Some final thoughts on the UK trip

Well there are lots of comments that I have not had a chance to go through yet, but once I get a couple of minutes . . . . But first, with your indulgence a penultimate comment on the trip.

Coming back from the UK, there are a couple of impressions that I would like to put down before they get overcome by the ongoing changes in our world that seem to be already happening.

Over the past weekend since my last post I took the train from London up to Nottingham, and then, on the following day, out to visit with friends (whom I will call, hoping they don't mind) the Sociologist and the Voice. When they drove me to the airport yesterday I left in the middle of a London rush-hour (to work). I arrived here in the middle of a US rush hour (after work). The traffic in both cases was very heavy, multi-lane, yet in the UK was moving faster and with better control. The Sociologist commented that the authorities had installed cameras and had adjustable speed limit signs along the highway that they changed to cope with the traffic. She commented that it was a system that worked and that, for example, holding traffic to 40 mph kept it moving at around that (which it did for us) while keeping a fixed speed would otherwise have brought it down to 15-20 mph (which was the US experience).

I was musing on this in the 30-minute hold-up at the US end and thinking that perhaps trains were not the total answer. But lest Alan skewer me, let me explain quickly why. I rode trains as I mentioned for a couple of days. In both cases the trains were full. And this was off-peak travel. They were pleasant, and comfortable, and had sockets to charge my laptop, and a small drop-down table so that I could efficiently use it. (Whereas on the plane it was not that practical to use even the small machine that I have). But on both journeys the frequency of trains was already fairly high. There must therefore be a given capacity limit above which the current system will not be able to operate. And looking at the numbers of the cars on the highways in each country, I was left wondering just what proportion of the traffic would be absorbable into a rail solution, before it became saturated. My impression was that rail would not be able to take that much, without drastic changes that are not, I would suspect, being even contemplated, let alone planned for. Unfortunately rail is also a "hub-bound" system, and it can take longer than the "acceptable 5%" time to get from home to the office. In the Sociologist's case she would have taken 2 hours, because of the connections, to take a trip that takes around 40 minutes by car, and which would have cost almost the same as the wear and tear and parking. This is, admittedly, because she does not go to that office every day of the week.

The use of speed-monitoring cameras and displays was much more pervasive that from my last trip, and I found that I took more notice, as did the rest of the traffic, so that it was perceptibly slower than it used to be, in overall speed, even on the motorways.

Oh, and just to prove that I am still a little mischievous, even after all that travel time, let me pick up just one comment from the last couple of days. The has been, apparently, a meeting held by Skeptics Magazine on Climate Change. (With my mind still not here yet, I can't remember where I got the direction-sorry). I was intrigued by Dr Greg Benford's solution to global warming, which is to do something that the power industry, particularly that based on coal, has been trying to eliminate for the past 30 years. And, because it relates to some previous thoughts, I grin and pass my thoughts on.

When there is a major volcanic eruption, such as Kragatoa the resulting clouds of dust injected into the air can affect the world temperature for some time. Krakatoa apparently, from the PR on the show, affected global temperatures for 3 years. The eruption of Mt Pinatubo had a similar effect

The resulting aerosol cloud depressed the mean global temperature by some 0.5oC.

So what Greg Benford wants to do is to seed the upper atmosphere with small particles and thus counteract some of the effects of global warming. So this is where I grin and say, um! You know the mining and power industries have been cleaning up their act since the beginning of the 60's (when apparently this current cycle may have begun after the cooling that took place from 1930 to 1960 - as shown in the graph I posted earlier. As a result a lot of the particulate matter that used to go up the smokestacks has been removed. And from the suggestion, to put particles back, one might even conclude that this might have had some impact on global warming (with the side comment that it might explain the global cooling that simple carbon dioxide modeling doesn't). So the mining and power plant folk, and thus indirectly, the environmental activists, might have caused the current cycle of global warming by taking these particles out of the air ? So now you might want to have us put them back, so that we can start the cooling process - is that what I am hearing?

Hmm! Maybe I should have another day off before returning to serious posting !

This has been thoroughly covered elsewhere at and it is opined that further clean up could be a problem.  Although, given all the crap that the Chinese are putting out with their coal fired plants, I'm not too worried about that for the near term future. Also, Bush is doing his part by refusing to make coal plant upgrades subject to the latest pollution controls.

What I wonder is, could be possible to get the right type of aerosols up there in the atmosphere without otherwise harming people, plants, and wildlife?   Some people have suggested we wait for this kind of solution when we have a crisis.  I don't think there is a chance in hell that we will avert further and horrible global warming without some drastic technological fix like the one suggested.  It is suggested, however,that such an approach may destroy the ozone layer.  Nice tradeoff, as usual.

In short, that which will solve the problem is not politically feasible; that which is politically feasible wil l not solve the problem.  


Very interesting, I think no one really knows what exactly is happening with climate these days.
Actually the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree as to what is happening with the climate. Only paid fossil energy hacks and demagogues are claiming that things are just fine.

The sheer lack of scientific knowledge on any level in the US is staggering.

One should add that there was not actually any global cooling between the 30s and 60s. Rather a sudden uptick from 20s to 30s, followed by a plateau that lasted till 1980.
Those roarin 20's!  
Please, proving the level of scientific ignorance is not pretty.

One of the major problems in the U.S. over the last generation, in my opinion, is that the scientific method of questioning, testing, using reproducible results for further questioning, has become hijacked to supporting a person's/group's beliefs.

The American debate about climate change (a much, much better term than global warming) is bizarrely skewed into opposing camps, where belief is the determining characteristic, not rigorous interpretation of facts, with various camps bickering non-stop.

For example, trying to determine how much climate change is due to human action is in one sense a dead-end, until the entire process of understanding climate change is fairly well-developed (and no, the part about not burning fossil fuels is not what I mean - adding CO2 to the atmosphere, bringing it to levels last seen in the distant past is essentially not a scientific question in the sense of 'what if?' - the past tends to be a fairly good guide to the future, especially when dealing with physical processes, and if you understand the majority of variables/interactions - if solar radiation were to increase or decrease in the used time frame is a very critical aspect of climate science, as is the amount of volcanic eruptions).

A very concrete example - will Europe be colder, warmer, or about the same in the next 20, 50, 100, 500 years? 10 or 20 years ago, the consensus, based on the then best current science, would have been warmer. The current consensus (at least in Germany), is about the same (drier however, and more extreme - hotter summers and more powerful storms, for example). A certain developing framework actually suggests colder, though this certainly could be incorrect. And if you look at the past 2000 years or so, the swings are quite extreme, without any human interaction in the sense of burning fossil fuels, creating huge heat islands, aircraft, etc.

