandchildren should not be sailing it in the 2070s. My favorite bicycle is a 1985 5-speed Schwinn Cruiser that I had rebuilt at about 25,000 miles and now is good for another 25,000, by which time I'll be ready for adult tricycles.

For commuting I do not recommend sailboats, but as a pleasant way enjoy one's life, sailing is as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.

I've sailed a little and for a while was an avid Wooden Boat reader.  My little "*" joke was just because boat maintenance folks always seem a little more flush, drive a little nicer cars, than the guys at the bike shop ;-)
I have noticed that too, and speaking as an economist, there is a simple--and I believe correct--explanation. Lots of people want to be bicycle mechanics, including many exceptionally intelligent and talented folk; thus this high supply of people in the industry keeps wages down. Working on boats, around fumes from sanding fiberglass, epoxy, gasoline from outboard engines, etc., and working by yourself in big lofts or warehouses or garages is not nearly so much fun as working in a bike shop.

BTW, sailmakers get approximately sweatshop wages for doing highly skilled work. It seems (to me) that everybody and her sister-in-law wants to become a sailmaker.

Sailing instructors do not make enough to support a family, but, OHHHHHH do we ever have fun! My own solution has been to get my income from other sources and donate my skills to teach sailing for fun. And although I can fix my own bikes, I do take them to a master mechanic, because I'd rather spend my time having fun rather than replacing spokes, etc.

Isn't there also some behavioral economics surrounding "mental accounts" which might explain a higher price tolerance amongst boat owners, rather than bicyclists?

(even when the "boat owners" and "bicyclists" are the same person)

"Boat owners" is a heterogeneous category. Sailboat folks tend to be like me, wonderful mellow and frugal people. People who own big powerboats--well, to be kind, let us stereotype them as the kind who also drive Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades. When you burn 300 or 400 gallons of fuel on a weekend (not unusual among "stinkpoters" as they are sometimes known;-), then what is a few hundred $ more or less for repairs?

(For self-protection, some of my best friends have power boats and are nice people. Not all rich people who own 80 foot power yachts or 45 ft. sport-fisherman boats are slobs.)

FWIW, Newport Beach slip fees are running around $20/ft.
Which Newport Beach? There is one on the east coast and a big one on the West Coast. And is that per week or per month;-) ?

Most rich folk I know buy their slips and regard them as good investments: We are looking at six digits to the left of the decimal point here. Indeed, the price of slips for big boats in desirable locations has gone up, I'd estimate, at two or three times the rate of prices of luxury homes over the past fifteen years. For the price of a good slip you can buy a nice house . . . .

There have been experimental low speed diesel powered vehicles which have gotten over 1000 mpg. Mammals are very inefficient at converting energy into work with roughly a Carnot efficiency of 1% compared to 8% for early steam engines and 40% for modern diesels.
If it's a 40:1 advantage, why is your best case only 1000 mpg?

And is that a pulse and glide result?

Most likely.
Do you have a link for this?  About half of the work we do at our lab is experimental engines, and I've never heard of anything that comes close to that.  The only references I found in a quick Google search were sites ridiculing the idea, and pointing out that most claims of high mileage have turned out to be plug in hybrids that weren't counting the electricity taken from the grid.  I would appreciate any reference you can give.
According to the Guiness Book of World Records website On August 24, 2004 on a 11.9 mile course near Hiroshima a car with a human driver on board got an average of 11,524 mpg! I couldn't find an english language site saying how they did it. That's eleven thousand miles per gallon.
According to David Gordon Wilson  "Bicycling Science" MIT press.  A bike at 4 mph gets 2440 mi/gal, at 10 mph, 1310 mpg, and at 15 mph, gets 840 mpg.  A bike chain drive is typically about 90-95 % efficient in putting the human power on the road, all things like bearing drag, etc. taken into account.  

And a human is about 20% efficient in turning oatmeal into mechanical power.  Humans are not heat engines and are hence not stuck with the Carnot limit.  They are fuel cells able to use all sorts of fuel, not just super finicky hydrogen like those other fuel cells we hear so much about.

The power capability of humans, again from Wilson, are- flat out max for a few seconds-2300 watts, for 10 minutes, 600 watts, for 1 hr, 400 watts,  and for ordinary people like me, far advanced into geezerdom, for maybe 5 hours, more than 80 watts and I'm dead. 80 watts on an ordinary bike gives me about 9  mph on the level with no wind.  You young guys can call this "effortless' if you want.

i am still working on my automatic bike transmission and making good progress.  I figure that since the market in the US is about $4 E9 I can get maybe 1/1000 of that with which I shall save the world as I desire it.

A so-called horsepower (primitive unit!) is 746 watts

There is nothing wrong with biking at 9 m.p.h.; that is three times as fast as most people walk.

I used to walk 17-minute miles for a couple hours at a time, but age has slowed me down to somewhat over 18- minute miles, and usually not for more than 90 or 100 minutes at a time.

Since I've been on Medicare I've still been able to maintain 12 m.p.h. on a bike, but I rarely go for more than 100 minutes without a rest. Indeed, the part of my anatomy that I first become aware of is my rear end, and I stop to rest it usually about once an hour.

For long-distance riding I now use an electric-assisted bike, a Giant LaFree that I'm very happy with, and to do 30 miles on that machine is a piece of cake. Also, when one is biking home into a 15+ m.p.h. headwind, just putting the electric power on and gearing down turns what would be an unpleasant ordeal into an easy, if somewhat slow, ride.

Sailboats are quite common where I live. Some describe them as  a hole in the sea you pour money into, they require quite a lot of maintainance.
Big fancy boats with engines and electronics and electric lighting systems are nothing but expense and trouble.

I sail small boats (10 to 23 ft. long, mostly) and use for auxilliary power oars or paddle or 55 pound thrust electric trolling motor. My total out-of-pocket sailing expenses, including costs of towing boats on trailers is about $400 per year, (plus more if I go cruising in Caribbean or Mediterranean, etc.) and I try to sail at least 1,000 hours each summer. Most of the time I sail with a University affiliated sailing club, and once the membership fee ($200 for nonstudents, less a $20 discount for early joining) is paid I can use the boats all that I want. My big expense is driving to and from various lakes--of which there are 10,000 or more in Minnesota. However, only about 500 to 1,000 of those lakes are very good for sailing.

The ice today just finished clearing away from small lakes in southern Minnesota, and so tomorrow I can sail;-)

Or maybe this afternoon . . . .

Thanks Odograph. Now, to add some fun. If it takes 10 calories of petroleum to make 1 calorie of edible fuel (food) the result is 68.4mpg - still quite an improvement albeit at the cost of speed. (can't have everything!) That is still better than a hybrid or smaller motorcycle. However, you save in energy of manufacture and healthcare costs as you get healthier. Healthcase uses energy too, so if everyone rode bikes, that would represent a lot less petroleum used for the prescription drugs.

Now, the fuel mileage skyrockets when you use less energy-intensive agriculture. With fully natural methods, you get the whole 684. Bicycles shine when combined with the natural agriculture but aren't SO good with petro-agriculture.

In the late 1990s I was in Beijing, and they still had the bicycle economy going.  There was this contraption that they had put together - in the back you sort of had a small flatbed over an axle with wheels on either side, and the front was essentially the front half of a bicycle.

These things seemed remarkably efficient for carrying small amounts of cargo around town.

Then there was the time that we saw a guy who had 3 refrigerators loaded up on the back of one of these things. Relatively small fridges to be sure. It was too heavy for him to pedal so the guy was walking the thing up the street.

You can pull some amazing things with a human 1/2 to 3/4 hp "motor".  See BikesAtWork.

I expect people could design some kind of human-powered farm equipment based on peddle power that would be more effective than hand/arm powered sythes and such, but more efficient than tractors -  if human labor were to become cheaper than petroleum labor.

In the olden days of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in the U.S. draft animals were scarce and costly; many farmers could not afford them. Hence, what they did was to hitch up the wife in place of a mule, and she did the heavy pulling.

Thus what a guy used to look for in a woman has changed, at least in some places, but not necessarily in my home town of Lake Wobegon, where: "All the women are strong; all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

In the olden days of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in the U.S. draft animals were scarce and costly; many farmers could not afford them. Hence, what they did was to hitch up the wife in place of a mule, and she did the heavy pulling.
That may have been true in Europe or Asia, possibly. But not in America. Draft animals in America were cheap because land for fodder was cheap.
Your statement is true for the U.S. after (roughly, depending on region) 1825. Prior to that time, and especially in the eighteenth century it was common for wives to be used as draft animals.

You learn a lot when teaching American Economic History, which I used to do;-)

And after 1865 in the South :-(
 Americans are going to have to be blasted out of their SUVs."

I sure agree.

That's the problem with Hemenway's article - the 5 points one has to believe to be a doomer are all extremely believable and proven by history.

They are disproven by history too ;-).  Everybody just chooses the bits from history that they find psychologically appealing.
"Very likely we will also have to bomb the suburbs and the malls (joking, whatever agencies lurk here, just joking!)"

The suburbs will coalescense as things contract.  Personal mobility for majority will be less about the car and more about personal and PT.  This is 2020 I am thinking.

A sure to be unpopular observation;

I don't think you could have more brain power collude in one location and come up with a shittier interface to share there views.  The interface of this list is atrocious.  Any thread that goes more than 20 or so posts is a no man's land.  No finger pointing, but come on.  

A sure to be unpopular observation;

I don't think you could have more brain power collude in one location and come up with a shittier interface to share their views.  The interface of this list is atrocious.  Any thread that goes more than 20 or so posts is a no man's land.  No finger pointing, but come on.


Mr Bush:

Wasn't it nighty-night time hours ago?

You can't be right.
He can spell.
Hey man - growing pains.

This site started a year ago, about the time I first learned about Peak Oil and started attending groups here in Toronto concerned with it. I've seen in just a year this go from an obscure topic, to something I can almost discuss as a given in certain social situations now. Again, all in just one year.

Point being this topic is absolutely EXPLODING and as such the Oil Drum it seems to me is dealing with a readership and POV - monthly, even weekly - that is growing so much that running this site has to be an enormous challenge. I don't evny these guys!

(well actually I do...being on the cusp of a discussion about the single most important issue facing the human race...but anyway...)

Do you have any constructive suggestions for how to improve the interface to the site?

The unpaid volunteer who developed this "shitty" and "atrocious" interface is curious.

I think this format is fine. I simply read from top to bottom and that works great.

Good work. Maybe a financial angel will step in and provide the elves a little recompense.

Let me start by saying that I really appreciate all the hard work you do.  If it were up to me, I would double your salary :-).

There are a few nits that I find a little annoying though.  When I open up a story to read the comments, it can take a while - especially if there are a lot of comments.  When it first starts to load, I start to scroll down or search for '[new]' to find new comments, but this is while the page is still loading.  Some of the things that load towards the very end keep grabbing control and scrolling the screen back to somewhere else.  I am not 100% sure what it is, but there are several such things.  

I am wondering if you can reorder things a bit so that the things that want to force the screen to scroll can be moved to load at the start of the page.  Either this or tweak how these things load so that they don't change focus.

I run into the same issue sometimes when I start to write a comment.  I get the box and start typing even though the page is still loading, and while I am in the middle of typing, something grabs focus and moves it elsewhere on the page.

This may be a problem with your system. Could you list the specs on what you are running and maybe somebody here could be of some help.
Keep up the Good work, Super G. I speak for the "many" other regular readers and posters on this site who like and actually prefer the format.

I'd like to point out that if you use Mozilla Firefox for this site, there is a tremendous advantage.

If you simply hit control-f, it brings up a little bar at the bottom of your browser. Type in the two characters "[n"

These are the first characters of "[new]" - which appears before all new posts.

As you can see from your main page, a thread you are familiar with has say 198 posts, of which 17 are "new to you," or have not been viewed by you when you were logged in.

Simply click the down button to skip directly to these posts.

Ignore the chimp.  He's usually pretty well behaved, but someone let him out of his cage too early in the morning. ;-)

I really appreciate your efforts.  I particularly like that it renders fairly well on my Mobilepro, which is running IE 3 or 4.  I think I see what AC was complaining about, but it's more a factor of the number of posts and the length of some of them than the interface.  People seem to have so much to say about all of this.

Here are some ideas that might help with this problem, but I doubt they'd be easy enough to do to be worth it.  I've found that the easiest way to deal with everyone's verbosity is to just skim most posts.  Another trick is to shrink the font so that you can roll through the pages faster looking for gold nuggets!

  1. Require everyone to add subject lines, then use a collapsable tree interface to shrink things down to just the subjects.  This is what Daily Kos does.  We just need a corporate sponsor (LOL) to pay you to do this full time.

  2. Display just the first few lines of everyone's posts, with a link to the rest.

  3. Display just a subject line or a few lines, and put a separate view somewhere (below, perhaps) that shows the rest.  This is like Outlook or other email browsers do.  That should only take a million or two lines of code to pull off.