Americans seem to base positions on faith, then use science, however defined, to defend them. This is not a mark of understanding how science works. Climate science tends to reduce  human actions to at best a fairly minor factor in a vast, complex system (solar radiation variations are so many magnitudes greater that it is a reminder how truly miniscule humans are on a planetary scale - not that size is definitive; a virus is truly tiny on a human scale).

No, this is misleading. Swings over the last 2000 years have been trivial compared to that now under way. On this time scale, it is variations in solar radiation that are of negligible extent.
Undoubtedly our models are not nearly good enough to tell us what is in store on a global, let alone a regional scale, even if we knew the future course of our emissions. But every new bit of evidence coming in suggests the changes will be more catastrophic than previously feared, not less.
I do believe I commented a good number of months about the Maunder Minimum and the 'Mini Ice Age.' The swings have been more extreme than most people seem to be able to accept, unless they don't have any beliefs.

But the point about increasing CO2 levels last seen in the very distant past covers the point of what seems to be a fairly clear cause and effect chain - more CO2 seems quite related to higher global average temperatures - using the past as a guide. Burning fossil fuels is stupid in this context.

But notice that my objection to fossil fuel burning is based very concretely on past observations, and a firm faith in cause and effect and physical processes being consistent (though Hume does do an elegant job destroying that faith that the past is a guide to the future using logic).

I don't really understand much of the American debate at this point - I suggest that attempting to use facts as the basis for theories to be tested is scientific, and suddenly this becomes proof that my position is somehow not compatible with what certain people believe about global warming?

I don't have too many beliefs - the facts are more than hard enough to deal with.

I'm an American very concerned about Global Warming but I think a major tenent of global warming (or Climate Change) models is being missed here based on your statement -

The current consensus (at least in Germany), is about the same (drier however, and more extreme - hotter summers and more powerful storms, for example). A certain developing framework actually suggests colder, though this certainly could be incorrect.

You follow this with a statement about historical change on a time frame of 1000's of years.  We are seeing changes measurable now in less than a decade.

The climate models I am familiar with, developed more than 20 years ago, say that as the average temperature increases the variability around that mean also increases.  The key here is average and knowing if you are talking about a monthly mean, annual mean, and means of a specific location, region, or global temperature.

It is completely consistent with global warming models to have hotter summers and colder winters when the average yearly temperature is on an upward trend line.  As long as the departure from the mean in summer is greater than the departure in winter the average temperature goes up year after year, indicating a global warming effect.

This is a hard concept for people to grasp in climate change.  Increasing the global temperature by 0.5 degrees C doesn't mean that everybody has a slightly warmer enviroment with the same magnitude of fluctuaction around that mean.  What many globally warming models predict is that there will be much more energy (heat) in the global system causing much greater variation around the mean.  This means by definition the system is much less predictable.

Climate change (or really more accurately Global Warming) will cause most locations to experience weather phenomenon far away from the mean the majority of the time.  This means that in June rather than having many days between 20-32 C the range might expand to 14-38 with rapid swings between the extremes.  Ditto for rainfall where the old pattern was 2.5 cm per week, each week, for a month replaced with one week of 10 cm followed by 0 cm for the next 3 weeks.  The averages don't change much but the consequences for plant and animal life, including humans, are severe.

   well, somewhat like the Gulf Stream shutting down was not really a scenario 20 years ago (and all the knock on effects still not even being clearly formulated), there is a certain strand of research suggesting that we could tip suddenly into an ice age - and even then, the levels of CO2 may mean a higher mean temperature average measured over hundreds of thousands or millions of years.

I believe the climate has always changed, but ten years is a time scale for weather - centuries is essentially the shortest time frame for climate.

Humans are interested in weather, not climate. The problem is, our actions are having an impact on the climate.

This is simple to explain. The Brits actually require that you know how to drive before they give you a license.
They really fail applicants!!!! It can take years to get a license!!!!!!

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You might consider that it was the "science" of economics that brought us lettuce from a thousand miles away. It was the "science" of agriculture that gave us industrialized mega-farms. It was the "science" of business management that gave us globalization.

"Science" is not something we have shunned by any measure. We have completely embraced it.

"But first, with your indulgence a penultimate comment on the trip."

Does penultimate have a different meaning in the mother land, or do we get to hear even more about your trip after this post?

There is another topic I am going to write about, but not to the extent of a full post. And given all the other items that are going on it may be a while before I get around to mentioning it.
Regarding traffic flow, it's a good example of attacking the energy crisis from all angles.

I wonder, however, how much the UK's vast use of roundabouts impacts traffic flow and thus energy consumption.

There's a lot of information available about them here: and some links to their impact on energy efficiency here:

(spot the ex-pat brit living in Michigan!  personally I think we should be replacing as many 4 way stops and lights as possible with these things :-)

personally I think we should be replacing as many 4 way stops and lights as possible with these things

We are.  They are the hot new trend in road design.  

The main problem is that Americans don't know how to use them.  The first one built in this area actually had the traffic going backwards on it for awhile.  The contractor didn't put the signs up before opening it to traffic.  o_O

I second that.  Americans instinct seems to be exactly the opposite of what roundabouts call for.  A new one went in locally that I go through most days.  If I approach with enough speed to blend seamlessly in behind someone already in the circle, the way Brits do, the person in the circle slows way down, which then requires me to slow down, and the whole thing backs up, instead of facilitating flow.  Then there are the folks who stop before entering, even if no one's anywhere in sight.  We need some way of teaching people how these are meant to work.  Is this intersection (where traffic has grown hugely the last couple of years) better than it would be without the circle?  Marginally.  Is it anything near as good as it would be were it in the UK?  Not even close.
This is simple to explain. The Brits actually require that you know how to drive before they give you a license.
They really fail applicants!!!! It can take years to get a license!!!!!!
Oldhippie I agree! I read VIZ Comic and the recurrent jokes about L plates etc tells me getting a drivers license is tough there.

I was driving along today and an SUV was in the lane to the left of me at a stop light, OK, they were in the left-turn lane, right? Well, when the light changed, the SUV went right on ahead and once through the intersection, was driving along in wrong side of the road! I thought, that can't last, I'd better get out of their way so I squirted ahead, and sure enough, the SUV moved right over where I was, they probably had no idea I was there.

The book "High And Mighty" about SUVs says a lot about SUV drivers, but has some interesting insights on US drivers in general I think. Let's just say they don't seem to be able to think other than in the here and now, and literally don't seem to be able to plan for a situation developing 100 yards ahead on the road.

I guess that explains why Brits can drive through things like this:

We have one that has been here since the 1820s if not earlier called Lee Circle (named for the statue of General Lee eracted on the column in the middle).  The streetcar runs with the traffic around the circle on the inner lane.

However, there are two stop lights on the circle to allow the streetcars to cross the traffic in the outer lane and enter and exit the circle.