  4. Don't allow more than x words/characters per post.  This is like limiting comments to two or three minutes in a live meeting.  If we didn't limit the number, but did limit the size, it would encourage people to be concise or require multiple posts to say something long.  On the other hand, some of the best posts are long.

  5. Encourage long posters to set up their own blogs and link to the articles.

  6. Require everyone here to cut and split their own wood for heat, grow their own food, and bike/walk everywhere for their transportation.  Then they won't have the time or energy for much posting!  (And their hand will hurt too much from where that damn ash log stabbed them with a splinter and where their hand blistered from pushing that crosscut saw, and their shoulders will be really sore from all that scuffle-hoeing.)

Thanks again for your great work!
> Require everyone here to cut and split their own wood for heat, grow their own food, and bike/walk everywhere for their transportation.  Then they won't have the time or energy for much posting!  (And their hand will hurt too much from where that damn ash log stabbed them with a splinter and where their hand blistered from pushing that crosscut saw, and their shoulders will be really sore from all that scuffle-hoeing.)

But that is for the plebes, not we candidates for Philospher-Kings !



I think you may need to adjust your expectations.  A blog isn't really meant as a way for everyone to share their views.  It's a way for the blog owner(s) to share their views.  Many blogs do not even allow comments.  

I suspect what you want is a message board or maybe a mailing list, not a blog.

The threads can get a little long, but, really, this is doing fine. The scroll bar is still a pretty efficient way to skim even the long threads. Even when I'm using my dinosaur computer.

Maybe AngryChimp needs some anger management?  ;=)

By all means keep working on the site, but I don't see anything yet that calls for such harsh remarks.

From a not well known organization, the National Transportation Library...

Preliminary figures  for 1973 show that the
United  States consumed 75,561 trillion Btu's in that
year and that the transportation sector consumed
24.8 percent of that energy.
Figure 8 shows that  mass  transit and intercity
buses together consume only 1 percent of the U.S.
transportation energy, while automobiles in urban
areas consume 34.2 percent. A more detailed study
by Pollard, Hiatt, and Koplow estimated that bus
and rail urban transportation consumed only 0.66
percent of the total transportation energy, or 1.8
percent of all urban passenger transportation  fuel.
Transitâ€<sup>TM</sup>s importance in providing urban
transportation is much greater than its low
energy consumption implies because  transit makes
more efficient use of energy.  Transit carries 5-8
percent of urban vehicular person trips while
consuming less than 2 percent of all urban
passenger transportation  fuel."

Reread, " mass  transit and intercity
buses together consume only 1 percent of the U.S.
transportation energy, while automobiles in urban
areas consume 34.2 percent. A more detailed study
by Pollard, Hiatt, and Koplow estimated that bus
and rail urban transportation consumed only 0.66
percent of the total transportation energy, or 1.8
percent of all urban passenger transportation  fuel."

Now of course, due tothe rising percentage of car ownership, and the increase in private vehicle size, the mass transit system probably uses less fuel as a percentage of transport than even then.  I will seperate and do a post concerning other issues of mass transit.

Having in my prior post layed aside the idea that somehow buses and mass transit consume vast amounts of fuel, let us look at some major points concerning mass transit systems:

(a)  It has been well discussed that buses simply are very greatly challenged in our "spread out" exoburb/suburban society.  Recently some planners in my local city studied the idea of bus routes, and found that to cover the spread from shopping, to schools, to any real employment was nearly impossible.  What this meant was that a person would still have to maintain a car to be able to get to the bus stops, park, and then have no car at the other end.  It goes without saying that freedom of mobility died on the day a person gave up their car.
(b) Cultural issues.  I have a female friend who lives some 3 blocks from her place of employment, and drives.  Why?  It is well known that walking the streets of her neighborhood is simply not safe, and her work shifts often extend into the night.
(c)  Transit shutdowns and late buses.  The employer does not want to hear it.
(d)  Motivation or "success".  Once having had to give up the ability to engage in recreation, travel to see friends and family, go out to dinner at nice restuarants, go to events away from the neighborhood (there are none)....all of which are lost without personal transport in many places in the country, the question becomes exactly what a person is working for.  The logic of sponging off of your richer friends for transport when you are employed and doing your best will not sell to most Americans.  

Note, we are not talking about a 40 or 50 grand SUV here.  I have seen people move backward to smaller cars, or older cars, but the idea of going to NO CAR for many people will be a LAST RESORT and will be accepted under only extreme pressure and with great anger.

You may say, given the rabid anti-Americanism that I often see here, this is an "American thing."  Not so, of course  A friend of mine recently returned from Germany, where she paid $6.00 plus in U.S. dollar equavalant for Diesel for a van (!  Diesel, the gas folks were paying slightly more!!)....
She said to me, "what amazed me is that even at that price, they still drive a lot and they still drive fast!"  Remember, it was the German Carl Benz who patented the gasoline auto, NOT an American.  

There's no doubt whatsoever that there many legitimate reasons for people wanting to and needing to drive cars. But a lot of the legitimacy is because of the way our system is structured -- it forces people into using cars and makes anything else unattractive or even dangerous. But that doesn't have to be the case.

Where do you see rabid anti-Americanism here? Is it anti-American to want to change some things about one's country? I love my kids, and that wouldn't change even if they did something very wrong. But I would be ashamed of them. Without risking shame there is no love. I AM ashamed of my country, just as were many Germans in the 30s.

"There's no doubt whatsoever that there many legitimate reasons for people wanting to and needing to drive cars. But a lot of the legitimacy is because of the way our system is structured -- it forces people into using cars and makes anything else unattractive or even dangerous. But that doesn't have to be the case."

OK, how do we physically restructure the US to make owning a car an option?  I'm not being sarcastic--this is a question I keep coming back to.  I've read numerous pleas for more light rail or bicycle use or whatever, and while those solutions will certainly play an increased role in our energy future, I can't help but see them as very minor contributors to the overall US situation.

This is one of my main problems with people like Kunstler who keep talking about the death of the suburbs.  Have any of them actually put together an estimate of what it would cost (in monetary and non-monetary terms) for virtually everyone who lives in the suburbs or the exurbs to move into a city?  I've never seen anyone even attempt to model such a massive and fundamental transition, and I strongly suspect that they have no real appreciation for the magnitude of what they're proposing and/or predicting.

I think that it's far more likely that we'll find acceptable ways to live with the basic layout and structure we have now, sprawl and all.  Electric cars with a 200 to 250 mile/charge range are very close to being mass market items, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (cars, buses, and trains) are a lot closer to mass rollout than many people realize.  Moving our transportation energy consumption from oil to electricity won't be a cheap or pleasant transition, but compared to the alternatives (reshape the country, die) it's the best option.

OK, how do we physically restructure the US to make owning a car an option?

Wrong goal.  All we are ultimately concerned with is reducing oil requirements at a pace consistent with availability.

For a moderate guy I think you are getting caught up in the doomer's vision, that it has to be done all at once, for everyone, or we fail.

I think that it's far more likely that we'll find acceptable ways to live with the basic layout and structure we have now, sprawl and all.

I think Kunstler would agree, actually.  As I understand it, he doesn't think the suburbs will vanish.  He just thinks they will become the new slums.

BTW, I think electric cars are grand ... but let's take the ultimately conservative view that there will be no, zero, technological change in the next 20 years:

How many 100 mpg Vespas will be on the road in 2026?

I think you are correct. For one thing, people are not going to move from the lilly-white ex-urbs and suburbs to the cities, which are perceived (and to some extent correctly) as having high-crime, rotten-schools, being high-tax, filled with teeming slums of drug-dealing minority groups, corrupt city governments and centers to which homeless and crazy people gravitate.

Hybrids I see as only a transition to electric cars.

For fifty years I have been puzzled by the low rate of progress in storage battery technology, but if push comes to shove, the suburbs can exist with old battery technology driving electric cars for moderate distances.

I think the interesting thing is that I could say yes, hybrids are only a transition to electric cars.

But I could see that as a 30-40 year transition, without worrying about Defcon levels <= 2

Neighborhoods do transition from rich to poor.  Early adopters will pave the way, the poor will protest but eventually sell out, and then mainstream upper class folk will want to live there.
Make that, "poor to rich."
All but "Old Metairie" was built post WW II.  Not as sprawling as other suburbs of that era, but otherwise the same.

Ten years ago, the median price sof hoems in "East Jefferson Parish" (Metairie & Kenner + small suburbs) was 25% higher than Orleans.  That reversed about 3 or 4 years ago, and just before Katrina, Orleans was at a 20% premium to East Jeff.

The wheel was turning, and the post WW II construction was showing it's age.  The poor were moving in...

For fifty years I have been puzzled by the low rate of progress in storage battery technology, but if push comes to shove, the suburbs can exist with old battery technology driving electric cars for moderate distances.

Based on some of the recent developments that have made potentially major improvements in battery technology -- eg, much faster charging times -- one of the critical components was nanotechnology.  Thin films, enormous surface areas, and an understanding of how nano-scale structures can function appear to be more important than exotic new chemistries.  Major leaps forward require that all of the pieces be available, and the nano-stuff was missing until recently.

Well, if we have to assume 2,000 sq. feet of housing per person, I agree it would be extremely difficult.  My family of four is managing quite well on 250sq. feet per person, so I don't have a lot of sympathy for the "necessity" of large suburban housing.  I would expect to see some suburban/exurban developments abandoned, some converted to more dense housing for farm labor, some as transit slums, some just like they are now but with more transit, some as wealthy transit enclaves, some completely unchanged.  I would expect to see more housing, particularly infill higher density housing, in cities.  In SE Michigan, we already have a bit of abandoned exurban housing and some successful infill development.

It seems to me we'll use all of the silver BBs at our disposal, and hopefully enough of them will hit the target to keep things going.  The real question is how to hit that target with rising energy and food prices, high debt levels, currency devaluation, war, and failing retirement systems getting in the way.

> Cost to restructure the US away from teh automobile.

We have a historic analogy.

After WW II a very high % of the established prewar US urban structure was trashed.  Some abandoned, some became slums, soem changed character and use, some stayed as is.

The US managed to prosper despite abandoning much of the embedded housing stock and the capital it represented.

The US gov't did this as deliberate policy.  I have seen a "Chamber of Commerce" promo for post WW II sprawl Jefferson Parish.  Only white folks on screen, etc.  But also the telling "You can use your VA loan to buy a new home in Metairie but not to renovate an old house in New Orleans".

I support the same in reverse.  Put all gov't support into efficient energy urban forms (where the post man can walk his route, the policeman bicycle his beat, UPS can deliver a days' worth of packages and put 16 miles on his truck) and let the "free market" do the rest.

Step one is stop building more highways with ANY federal funding.*  Step two is at least 80% (as it used to be a few eyars ago) or 85% or even 90% federal funding for any viable Urban Rail that a city or regiob wants (viable includes long term funding support from locals).  Step Three is giving mortgage breaks (via the federal mortgage companies) to high efficiency neighborhoods due to their lower risk (in a Peak Oil world this is just prudent financial management).

Encourage local property taxes to reflect the cost of providing services to low vs. high density (1 firestation per 90,000 in high density, per 8,000 in low density, etc.)

No "Grand Plan" to bulldoze the McMansions in the exurbs, just let "natural" economic forces take their toll.  As they did after WW II.

The pre-WW II houses that we junked were solidly built, unlike what I see today.  Most of Phoenix construction today will be in need of lots of TLC & repairs in 50 to 60 years.  So letting "natural" economic forces take their toll will noit have the inherent cost that trashing 1920s built homes did.

The fact is that the values of $750,000 McMansions in the exurbs cannot be salvaged in any case.  The question is, do we let that sunk cost in bad investments dictate policies that will trash our society & economy or do we "move on" ?

BTW, if total US real estate (non-farm) is worth $X trillion today, my SWAG is that 2/3 to 3/4 will suffer moderate to severe declines in value and most of the remainder will climb in value (adjusted for economic activity & inflation).

That is why I own part of a rental house in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans.

The only way for a suburb to properly survive is for it to become more autonomous from the larger city.  Essentially modify the environment in a way such that people simply don't need to often travel outside of their general area very often.  A couple of things come to mind:

The giant shopping malls and giant supermarkets are an example - these things aren't really viable without people getting in their cars and driving.  When I was a kid, we had the corner grocery - when my mom ran out of something, she would send one of us kids on a bicycle to go down and get whatever it was (either that or we were bugging her too much, and she just made something up for us to do to get us out of her hair).

The closest analog to this type of store right now is a 7-11, or the mini-mart at the gas station.  Currently their model is to sell stuff like junk foods and cigarettes, but given their prevalence, but for many people a 7-11 is walkable whereas a regular grocery store is not.  Yes, they would need to change the mix of stuff that they sell, but the basic infrastructure is already in place and could be tweaked to meet whatever needs there are in the community.