A "modification" from "modern" traffic engineers.  :-(

If it was built in 1820s, it's probably not a roundabout.  A traffic circle or rotary, but not a roundabout.  Roundabouts have very specific design criteria, and are not the same thing as the traffic circles most Americans know.
Where I'm originally from in New Jersey, they were spending a lot of time and money about 15 years ago removing roundabouts (called circles in that part of the U.S.).  Ellisburg Circle in Cherry Hill (South Jersey) comes to mind - it was removed in 1992 to "ease traffic congestion."

Here in Massachusetts, "rotaries" are alive and well, although I don't know of any traditional intersections that have been replaced with rotaries.

Again, roundabouts are not the same thing as rotaries.

Rotaries don't work and are being phased out.  Roundabouts do work, but only if they are properly designed.  And designing them properly is not easy.  A slight change in the angle of an on-ramp can mean the difference between smooth flow and a three-mile backup.  Often, they use trial and error to get the right angle.  Lay it out with traffic cones, and adjust until traffic flows smoothly.

You are the traffic engineer (IIRC) but from what I can tell the Massachusetts rotaries seem to have at least some elements of the roundabouts, one feature being that incoming traffic yields to traffic in the rotary.

From Wiki:

Massachusetts Route 128, a motorway/freeway in the United States, also has two large at-grade roundabouts (or "rotaries" as they are called in that state) in the town of Gloucester. They are signed as Exits 10 and 11 on the freeway. Roundabouts in Massachusetts follow the same general rule as they do in the UK, with circling traffic getting the right of way.

Also see

Roundabouts are usually much smaller than rotaries.  (Though Boston does have some pretty small ones.  Boston roads are...unique.) Also, they are reverse banked.  That is, the high side of the road is on the inside of the curve.  This is to slow traffic down, because it makes it feel like you're going faster than you are.

Slowing traffic down paradoxically lets you move more cars through the intersection faster.

That is one reason for the sudden popularity of roundabouts.  Not only can they increase capacity, they can be used for "traffic calming," which is another hot trend in road design.  

Interesting.  Based on your definitions, I'd say we have a mix of both roundabout-type and rotary-type junctions.  There are at least three roundabout-type junctions within a mile or two of my house.  They connect relatively small roads, they have small garden-type central islands (usually maintained by local businesses in return for free advertising), and they do have slight reverse banks (is this what Wiki calls "deflection"?).  At any rate, and whatever they're called, they work well and as far as I know there are no plans to remove them.  I think two-way or four-way stop signs, or traffic lights, would be far worse in these locations.
(is this what Wiki calls "deflection"?)

Answering my own question, no.  Deflection makes the entry paths into the roundabout non-tangential, encouraging drivers to slow down instead of accelerate into the roundabout.

A quick Google search will turn up lots of interesting informatin (as usual).  Here's something from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, Roundabout Safety Comes to America.

If you like British roundabouts, have a look at this one. It is the Magic Roundabout in Swindon. They replaced one large five junction roundabout with five tiny roundabouts in a tight circle.
You can go clockwise around the outside, anticlockwise around the inside and spin around any of the small circles. Always giving priority to the right.

I wonder each time I go around it what it must be like for an American visitor driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, using a manual gear change because there are not many automatics over here and not knowing how a normal roundabout works.

There's an even fancier 6-way version in Hemel Hempstead that the locals there also call the Magic Roundabout. It works very well.
A major benefit of roundabouts is that accidents tend to happen in slower speeds and shallow angels giving much milder injuries.

Roundabouts with lots of traffic and large ammounts of bicyclists on crossing bicycle roads is not a good combination. There is a large risk that drivers dont see fast moving bicyclists while looking for other cars and too many bicyclists tend to take chances. One of the busiest roundabouts in my home town will soon be rebuilt with tunnels for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The very long term goal is to have 50/70 km/h main
roads tending to be mostly 70 km/h with no crossing pedestrians or bicyclists and a complete parallell pedestrian and bicycle lane network. 50/30 km/h streets tending to be 30 km/h where people live or where there are manny pedestrians. The odd problem here is probably the busses, they need to both go fast and have a pedestrian road crossing next to each bus stop. Efficiency and cost versus security, I guess the tradeoffs will go back and forth for manny years.

Actually, after moving to the Eugene, OR area, I became very fond of 4-way (or 'All Way') stop intersections. They actually make you pay attention and think instead of simply reacting in an operant-conditioning manner.
The only work with relatively low traffic volumes, though.  
My years of experience as a bus driver is that 4-way stops actually improve traffic flow even in dense traffic. When power outages knock out the traffic signals the rule is to treat the intersection as a 4-way stop. Dense traffic often flowed better due to greater spacing between vehicles between intersections. Instead of a compact wave of cars moving out when the light turned green there was more of a steady trickle. An alternative explaination would be our local traffic engineers are idiots.
I favor the alternative hypothesis.
I rode trains as I mentioned for a couple of days. In both cases the trains were full. And this was off-peak travel.
I understand one of your journeys was from London St Pancras to Nottingham, was the other one Durham / London Kings Cross?  I'n not surprised that off peak service to Nottingham was full as it's a fair sized city (275k population) with total population rising to 630k by including the surrounding area.  There are 2 direct trains per hour with 2 additional services per hour on alternate routes requiring a single change (normally at Grantham).  Fastest time for c123 mile trip is 1hr 40 mins and the private rail operator (Midland Mainline) has some really cheap off peak fares on this route, as low as £6 ($11) single.

There are some measures which can be done to raise capacity without going to a big effort to upgrade track infrastructure.  Adding more carriages or an additional 4 car unit can raise seating capacity by around 300.  Some of the smaller intermediate stations may have platforms shorter than the lengthened trains - 50 years ago trains were stopped twice but modern automatic doors can be selectively operated to ensure all open doors are alongside the platform.  About 18 months ago an additional standard class carriage was added to all London Kings Cross / Scotland services typically providing 64 additional seats for each service. In an energy downslope situation I'd expect rail capacity to be sorely stretched (and not just in UK) - a practical step would be to reduce number of 1st class seats and replace with standard class thus seating around 50% more per carriage.

Depending on paths required by other service and freights service frequency can be raised in some instances.  As an example one of the busiest routes in Europe, London / Manchester, currently has 30 minute frequency with journey time around 2hr 10 min for the c200 miles; in 2008 weekday frequency is being raised to every 20 minutes with journey time reduced to 2hrs - this will effectively eliminate any airline competition on this key route.

Some EU mainland nations have double deck trains including Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland but much of UK rail infrastructure dates from c1850 and bridge and tunnel gauges are unsuited to double deck trains.  The real problem with capacity in UK is peak hour services into London and studies have shown that much of the capacity benefits of double deck trains would be offset by commuters taking longer to board and alight at the numerous intermediate stops.

Incidentally (and bizarre as it might seem) one of the best solutions to train punctuality between Nottingham, Leicester and London was one of the cheapest - just £5 ($9) per member of train dispatch staff. Thunderer (very loud) whistles were introduced and used 60 seconds prior to departure with result that passengers boarded much faster.

Omitted to post this link: new train whistles
Easy one this. Just use a few of your spare nukes to trigger a Yellowstone Caldera Event...

Seriously, Vulcanicity has played a small part in cooling the planet, Krakatoa created some nice sunsets (and crop failures), Tambora blew in 1815 and created the 'year without a summer' in 1816. Fine ash and pumice in the upper atmosphere reflects light back in to space.

The whole question regarding global dimming is starting to be looked at. The possiblity that cleansing the upper atmosphere of vapour trails after the Twin Towers attacks when the US air fleet was grounded may have caused a significant widening of the diurnal temprature range in the US.

Does GD offset GW? I am not a climate scientist, but doubt it, CO2, CH4 are heat trapping gases, the Ice, Ash and pumice of vapour trails and vulcanoes act as light reflectants. So pumping fine particulates into the atmosphere could get us the worst of both worlds: Heat trapping AND less light for photosynthesis.

I have no doubt some tacky bastard will promote pumping particulate matter as a way forward, but if the heat is still trapped, the ice sheets of the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctic melt and we loose Albedo and create yet more of an oceanic heat-sink.

Or we could create a permanent eclipse by launching a large, unfolding umbrella into space between the earth and the sun. Correctly positioned, this would cut a few percentage points off the effective output of the Sun.

Anyway, Nursey says its time for my tinfoil sleeping helmet.


Grin, actually it was Greg Benford's podcast that raised the issue, and got me to thinking. As I remember he is talking about using weather balloons to get the particulates up there, but listen for yourself, and make up your own mind.
It would be interesting to hear what political body could give permission to try these global engineering feats.  What if Chile says no?  Or the U.S.?  Can China sue if grain harvests plummet?  In what court?  What if Vanuatu goes ahead unilaterally?  The trouble with scientists like Benford is they are thinking inside the international-science-box, which is rational  If any rational body existed empowered to legally approve schemes like this, the same body could legally prevent their being needed in the first place.        
If I recall correctly, The Weather Makers seys particulates are very short-lived (weeks?), so any program would have to be ongoing, and not a "fix."
Yes, to get the more lasting, Krakatoa-like effect requires a plume velocity well beyond the design of power plant stacks. In "Krakatoa", Simon Winchester writes: "Modern estimates suggest that the Krakatoa eruption hurled material at least 120,000 feet into the air - some say 160,000 feet, or thirty miles." That said, dust and pollutant particles from Asia have a long enough residence in the atmosphere to reach the North American Arctic and west coast.

Perhaps the current activity at Mt Merapi will end in something similar to Krakatoa, letting us ignore GW's effects for another couple of years :(

You have read, in this thread, that single vulcanic eruptions caused in the past extended cold periods, some lasting up to several years.
How many gigatons, and how long did each ton stay up there?
In the Sociologist's case she would have taken 2 hours, because of the connections, to take a trip that takes around 40 minutes by car

This is a common phenomenon.  I have several friends who moved away from home (Ohio) to the East Coast for several years but came back after a few years bc/ they were tired of spending 1.5 to 2 hrs on a train twice a day.  One was even a city planner who was an on fire urbanist.  One by one they returned to Ohio, bought a house in the 'burbs and now spend 30 minutes twice a day in their car rather than 1.5 hours each way by train.  It wasn't that they dislike the train trip, they preferred it.  They liked not having to pay attention and being able to read the paper or work on a laptop during their commute.  Unless you're wealthy, you're unlikely to be able to afford to live somewhere on the East Coast where your train commute will not be substantially longer than what it would be by car in the midwest.  I'm wondering how Alan (or anyone else) thinks this problem can be addressed.

In spent eight days attending the recent DC Peak Oil & the Environment conference.  I could stay longer because I was staying with a friend in Baltimore.  Took the bus to Penn Station in Baltimore, MARC (commuter train) to DC's Union Station, Red Line to Yellow or Blue Line on DC Metro, 2.5 blocks to conference.  About 1:45 minutes to 2 hours.  Missed opening every day :-(

Absent the bus trip, about 1.5 hours to live in one city (much cheaper according to fellow pax) and work in another.

MARC is electrified on this stretch, but this commute still used some energy.  (For me, MUCH cheaper AND nicer than a hotel).  It is not an ideal (daily commuting between cities) that espouse.

It is better than commuting by car though.  For those that live between DC & Baltimore, the commute can be shorter.


When the VRE (Virginia Railway Express, one of Washington's RPR systems) was buying locomotives, they were told that electric would make their desired runs in 75 minutes but diesel would take 90. For all-day service, that means that 7 diesel trainsets and crews could be replaced by 6 electrically propelled ones with 20 percent more revenue from the faster trip.

The breakeven between train and car will change over time.  Higher costs tilt towards trians.  Higher wages tilt the other way.  But there is value in having the alternative.

I would LIKE the ideal, something very much like where I live in New Orleans Lower Garden District.  But we cannot totally tranform the US in a "timely manner".  

So, one step at a time.  Let us create a non-oil alternative means of getting from A to B, and let some % of people use that.  Then, when TSHTF (Islamic Republic of Arabia controls Ghawar ?  World Oil production declines 17% in three years due to PO ?) there is *A* way to get to work, even if it is terribly crowded and time consuming.

BTW, most US railroad ROWs are 100' wide and can easily take three or four tracks (some NYC subways are also 4 track).  So capacity can be added within most (buy NOT all) existing railroad ROWs.

London is about to add a new major rail line (the first in over a century), a high speed link from London to the Chunnel to France.  About 1/3 in tunnel and $5 billion from memory.

Rail is not free, but compared to the alternatives, I beleive that it is cheap and relatively quick solution.


Rail is not free, but compared to the alternatives, I beleive that it is cheap and relatively quick solution.

One thing I like with rail is that it is a reasonable assumption that a railway line will be usefull for a very long time. And if they in the long term are outcompeted by better technology it is still likely that the right of way will be usefull. Spending public money on them leaves a lasting value for future generations, much better then circulation money in socialistic systems with taxes and benefits or manipulating an economy to prop up inefficient spending on crap products.

Btw, the same goes for roads. I realy like investments in getting a road network with a consistent standard and good maintainance since it will be usefull for a very long time. But it is the wrong time to start mega highway projects even if a handfull of big road building projects would make sense in the largest Swedish cities. I would find it perfectly ok to complete the city center highway ring in Stockholm during the peak oil downslope, it would complement the needed tramlines to make the city queueless and thus energy efficient and nice to live in.