Another area is that suburbs have gone to having these huge high schools that draw from a large region.  I suspect that part of the rationale for this was to make it easier to provide a more varied curriculum, but this development leads to lots of transportation costs getting kids too and from these schools - it also means that sporting events involve travelling even further so that the team can play against some other enormous school somewhere else.  I suspect one change will be a gradual move back to smaller high schools.  For specialized instruction of one sort or another (more obscure foreign languages, for example), you could potentially use videophones so that kids spread about in smaller schools could still have some of the options that larger schools currently provide.

Employment is another area.  I was reading somewhere about how when bedroom communities are first established there is essentially housing and that's about it.  Other stuff filters in later.  Initially you might start to find stuff like a dentist, or a doctor, and then more stuff as time goes on.  Ultimately the goal should be that jobs are spread about an area so that it is possible for people to live closeby to their work.

How practical is any of this?  Beats me, but if oil gets expensive enough, these are the types of things that people will have to try in order for suburbs to remain viable.

Hello ThatsItImout,

Your quote:"I have seen people move backward to smaller cars, or older cars, but the idea of going to NO CAR for many people will be a LAST RESORT and will be accepted under only extreme pressure and with great anger."  Small motorcycles & scooters get excellent mileage, but powered bicycles get great mileage:

Pedal bicycles best of all, because they are strictly biosolar powered.  In harsh weather climates: enclosed bike freeways will isolate the rider from the cold and wet, or the hot and humid, and on nice days the windows can be programmed to open automatically.  Snowplowing, which takes enormous energy, can be greatly reduced to a narrower bikepath width in the residential neighborhoods.

But best of all, safety and conviviality in the tremendous numbers of people to talk to as everyone is pedaling merrily along.  My two cents.

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

Or this:

"From the outside, the Volvo 3CC has an iconic funky-cool tapered shape designed to make a dynamic statement that nonetheless is unmistakably Volvo. Under the hood is an electric powertrain that quietly propels the Volvo 3CC to a governed top speed of over 135 km/h (85 mph) and delivers zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration in approximately ten seconds - with zero emissions! "

Approx. 180 mile range on straight Lithium Ion batteries.

Great to look at:
This is a fully developed prototype and not an "artists rendering" or mock up...give them 4 more years on battery development, charge at night on wasted utility capacity....the suburbs ain't dead just yet....:-)
The Volvo or the bus....what do you think?

When I'm on a gridlocked, 10 lane, southern California freeway, I'll sometimes say to whoever I'm riding with "you know, if this was converted to a bike freeway we'd only need a couple lanes, and then we could set up nice little cafe's and stuff along the side." .... "we'd get there faster too"

If they are an SUV lover this annoys them no end ;-)

Well, not to pass up on some German bashing -
  1. German cars have been getting steadily larger since the early 90s, likely for much the same reason as American cars - profit margin. And status, of course.
  2. German car companies have roughly the same political clout and market influence as the American auto industry.
  3. Germans thinking driving fast is a right, one very roughly on many American's belief that owning weapons is a right.
  4. A shocking number of people now also drive a kilometer or two to drop their kids off at school, go to the bakery, etc.

Now to answering some of that German bashing in a big picture way -
  1. Even as the cars get larger, the fuel efficiency has increased. Not anywhere near as much if the same technology was used in a vehicle weighing less, though.
  2. The German rail system, non-drivers (many older people particularly), bicycle riders, environmentalists/Greens also comprise fairly major (though not cohesive) power blocs. What is good for BMW, VW, and Mercedes is not good for everyone else, which is a political fact of life here. In other words, bike paths, sidewalks, crossings (whether underground, bridge, or press button stoplights) are always part of road building, and rail lines are always part of the transportation planning (the new high speed rail link running in the Rhine Valley is currently under construction about 3 miles from where I live - late, overbudget, etc.)
  3. No real comment, except to note that 97%+ of the German autobahn is no longer speed limit free. Living on the major route between Frankfurt and Stuttgart, I expect this stretch of autobahn to be one of the last to get a speed limit in Germany - after all, it is such a way to impress good customers.  
  4. This will be some of the easiest low fruit to pluck imaginable. And unlike the U.S., the infrastructure was built with pedestrians and bicycles in mind, so not using a car simply means dressing more warmly or getting an umbrella. (My wife was stunned when we lived in Northern Virginia in the early 1990s and there was literally no way to walk from Fairfax City to Fair Oaks Mall - I don't there is today either, considering the roughly 9 or so lanes of traffic, the multiple multilane exits, and the absolute non-need to take foot traffic into account in American suburban planning.)

To quickly sum up - your friend was absolutely correct, but it is likely that she didn't notice how such driving is not a requirement for anyone to enjoy a fairly enjoyable and comfortable life, or how if gas went to $15 dollars a gallon, people are likely to start living the way they did ca 1955 - though with much higher unemployment and accompanying social unrest.

First, of all the main points to find in my little post, German bashing was NOT one that I would include.  Why?
(a)  I own two Diesel Mercedes, a 24D  (quick easy conversion to vegetable oil, just motor oil, or just about anything that burns) and a 300SDL  (over 30 mile per gallon over the road)
(b) a very dear female friend of mine is German and did not leave until she was past 25 years old
(c) my grandfather on my moms side was German
(d)  All my friends and one sister who have been there or grew up there agree with your remarks, they do have a real alternative to the car in most places.

My remarks concerned what I consider the idiotic belief by Americans that if gas goes to 6 or 8 dollars a gallon, the highway will empty out, the interstate will collapse, and we will descend within weeks into some kind of Gothic period in which no one will ever be seen more than 10 miles from their home.

People will drive less, maybe, they may drive electric cars, they may drive used cars running used vegatable oil, they may even drive cars using a steam engine and FIREWOOD, but they AIN'T GONNA QUITE DRIVING!
Ask some of the Germans, and French, and Brits if they didn't find some way to drive even during and after the war, when fuel seemed to be NON EXISTENT!  
If you wanted to stop humans from driving automobiles, you should have NEVER let them see the first car.

Point taken - as I am often accused of America bashing, I thought it was time to turn it around, at least in part. Somehow, it often seems as if Americans have lost the ability to comprehend complexity - for example, peak oil can be true, and that oil companies are price gouging equally true - this isn't an either/or proposition.

As for driving vehicles - well, by 1944 or so, essentially nobody not directly connected to the military effort or very high up in the political structure was driving in Germany (look at the German refugee flows from the east in the winter as the Russians pushed west - mainly people powered, with a few horses and farm tractors thrown in). Mainly because most of the vehicles, fuel infrastructure, and many of the drivers had been blasted. Yes, it is possible to get an entire society to drive less, in this case it just involved a few years of strategic bombing followed by tactical air interdiction, millions of dead/captured soldiers, and disastrous military campaigns resulting in leaving most of your vehicles behind or watching them burn or otherwise no longer function - often because there simply wasn't any fuel available.

And then, a few years later, you start driving again. (Except for the dead, of course.)  

The piece from Stuart Staniford might be interesting to read in this context, though.

Societies with a certain amount of infrastructure and/or redundancy can fall back to a 'simpler' state without need of any real increase in complexity or investment. Societies lacking such tend to disappear or migrate - look at various Indian cultures in the desert Southwest and their fallback in terms of water supplies, as an example of what I mean.

Part of the debate here, anti-American or not, is what sort of society today's America is. In other words, is the dominant American strand currently traditional New England style self-reliance and frugality or modern Phoenix / Vegas / Houston style wealth and exuberance.

A traditional New England style of American society is quite likely to be capable of long term survival - it certainly was before any use of fossil fuels. But Phoenix / Vegas / Houston are essentially unimaginable without fossil fuels - and from most of those wonderful economic and political indicators, America has chosen to build its houses on sand instead of hard granite. But North America is a large place, and I make no predictions of what it will look like in 50 years. The next 10 years are very likely to be unpleasant, though the degree of unpleasantness is hard to accurately gauge - but the information starting to drift through the media haze is not encouraging.

Devil take the hindmost seems to be the most current accurate summation of peak oil manifesting itself (to whatever degree it is), whether inside or outside of the U.S. As this is one of the more common responses to declining resources or threats, it isn't really a surprise.

Though to answer a certain doomer's tag line - yeast don't seem smart enough to respond that way, which may be why yeast are still found as essentially unicellular organisms. More complex entities do understand the idea of sacrificing a part to save the whole. It is often the morality of that sacrificing which is so disturbing, not its general efficacy in practice.

My remarks concerned what I consider the idiotic belief by Americans that if gas goes to 6 or 8 dollars a gallon, the highway will empty out, the interstate will collapse, and we will descend within weeks into some kind of Gothic period in which no one will ever be seen more than 10 miles from their home.

Does anyone really believe that, American or otherwise?  $8/gallon would be severe pain for many, but it wouldn't keep everyone from driving.

H'mm I live in a neighborhood where a third of the households used to (pre Katrina) not own a car.  I drove a few times/week (in my pristine M-B 240D, manual transmission) and burned about 6 gallons/month.

There I*S a B*E*T*T*E*R way of living that does NOT revolve around the car.

I live it and enjoy it and am fighting to keep it alive.

The rest of y'all need this living American example of human scale (as opposed to Manhatten scale) to see & feel.

It works here in NYC. Only 13% of all trips to the Central Business District are made by car with the rest either taking mass transit or walking. But that works in dense urban areas. I cannot vouch for less dense cities.

And if you can't find a respectable source for that 49% figure, please remove it.

Let's get past the 48% number here and get to the point of how well our transit is going to be doing as gas prices rise dramatically in the next few years.  Transit in cities like Denver can't possibly be compared to the transit in say New York.  The city is much more reliant on automobiles than transit and most of the population in the Denver Metro Area resides miles away from Denver.  RTD's bus service is sparce at best in areas outside of Denver proper, except some of the northern suburbs, but most of the population growth in Denver occurred way north or way south of Denver.  These really smart people who moved out in BFE are the most guilty of owning gas guzzling, status symbol SUVs and monster trucks.  How can RTD help them.  They don't serve the public need now, how can they with $6-7 gas (see Life after the Oil Crash's new info today) that may happen this summer.  Denver is not New York and neither is most every other major metropolitan area in America.  I think Peak Oil should affect the whole US, huh, and if so I doubt the city planners and transit agencies will be prepared.  Question is, what can be done to lighten the blow?

Come clean, you work for halliburton right?

Either that, or you're smoking the GOOD mojo.

Public transit will never work well in cities like Denver that have been built completely around the automobile.  There just isn't sufficient population density for a transit network to support brownian movement as do systems in NYC, London, etc.
Exactly.  Cities that were built mostly after WWII are built for the car.  We can't easily retrofit them for public transportation.  It would probably be easier to star over again somewhere else.  :-P
Hello Leanan,

Yes, and after the Peak occurs: we will forever have less and less detritus energy daily to accomplish the Powerdown things we have to do to minimize violence.  Moving most people to pedal bikes, and building a supportive bicycle infrastructure, will free up a lot of oil so we can tear up half the asphalt & concrete in the less dense cities, then turn them into permaculture gardens.  Otherwise, we will have to sledgehammer and shovel this awfully heavy material by hand.

Man, I wish our leaders would talk about Peakoil to the unwashed masses!  C'mon, Richard Rainwater--be a national hero for the postPeak Age.  I know you are reading TOD if you read LATOC & DIEOFF.

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

Hey, check this out.  Someone is starting over from scratch:

Mega-suburb takes shape in Utah

Mining company builds community for half a million people

It's a development plan that will take more than 50 years from start to finish. A string of "walkable" communities, expected eventually to house half a million people, is starting to rise on the nation's largest piece of privately owned land next to a metropolis.

This mega-suburb, twice the size of San Francisco, will be the work of a mining company, Kennecott Utah Copper Corp., which has no experience in real-estate development.

The Utah company is a subsidiary of London-based Rio Tinto, a mining multinational and avowed convert to environmentalism, which decided to make a showcase out of its surplus Utah lands instead of just selling them off for cookie-cutter subdivisions.

Home builders were skeptical when the Salt Lake valley's biggest landowner laid out the plan for a 20-mile string of densely packed communities framing the rural west side of Salt Lake County. The communities would be laid out along a planned highway and light-rail lines connecting to Salt Lake City.

I would be interested in living someplace like that.  Well, if it weren't in Utah...

Hello Leanan,

Great find, kudos!  It would be interesting if the TOD data freaks could do an extensive analysis of this community as to potential detritus energy savings, biosolar sustainabilty, reliability of water supplies, qty of exports to inports,  [PV, windmill] to detritus grid ratio, soil fertility expectations, community birthrate plans, the whole gamut of Powerdown plans, Earthmarine defensibility, etc.  Who knows?--marketing plan could be target-marketed at Peakoilers--we might all be moving there soon. =)

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

I grew up in what was then called a "bedroom community" outside LA.  In the 70's "park and ride" got to be a big thing, with both buses downtown, and carpooling.

When you say mass transit won't work, are you speaking about some far future, without gas to get to the park and ride, or about the short term?