In the USA, I suggest converting one side of the interstate highway system to 2-way high-speed rail for intercity travel.  That would be a good start to reducing high-speed auto traffic.

The auto congestion caused by introducing 2-way auto traffic on the other side would incent people to use the high-speed trains they see continually whizzing by.

The road base is already in place.

I know that the Interstate Overpasses are a minimum of 14'6" high and the lanes are 12' wide.

How much, if any, would the "roadbed" be required to be built up?

What is the cost to build a mile of double tracked and electrified (the only way to go in my opinion) railroad?

2003 data is $200/foot for track, ties & ballast. Electrification was $2 million/mile for overhead, unsure about 3rd rail.
Another option is take one lane on each side and place "Jersey barriers" between rail & road for safety.  Put rail on the inside lane for longer distances.

Where there are six lanes, this leaves two on each side for trucks, cars, etc.

There might be space on the inside for a bike lane on the old shoulder.  Perhaps with bicycles facing the direction of the trains so they are not "surprised".

...and if we still have two auto lanes in each direction we could make one of them HOV only, with a higher permitted speed limit than the other -- that would REALLY discourage the one-person cars!

Anybody know the typical right-of-way dimensions of the US interstate highway system?....the distance from shoulder to shoulder?

There are 46,876 miles of interstate highways.  So how much woul dit cost to add a rail line in each direction (electrified)?  They are owned, governed, and maintained by the States through which they pass.

I just walked to my corner grocery store (short hours, minimal staff since Katrina) 2.5 blocks away for milk and a roast beef po-boy for supper.  As Iwalked, I considered, "What do I espouse ?"  I have an ideal, but the best can be the ebemy of the good.

I doi not think draconian tax increases, gas rationing, etc. are likely to be the first steps.  People cannot get behind that easily.  Gas taxes +, Social Security - are likely to be the second step (just my political guess).

What could we sell to a new Congress in 2006 ?

OK, add rolling stock to every existing Urban Rail Line.  Expand electrical supply if need be.  Increase practical, real world capacity on what we have built today.

See what can be done to speed up lines under construction on a case by case basis (perhaps with an extra 1% or 2% bonus to the contractors.  We will need them soon on new jobs !)

Give incentives to freight railroads that electrify (no property taxes if they do).  Provide either tax credits or tax free bonds to expand rail capacity (track + rolling stock).

Stop federal aid to new highways (case by case exception for improved road access to rail, HOV lanes).  Give cities two choices for federal funding.  Follow the federal process (simplified) and get 90% or "just do it" and get 75% federal matching.  (The interstates were built with 90% federal matching).

Push electric trolley buses with 90% federal matching and cut current fossil fuel buses matching from 80% to 75%.

These steps are NOT draconian but they should ignite a MAJOR boom in new Urban Rail and electrifying our frieght railroads.  With the reduction in highway building, the net cost to the Treasury may be modest.

I think that just building Urban Rail will alter our cities.  Even with low oil prices, cities started to build around the new rail stations/stops (the other TOD).  Add sky high oil prices and that move may become a landslide.

One question, should the feds allow local zoning to restrict density around these new rail stations that we are building ?  H'mmm

I am tempted to let the locals alone.  People can take the bus to the station if need be.

A variant on Benford's idea to block sunlight comes from the infamous Dr. Edward Teller, model for Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. When I heard he was involved I imagined that he would propose creating a mini "nuclear winter" by blasting soot into the stratosphere, but actually his idea is more moderate.

"Active Climate Stabilization: Practical Physics-Based Approaches to Prevention of Climate Change" proposes two ideas. One is small bubbles which would float in the stratosphere and block UV light. Teller claims that the cost of these would actually be more than paid for today through reductions in skin cancer, even independent of the benefits for global warming.

His second idea is more speculative, involving sending small reflectors into space to deflect sunlight slightly from hitting earth. They would go to what is called the L1 point, between earth and sun, and a few tons' worth of smart materials there would be enough to cool the earth via diffraction. Of course it is very expensive at present to launch tons of material into space, so this one would not be practical for a few decades.

Teller suggests waiting until 2050 to start these mitigation efforts in earnest, presumably because most of the bad effects from global warming kick in late in the century. This not only gives us better technological tools, it lets us save in advance for the costs of mitigation. He claims that a one time set-aside of a billion dollars today would grow via interest until by 2050, the interest alone would generate enough funds to put his strategies into action. That's a one time cost of less than 20 cents per person today, to pretty much eliminate global warming as a long term threat.

This is just the kind of nonsense that I would expect from Teller or most other theoretical physicists for that matter. They may be smart as far as that goes at discerning the physical laws that govern the Universe but they can't make themselves breakfast. The term idiot savant comes to mind. As was mentioned above, this subject of the negative forcing on global mean surface temperature (GMST) caused by sulphates, soot and other particulate pollution has been well covered by the climate scientists at

The notion that we have until 2050 to do something about the climate is tantamount to saying that the Moon is made of green cheese. We are probably already at or near a tipping point where the meltdown of the major ice sheets (Greenland and West Antarctica) is inevitable. Sequestering carbon and emitting less of it is the only viable solution and must be implemented immediately. Not yesterday--although that would have been better-- I mean today. Basic physics (which Teller would obviously understand) and the climate modelling are abundantly clear about the effects of projected levels of CO2 and other Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. We're looking at a 3 degree C rise in GMST at a doubling (approximately 550/ppmv of CO2 in the atmosphere). That's a major change and the rapidity of it is not known to have occurred in Geological Time. Paleontology, climate change over the Phanerozoic Eon, mass extinctions and many other things I could mention are probably not among his areas of expertise. I am still left wondering how he has fed himself all these years. No doubt he has a helper.

I am thoroughly disgusted with these high-tech solutions that will happen in a future that will not exist. We will be long beyond the point of no return in 2050. People like Jim Hansen who actually know something about the relevant disciplines are aware of the need to act now.

Edward Teller, Mr. Hydrogen Bomb, also called "The Super". What a great man. With advice from people like him, we're certainly going to be on the road to recovery.

Right! This reminds me of some arm-waving technophile who was proposing the massive seeding of the ocean with iron to build up the phytoplankton to absorb the C02 to prevent the GW to eat the grain that lay in the house that Jack built....

These kinds of techno-nuts give me the willys. They are kind of like the polar opposite of GW Bush in terms of science. Bad extremes, both full of hubris, lacking in sense.

Teller was one creepy guy.

He lived for the chance to nuke the Russians, because the Russians had started to persecute Jews. Millions of dead Russians would have been no problem for him - after all, a few thousand Jews in Russia didn't get job promotions etc.