In the short term, with Hirsch-style mediation startinga at peak, all we need to do is reduce our gasoline consumption (and individual auto use), not eliminate it.

Hello Odograph,

We spent 50+ years of cheap energy building the wrong transport infrastrucutre [auto-optimized].  Do we have 50+ years of ever-declining detritus energy to build the correct transport infrastructure?  I doubt it.  My hunch is that we will never afford batt-powered heavy equipment like 10 cubic yd concrete trucks, bulldozers,  hi-lift cranes, etc-- so therefore we have one chance to get it right--start building now while there is still lots of detritus to run heavy equipment, and building a mostly bicycle/batt-bike infrastructure and intercity heavy freight/passenger rail system.

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

What's your timeline?  When do we no longer have oil/biodiesel reserved for critical infrastructure?
Hello Odograph,

My SWAG is 5 years after whenever Peakoil occurs.  If NO major, carefully planned, proactive mitigation policies are kickstarted soon, then the future cascading blowbacks will setoff a never-ending, ever-intensifying series of poorly planned reactive responses.  After 5 years of retrograde responses: the vastly reduced social cooperation and physical infrastructure will be dysfunctional enough that large scale proactive measures will not be possible anymore.

For example, if the "Nuke their Ass--I want Gas' mindset predominates, then the postPeak military confiscation of detritus will preclude the possibility of this energy being diverted, then used to vastly accelerate optimal Powerdown rebuilding and ecosystem restoration.  The old 'ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure' story.

The just-in-time supply chain is vastly mismatched to effectively responding to postPeak crisis events because very little 'safety stock' buffering exists.  If the next GoM hurricane hits Houston, for example, we don't have any reserve refineries sitting idle further inland that can quickly ramp up to keep things going.  That is what that CNN Moneywatch article was talking about: where we could see a gasoline superspike [$6,7/gal] if some unforeseen event affects the supply chain.

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

Going from the classic Hirsch Report (pdf below) and "Scenario I" which is "Mitigation begins at the time of peaking" I only eyeball it (graph on page 57) to be a 5-10% reduction in oil supply from peak, five years out.

But you are asking me to think that with only a 5-10% reduction, we'll choose to unpower our essential infrastructure, rather than luxuries like French butter, Fiji water, Hummers, recreational air travel, etc., etc.

I think this is really the origin of a lot of "doom."  It compresses the shortfall into a time period shorter than the experts predict, and then uses that compressed schedule (rather than the real one) to prove a lack of time to fix things.

Hello Odograph,

Thxs for responding.  My SWAG incorporates a much greater postPeak 5Yr decline in the US, because I give great credence to [Westexas & Khebab]'s argument of accelerated export depletion, PLUS I expect a much greater military energy portion, PLUS the energetic requirements that some existing infrastructure will need massive repairs to keep functioning [Leanan-$100 bil/year?], PLUS other existing infrastructure that will have to be torn down or modified, PLUS building the new desired infrastructure, BESIDES Powerdown of most of now unaffordable luxuries you mentioned.  My assumption is 15-20% less 5 years postPeak with no mitigation [due to the Denial inertial flywheel effect & invisible hand of the free-market], but then look how much 'expensive energy', mentioned above, is now going to have to be reassigned to redirect the existing status quo.

Redirecting the postPeak status quo will be like a time-compression of the Hubbert downslope.  Again, this is assuming Americans will not be at each other's throats over energy problems. A big IF!

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

I think it would be good if the pessimists could plot out a curve, with their rational expectations for a steep depletion.  That would provide us a little more to work ...

But even 15-20% still seems minor to me.  Is that because, as a moderate, I suffer a "can do" attitude?

Like many of us here I've already cut my gas use in half (by switching cars, using the bike more, and walking).  I've also cut my electricity use in half (with a new refrigerator).  You want 15-20% more, on top of that, and I could do it standing on my head.  I'm sure my consumer purchasing decisions have reduced "upstream costs" as well.

I think the key here is the difference between society's true "denial", and a lazier "I don't need to worry about that yet."

I'd like to see more action now (more mitigation than is already being begun), but let's face it, this is still proactive action.  The consensus is that we are at peak for light sweet crude, and have a little time on heavier grades.  The public, waking up now, is late by our lights, but isn't really "denial" unless they really try to drive those SUVs post-peak, with $7, $8, $9 gas.

Note that GM (poor guys) expected that to happen, and were caught flat footed when the "denial" did not materialize.

Sigh, let's get real here.

"Spike" denotes a transitory pbenomenon. "Superspike" presumably just means a bigger transitory pbenomenon. Sure, a brief period of $6 gas, a spike, would cause a lot of whining and bellyaching - maybe even from the exurbanite just mentioned on this very site who wanted a vast killing, a free ride, from real estate speculation, but "only" made a nice profit. But $6 gas would only raise the cost of driving by around 17 cents a mile, from around 50 cents to around 67 cents, even at 20mpg. No doubt that would sting a few people, but for the vast majority I think I'll just shed a few crocodile tears and move on. Really.

And if it lasted longer, people would gradually adopt higher MPG cars. Over time, not all at once. And very likely, the cost of driving would remain near that 50 cent range.

The only way to make a big deal out of this - even under fairly improbable scenarios - is to have panicked governmental fools interfere with their customary gross incompetence. Since the government is full of fools, and is largely elected by fools, this could certainly happen. After all, we tried it in the 1970s.

Typical government. Problem: there were "no gas" signs, because the price was controlled too low to clear the market. Solution: force gas stations to sell it a teaspoon at a time. Result: huge lines wasting a portion of the already limited supply, wasting enormous quantities of nearly everyone's time, and thereby creating tremendous and entirely gratuitous economic disruption.

Come on now, have we really gotten so soft that we can't distinguish an inconvenience from the end of the world?

Denver's Rail Plans

Light blue is open or under construction, dark blue is planned light rail expansion and golden is planned commuter rail.

117 miles all told (per memory).

Denver plans to promote TOD at each stop.

There is enough of a framework to let much of the city coalese around this system.  the speed and degree of change will depend upon oil prices, economic activity levels and how fast the plan is built.

But Denver in 2022 will be in MUCH better shape than most US cities.

"Denver plans to promote TOD at each stop."

They're going to promote TheOilDrum at each stop?!?  Wow, they really are forward thinking! ;-)

The "other TOD".  Transit Orientated devlopment is a standard acronym in transportation planning.  A friend did his dissertation on Melbourne & Toronto TOD (basically streetcar supported TOD).
The information in this letter is factually incorrect.