The other physics types tended to shy away from Teller, he was that much of a war hawk. The only other guy kind of like him I can think of is the guy who invented the neutron bomb, which was designed with the thought in mind of purifying pesky peoples for the expansion of Greater Israel.


Sometimes, it's a little bit more crowded in the train. And take it from me, this is very common.
Unfortunately rail is also a "hub-bound" system

Yes an no. For efficiency of transfers from one mode (commuter) to another (subway) this often works best. But look at Miami's plans.

Note the darker brown future lines.

There is a Miami Multimodal Center next to the airport. The commuter train from the north stops there and one earlier stop where one can transfer to the "Subway in the Sky", The future system will have a web like net over the area with many potential transfer points. IMHO, this works better for people with diverse travel needs than a central "hub".

The future plans for Los Angeles look much the same, except the Red Line (subway) will serve as a spine connecting all the other light rail lines to each other (except for the short light rail connecter between the Gold and Blue lines).
In several high-tech industries such as electronics, software, and biotechnology, a lot of the commuting (in the U.S.) is from one outer suburb to another.  I don't think rail, with its primarily hub-bound architecture, will ever be practical for this type of commuting (despite the impressive Miami-Dade plans).  That's not to say that this particular problem won't be solved one way or another, just that it might not be solved with rail transportation.

I've always had a "reverse commute" in which I've lived in or close to the city and commuted 20-25 miles one way to an office in an outer suburb.  One advantage of this is that I rarely encounter traffic congestion on the way to or from work.  This keeps my gas mileage and commuting times reasonable.

In every city with an Urban Rail system, employment centers "migrate" close to one of the stations.  Getting there from other parts of the system can sometimes be relatively easy, and time consuming from other points.

An example would be a couple of Intel chip fab plants west of Portland.  A dozen miles from downtown Portland, but within walking distance from a stop.  Other office towers are being built right next to the suburban stations (consuming some of the Park & Ride lots) and shopping centers surround other stations.

A fault of the Portland system is it takes ~15 minutes to transit the CBD (I think a subway under Portland should be built with a single stop under Pioneer Square and surface portals two blocks away in all 4 directions with elevators up to Pioneer Square).

Working west of the downtown and living east is not very practical, so Intel workers avoid that.  Likewise, few of those living west take the light rail to the airport.  Soluble with an expensive subway section.

Los Angeles will present similar issues.  One could live in Pasadena and, in theory, work at LAX airport.  However, 3 or 4 transfers and well over an hour would be required.  Perhaps an occasional airport trip but just not feasible for everyday use.

OTOH, once Miami's system of 103 miles is built out, one can get from any station on the system to any other station at rush hour in less than an hour*.  If one lives close to a station and works close to another station and shops at a third, etc. a car becomes redundent.  Thus the 7 to 20 story buildings (condos, offices, apartments) going up in Miami close to existing stations.  In 2004, 15 of 23 building cranes were within 3 blocks of a station by my count.  One condo had a catwalk from their 2nd or 3rd story accross the street to the station platform.

*If extended north into Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County this may no longer be true.

Washington DC needs a subway ring around the city BUT the money is just NOT there !  Building accross the two northern legs of the Red Line ("U" shaped line) is too much for Maryland today.  Add 90% federal matching and they would start work quickly on that ring.

Urban rail cannot be a 100% solution (plumber's trucks can only be replaced with more fuel efficient plumber's trucks) but they can be a 90% solution with enough capital spending.

I agree that D.C. needs a ring Metro.  Right now, the best connections is between two Red Line stations, Bethesda and Silver Spring, by bus.  

Another thing D.C. could have done, and won't do, is to double track Metro so that express trains could be made available from the distant stations to downtown, and perhaps the busiest suburban stations.  That would make lengthening metro easier, particularly out to Dulles Airport, and perhaps up to BWI airport, etc.

Many suburban METRO stations also have experienced considerable commercial growth.  Bethesda, Ballston, Roslyn, Pentagon/Crystal City and now Silver Spring have gone or are now undergoing a tremendous amount of development.

As to VRE, one of its two lines runs on the regular train tracks that form the Northeastern Corridor.  I think that they are CSX-owned.  That line won't go electric any time soon.

Also a "New York Avenue" station was recently added in DC to the existing Red Line.  At least four (5 ?, 6 ?) large office buildings are going up now (including a bomb proof looking Alcohol FireArms Tobacco HQ) within 3 blocks of the new station.

A clear Urban Rail Supply - Development Demand example.

I agree that DC, like some NYC subway lines, should have been built with 1) 4 tracks (allowing express service through some stations) and 2) stations long enough for 10 or even 12 cars.

The 8 car limit is just starting to strangle the Red Line.

But, when built. "no one" expected such demand (or rather the PTB ignored those that did foresee the long term need).

BTW, in my limited Red Line riding experience, three times my train stopped short of the station and waited some seconds for the train ahead to clear.  Headsways are clearly close !

My solution to the Red Line is to extend the Yellow Line north in-between the two Red Line legs (with 4 tracks) to past the DC district/state line and then angle it over and take over the Red Line from that point north.  Have one station (Bethesda ?) serve as the transfer point between Yellow to Red for those that need transportation to points south on the Red Line.

The NW leg of the Red Line (Shady Grove) is on an old RR ROW and I think there is space for a bypass track at some stations.  This line could be extended for another 5 or 10 miles cheaply on the old RR ROW and attract enough riders.

Picking the leg to take over and just where to build the Yellow Line North would be an interesting & complex stidy !

Also, perhaps have the Yellow Line or a spur from the Green Line as a second pickup of commuters from Union Station (picking up commuters from MARC & VRE and not putting them ALL on the Red Line).

A larger point for TOD readers from everywhere, is that 40% of commuters is *N*O*T* the maximum that Washington Metro can carry, *I*F* enough money is INVESTED in more Urban Rail.

Remember that in 1970, just 4% used the city bus, and that % was dropping.  DC was quite "auto-centric".

Today, longer stations, 4 tracks, a belt line and more lines are needs on the horizon and closing fast.

BTW, Fares pay for 80% of Washington Metro operations and could pay 100%, except higher fares would encourage more people to drive.

The Docklands light railway (DLR) has transformed the area along the river Thames to east of London.  Tens of thousands now work at Canary Wharf in various office complexes which have been built around the DLR station.  The system is more or less automated, trains are driverless. Extremely frequent services run to Bank (London financial district) where there is easy interchange with London subway network and a new branch to London City Airport has just been opened. Docklands Light Railway
They tell me MARC only goes into DC in the morning, and out in the evening.  They also tell me the MARC workers are put up in a hotel all day.  I guess there was a mini-scandal because many of them would sit around all day, drinking, gambling and whatever else you might imagine.

I'd love to take MARC downtown in the evenings to see a show instead of driving twenty miles to Shady Grove first.

MARC between Penn Station in Baltimore and Union Station In DC runs from about 6 AM til 10 PM, with a handful of express trains.  Travel available both ways, but the bias is towards working in DC and living in Baltimore in the scheduling.

One can also take the midnight Amtrak train from DC to Baltimore if you miss the ~10 PM MARC train I was told.

MANY more trains around rush-hour.  Only hourly midday )from memory) and no weekend service. This means split shift crews (true for almost all mass transit. Demand peaks before 8 AM and after 5 PM.  Too expensive to keep crews busy driving surplus service.

MARC schedules are on the internet.  I only know Baltimore-DC service.

BTW, how far past Shady Grove does the old abandoned railroad ROW go ?  I saw it clearly "went over the hill" past that terminus of the Red Line.

Baltimore-DC is the Camden line, but I'm in Frederick, and the Brunswick line trains all arrive in DC from 6:25 to 9:12 AM and all leave DC from 1:45 to 7:15 PM.

I know the train comes all the way up through Gaithersburg town center - my school bus used to wait for it. It probably parallels Route 355 (Wisconsin Avenue - Rockville Pike - Frederick Pike) all the way into Frederick.

Gosh, this turned into some thread!

The ROW curves around the low mountain between Germantown (north of Gaithersburg) and Fredrick and runs up the Potomac River to Harpers Ferry.  There, the MARC crosses the Potomac and proceeds to Martinsburg, WV, its terminus.

The ROW carries Amtrak and freight, I believe, to Pittsburg.  It's a regular rail track.  The spur to Fredrick for MARC is fairly new.

How far does the abandoned RR ROW go past Shady Grove before it goes back into use ?

The reason that I ask is that it is cheap and easy to build DC Metro on old at-grade RR ROW except where a road crosses (figure ~$15 million bridge for each grade seperation).

So the easiest/cheapest Metro expansion would be to just go further up the abandoned ROW.  Since stations are so expensive (built the DC Metro way), a post-PO scenario might be to run about 9 miles further up the absndoned RR ROW with new stations at the 3, 6 & 9 mile marks.  

Unfortunately the Red Line will be overwhelmed post-PO, so convert Bethesda and stations north to the Yellow Line (Bethesda would be the Red Line terminus with xfer between Red <> Yellow there for those that want to).

The Grosvenor-Strathmore station (the first above ground station with an existing pocket track for turnarounds) could be the Red Line terminus instead of Bethesda.  This station and all stations north, could be an extended Yellow Line (which could turn off of the Green Line at Columbia Heights or U Street and have a couple of new DC stations before joining the Red Line).

Perhaps I'm getting confused.  The MARC runs on the Amtrak and freight tracks from Union Station through Silver Spring (change for eastern arm of Red Line) to Rockville (change for western arm of Red Line), which is the station just before Shady Grove.  At that point, I'm not sure if the Red Line moves on its own right of way north to Shady Grove, or whether it is in the Amtrak ROW.  At any rate, one cannot transfer from the Red Line to MARC at Shady Grove.  

North of Shady Grove, the land becomes rather hilly and starts its rise to the low mountain (Sugar Mountain?) separating Fredrick from Washington.  I doubt if there is any abandoned ROW further north due to the grade.  However, the Amtrak/MARC tracks veer off to the northwest toward the Potomac River and around the mountain.  It would be great it the Red Line went further up into Gaithersburg and Germantown, both of which are tech areas jammed with office parks, condos and large houses.  Needless to say, there are roads all over the place and any metro expansion, if it could handle the grade would be forced to go over or under them.

Really, I think that it is getting to the point that the Baltimore/D.C. sprawl is only partially manageable without really, really major infrastructure changes.  I'm expecting that there will be water problems eventually, then sewerage problems.

Another problem with B/DC, and the rest of the northeast, post peak will be just getting food in.  As diesel gets more and more expensive and cross-country trucking of vegetables and fruits goes down, the little farmland left to the east of the highest peaks in the Appalachians may not be able to take up the slack.  

There used to be enormous truck gardens in New Jersey and in Montgomery County, Maryland.  Now many of those sport townhouses and McMansions.  Lancaster and Cumberland Counties, PA, are also being paved over--the Amish and Old Order Mennonites are moving away.  I don't think that Delaware is in such bad shape, but it's very tiny.

Sure, some of the Appalachian Valleys will probably rediscover agriculture, and old farming areas in upstate New York might be cleared and put back into production for apples, winter vegetables and potatoes. Maine may again be a big producer of potatoes, and perhaps someone will try to rejuvenate some of the Southeastern soils ruined by too much tobacco cultivation.  Lots of compost and some rock dust might help to produce veggies.

It might be possible to build more sets of tracks up from the south, and it may be possible to build more tracks across upstate New York, but there's not much room to build more tracks through the Pennsylvania and West Virginia to allow more cars full of food through to the east.

There are times when I wonder if some places in the East Coast might hit the wall as far as carrying capacity goes not long after some of the Southwestern cities do.

Back to a more pleasant note, as to getting into D.C. on the weekend from north of Shady Grove, everyone either drives all the way in because parking isn't such a problem, or they drive down to the Shady Grove metro, where they can get the Metro which runs into the wee hours on early Saturday and Sunday morning.

That would be Sugar Loaf Mountain.  On mapquest, the red line ROW, labeled CSX, continues from Shady Grove NW to the center of Gaithersburg, where Diamond Ave crosses 355, then crosses under 270 just south of the Quince Orchard Exit and on into Germantown. It should be simple to extend the red line that far.
Thanks for the info, Donal.  I used to live in the DC area, and am moving back, but I lived most of the time in NoVa.  You'd think that considering all the development up around Germantown and Gaithersburg, that Metro would extend all the way up.  But then, as I've pointed out earlier in this sub-thread, there are so many projects that Metro could build to expand service to nearly all parts of the area.
Your Yellow line extension is quite interesting.  The main obstacle would be going over or under Rock Creek Park, which separates D.C. and the close-in areas of Maryland with a fairly deep, wooded gorge.

My favorite plans are another line south along the Potomac on the Maryland side, and another line southwest in Virginia between the Orange and Blue/Yellow lines, perhaps long the Columbia Pike (244) or I-395 for a bit.  There's a lot of territory out there from which it is hard to get to D.C.  However, my first project would be taking the Orange line on some extension or another out to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport to serve both those locations and the high-tech corridor in between.

The Red Line will hit capacity during rush hour before anything new can be built.

Virginia is doing Tysons Corner-Dulles, so this has no effect on Maryland & DC (each pay for their own extensions).

My Yellow Line extension was designed to be a cost effective relief for the Red Line. "Steal" Red Line pax so that people that want to use the Red Line can get on board.

New Yellow Line stations between the two Red Line branches will steal pax from both (especially if the Red Line is "uncomfortably full").