Take a look at Table 4.6 from the most recent National Transportation Statistics.  Transit is fraction of total energy consumed by the transportation sector.  Furthermore, a good portion of tranisit energy is devoted to electic powered rail vehicles, whose primary energy source is unlikely to be crude oil.  

A major international comparative study was published in 1999 by Kenworthy et al..    They found that U.S. cities consume on average 56,587 MJ/capita, of which 98.6% is devoted to private vehicles.  In contrast, European cities consume 18,475 MJ/capita (93.2% private) and "wealthy Asian" cities consume 8,664 MJ/capita (83.9% private).  Canadian and Australian cities also consume significantly more than European and Asian cities.  U.S., Australian and Canadian cities consume 324%, 195% and 179%, respectively, of the private transportation energy consumed by European cities; both Asian city categories consume less than half that of European cities per capita. ("Cities" refers to metropolitan areas for all of these figures.)

Public transportation makes a huge difference with energy consumption.  

P.S.: I lazily clipped the paragraph on Kenworthy above from some of my research notes, and realize that it may need more context.    

-By "consumption" I am referring to transportation energy consumption.

- The study included a sample of Asian cities that they grouped into categories of "wealthy Asian" and "developing Asian."

AFAIK I'm the only regular poster who has worked in public transit. The buses should be there and taxpayers should pay for it for the same reasons we pay for the fire department. We hope we never need the services of the fire department but we're glad its there if we do.
The typical bus passenger is a female minority minimum wage worker. Local economies need these workers. About 10 years ago we had two routes which ended at a suburban mall. The suburban government decided that it didn't need the service because its residents didn't ride the bus. The transit authority cut one of the routes and ran the other route for a few years without that suburb's subsidy. Transit management changed and the other route was shortened to exclude that suburb. The mall's stores low wage employees couldn't get to work so they found other jobs. One by one the stores closed and the mall without the stores' rent went out of business. Maybe it was just a coincidence that the loss of bus service was soon followed by the closure of the mall but something did push it over the financial edge. Next time your in line at Walmart or McDonalds remember those low prices are dependent on the ability of low wage worker to get to work.
As for the Denver bus drivers on strike more power to them. Bus driving is rated as the third most stressful job in America
You raise some very interesting and, I think, important points. One thing that has struck me is how much better coach (which is what they call buses) travel works in the UK than in the U.S. For one thing, the job of being a coach driver is widely respected, and they tend to be kind, witty, very helpful people who sometimes add much to the positive experience of riding the bus rather than taking the tube or train or driving.

Also, the U.K. has lots and lots of buses, including double deckers that provide not the fastest but, IMO, one of the most pleasant ways to get around in Britain--not only in London and suburbs but all over the island.

What I cannot figure out is the relatively low status and high stress (in general) of U.S. bus drivers vs. the apparently much lower stress and higher status of bus drivers in the U.K.

Any ideas?

Dan, perhaps I can help you. As a general rule, I have found the bus to be the most stressful way of getting from point A to point B in the USA. Far worse than, say, bicycling through Amsterdam, with its four flavors of traffic lights, tram tracks lying in wait to "tramline" you at every turn, and cars, trucks, trams, bikes, and pedestrians going every which way at all times.

Maybe it's different in the UK, but given the traffic level over there, and the reputation of London busses for not arriving at all for an hour or more, and then showing up when they feel like it in a huge pack, I hardly think so.

The stress arises because busses here are very slow moving, are tardy and unpredictable, frequently (i.e. on the order of a third of the time) incur huge delays by missing connections, and too often don't show up at all. And this is only what happens outside of rush hour, i.e. at times when there is little traffic. In rush hour, "service" is utter chaos. And yet most employers - most especially the low-wage ones - are utterly unforgiving of even five minutes' lateness.

In other words, "bus service" here is an oxymoron, totally mismatched to the demands employers make on bus riders. And the way they can't seem to get their act together even during hours when there is no traffic feels a lot like the sort of insulting shiftless incompetence reported in one of your very own UK newspapers. Our urban bus drivers, just like the Air France employees in the article, are usually tenured government employees who, if they do perform well, do so from some inner ethic and not from any requirement visibly imposed by the bus service agency. Years ago, I commuted on a bus which would arrive early, only to stop for ten or fifteen minutes in front of the driver's house every morning while he went inside and read the paper and had a cup of coffee. This sort of thing, and much more like it, did nothing to enhance the status of bus drivers in my mind. Nor did I have any respect for the agency managers, who did not respond to or act on my report.

So, as far as I'm concerned, on time, every time, all the time, or else shut the darned thing down because it's a useless relic. Furthermore, if that mall won't pay a decent wage, then bankrupt the investors and shut it down too. Like a lot of other retail businesses, it's otiose, it's surplus, and it didn't deserve to exist. By having people work long (and late unsafe-for-commuting) hours for practically nothing, it was simply wasting human resources. Goodbye and good riddance, there are plenty more where it came from.

Oops, that's Don.
One reason public transportation works in cities is that they tend to be more forgiving of tardiness.  You often can't get there on time via car, either, so people are mellow about it.  I was half an hour late to my first job interview in NYC.  (Country bumpkin that I was, I'd never taken a subway before, and got on going the wrong way.)  I figured I had no chance - but they offered me the job on the spot.
Due to the unpredicatbility of London traffic, yes, I have occasionally been let down--big time--by bus service in the UK. But at least in my limited experience, the service is reliable, on time, safe and stress free most of the time even in London, and almost all of the time outside of London. However, it helps that I do not need bus service to get to work, and if a bus is a few minutes (or even half an hour) late on occasion it doesn't bother me.

What I find distressing in the U.S. is not only that is bus service bad and inadequate, it generally seems to be deteriorating.

By way of contrast, I have noticed no deterioration in UK service over the decades, though of course greater London has expanded enormously, and long delays are probably somewhat less uncommon than forty years ago.

Hmmm...I wonder, if they can really do that, are London bus drivers, on the whole, far more disciplined than their U.S. counterparts...?
I do believe they are--and it is a mutual respect thing between driver and passenger in the U.K.

Alas, what seems more and more in the U.S. is a mutual contempt relationship.

The difference may be due to the difference in labor laws. In England the laws protect the worker and in America the law protects the employer. A lot of the stress I experienced came from the inconsistent behavior of management.

Well, after a long days cipherin' (attributed to the famous Jethro Bodine), we've determined that mass transit systems use some one half of one percent of transportation fuel, and that noboby in their right mind rides the bus!
That was a long day's jouney into minute questions answered that nobody asked...our work here is done....:-)