IMHO, Washington Metro needs to go back to the drawing board and, instead of adding a line here or there (MD has talked of a Green Line extension all the way to BWI airport) come up with a comphrensive plan for serving the DC Metro area.

Capacity improvements of existing lines need to be considered as part of a larger plan, (Is it cheaper to rebuild stations to accept 10 or 12 cars instead of 8 on the Red Line instead of a Yellow Line extension ?  How much is faster service on the Yellow Line worth vs. a "heavier" Red Line ?  And those new Yellow Line stations are worth ?)

I agree that the crowding on the western arm of the Red Line is hideous.  I took it regularly last summer while I was working on a project.

I used to live in NoVa near the Dun Loring Orange Line station.  The Orange Line through Ballston and Roslyn into DC at Foggy Bottom is bad, too.  The Dulles extension may pull some folks out of their cars and onto the metro in addition to the bus riders who enter Metro at West Falls Church.

You're right about an overall regional plan.  I wonder if there is any in place.

Another question of mine is whether ferry service, a la New York, will dock on the Potomac, hauling passengers from Virginia and further south in Maryland into DC to hook up with the Waterfront or Navy Yard Metros or buses.  I took the ferry across the Hudson on a fairly frequent basis during, except during winter, when I lived in NJ and worked in Manhattan.  It was incredibley pleasant.  

Traffic density remarks :
The other day, I was driving back to France from Italy, and I was astonished at the density and homogeneity of the motorway traffic. Three lanes, all moving at 130 km/h, or sometimes 110 or 90, as indicated by the dynamic speed limit signs which are adjusted in function of traffic density. Miraculously, there were no major slow-downs, and no stops at all. Admirable discipline.
(It helps that trucks are virtually banned on weekends)

This is a major culture shock for me : just a couple of years ago, it wouldn't have been like that at all. There has been a huge effort with speed cameras and consciousness raising, and it's paid off handsomely : road deaths have diminished by about 30%. The French are not behaving like Latins any more, we're becoming Scandinavian... an effect of climate change?

The contrast was enhanced by the fact that I'd spent a few days in Italy, in particular taking a couple of hours to drive past Milan in the rush hour.

This transcript of the Horizon program on Global Dimming is a good place to start.

Global Dimming

The 1980s droughts in the Sahal, which spawned the Live Aid concert, are thought to be a direct link to Global Dimming. Some scientists are now concerned that if Global Dimming were increased, it could affect the monsoon system in Asia which would affect 3.6 billion people instead of 50 million Africans. Global Dimming is not the answer to Global Warming.

"A POPULATION of a billion and a half depends on this rain," says Veerabhadran Ramanathan. Unfortunately, the South Asia monsoon that brings this rain may be losing strength thanks to global warming and the brown haze of pollution that hangs over the Indian Ocean.

This wasn't supposed to happen. If global warming was heating the Indian Ocean uniformly, then the result ought to be increased evaporation and higher monsoon rainfall over south Asia. Instead, rainfall over India has decreased by 5 to 8 per cent since the 1950s.

Now, Ramanathan and colleague Chul Eddy Chung of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California have an explanation for the anomaly. By combining measurements of sea surface temperatures and pollution in their regional climate models, they found that while sea surface temperatures near the equator have increased around 0.6 °C over the last 50 years, the northern Indian Ocean has not warmed.

In fact, it may even have cooled because sunlight is being absorbed by the "brown cloud" above it. Without the normal summer temperature gradients over the region, the monsoon cycle is suppressed (Journal of Climate, vol 19, p 2036). "It's causing a tendency for the rain systems to move south and not to hit land," Ramanathan says.
Thank you.  Your post made me think about future transport.
I'll muse a bit here... any references I should look at?  Thanks..

Not sure how this would work in Canada.  I suppose busing cars into trains is a solution for traffic, but this strikes me as a waste of resources given the short peak oil timeframe but also the time delays you mentioned. Likely only if the current infrastructure can be retrofitted, not from scratch elsewhere.

If in North America we instead mandated more rail with delivery removing trucks this would reduce traffic density and highway repair stresses as well.  This would reduce the time issues of the car commuter with less road competition, while financially supporing a rail network through business, surely a higher volume traffic.

For the commuter I'm thinking that rail for long distance and bicycles for short would be more practical in a no-longer-car-for-personal-use future.  Thus encouraging rail stops closer to residential areas or development closer to hubs. A lane of highway now could be put to use for rail perhaps in either case.

In the meantime, more car delays have the side benefit of asking the commuter why they are travelling all that way to begin with, questioning their living arrangements/unsustainable suburbian lifestyles a bit.

The long/short mix of Rail/bike for commuters and Rail/truck for deliveries may encourage relocalisation and new urbanism city reconstitition but would need focus and a lot of lead time.  

I'd imagine though that it's cheaper than the maintenance cost of rebuilding dying highways every year, and still get us home at a reasonable time through diversity of transport selection.

Canada has some very good transit cities.  Toronto (around which the rest of Canada revovles :-P and Vancouver (the onlky major NA city w/o a freeway) spring to mind.  

Calgary is building out a decent light rail system and Montreal has a too small subway system.  Edmonton has a start and is slowly expanding it, Ottawa made the mistake of bus centered transit but is about to take the first step to remedy that.

So it is a city by city analysis in Canada.

There is still time to start an Urban rail system in almost every city.  Start NOW !!  Perhaps the first shovel of dirt will not be thrown till a crisis hits, but with plan in hand, one can build it as things get worse.  Better to have started sooner, but a zero start today is better than a start from scratch tomorrow.

What city are you in ?

I'm in Toronto ;)  Live downtown too.  Transit is great (when they're not on strike) if I require it, but lately it's getting more and more crowded.  So I just walk or bike and I'm fine.  I even jogged up to a restaurant from the university for dinner, with friends who had drove there, only to meetup with them as they entered the doorway.  Toronto isn't really that large a city.  

I contrasted this with the UK article's car-mindset as my city-life is entirely without a car, unless I take a taxi.  

But for the majority of the city north, the density can't support transit due to the useless cul-del-sac suburbia designs.  Downtown has the density and grid patterns to support it and the subway system.  Interestingly the business community pooh-poohs ever supporting the system when it's working, but cries foul when it's not.  grrr...

I don't know where all the hype for Toronto's Transit Commission (TTC) comes from.  After having been to Tokyo/Osaka/Nagoya, or thinking about UK's tube and train networks, Toronto's transit system comes across like a toy train set... how quaint, only three subway lines!  

The cost of drilling underground to not interfere with cars will be replaced with overland direct replacement at a cheaper cost at some point.  Alas though I agree it won't  be until there is an energy crisis.    

Any resources that I should look at ?


has some good introductury articles on why.