Comments on: Column: Pass Go, Collect Bus Pass – And More? it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Rod Johnson Rod Johnson Thu, 01 Nov 2012 02:13:58 +0000 Here‘s an article on a French city that made their transit system free (without even an -ish). No clue as to whether that would work with our current system of funding–I suspect not–but I found it interesting nonetheless.

By: Steve Bean Steve Bean Wed, 31 Oct 2012 15:12:29 +0000 “Even more surprising is that walking is less fuel efficient than driving if you factor in the fuel used to produce the food you eat.”

That depends, somewhat, on how and where your food is grown. In general, though, wheels are very efficient for mobility.

It also points toward the technology trap known as Jevons’ Paradox wherein a focus on energy efficiency tends to lead to greater energy consumption. This is part of my concern about the library bond proposal, whose supporters point to greater energy efficiency as a good thing when it will actually result in higher overall energy use and higher energy costs, less than a decade before we reach the net energy cliff. (My other main concern is the deflationary depression of which we’ve only experienced the initial bump of a long, rough ride down.)

By: Jim Rees Jim Rees Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:21:39 +0000 Ed, the US Department of Energy puts out the Transportation Energy Data Book, which is a good source for this kind of information. They give the average passenger load for private cars as 1.55, and energy per passenger mile as 3,538 btu (sorry about the arcane units). For buses, they give 9.2 and 4,242 respectively.

Even more surprising is that walking is less fuel efficient than driving if you factor in the fuel used to produce the food you eat. That’s not in the Data Book but I think I’ve got a reference around here somewhere.

By: Bob Elton Bob Elton Wed, 31 Oct 2012 00:52:27 +0000 Mr. Eaton probably overlooked the 6th paragraph of my note, and probably the 7th as well.

There have to be better solutions to getting people around who cannot drive, or cannot own a car. Back in the days of Dial-a-ride, when the AATA buses were purple and green, part of the program was subsidized cab rides for elderly and handicapped. If we could break the mold of thinking about transit as a mass endeavor, and think about it in terms of actual energy use and usefulness to people, I’m sure we could come up better solutions.

Passenger miles per gallon are from a study of New York City’s bus system, about 10-12 years ago. Perhaps they do better now, but then, so do cars.

Hybrid systems in cars have about a 20% improvement in urban driving cycles, when all other variables are constant. I suspect the improvement in buses would be somewhat less because they spend so much time standing still with the air conditioning running.

For what it’s worth, the Ford Focus reference was intended to be a bit of irony. As was the reference to the 2 ton Lincoln: the Lincoln has since been replaced by a somewhat pretentious German car.


By: liberalnimby liberalnimby Tue, 30 Oct 2012 18:12:08 +0000 To me, one of the economic benefits of transit is leveraging federal dollars in order to relieve thousands of residents of the economic burden of owning a car (or owning an additional car). The social benefit is that this service, in theory, facilitates a community with a more mixed-income profile.

Transit-oriented development can refer to “densifying” areas that are already well-served by transit. Ideally, these places would allow some commercial services or be walkable to other amenities. And as many know, denser development that takes place within a district that is already served by water, sewer, roads, police, fire, etc. is a net benefit (financially) to a municipality, because any additional infrastructure and services can be provided at a much lower cost per capita, and the city benefits through increased property tax revenues relative to the smaller incremental cost of increased services. Since we are committed to providing transit service, many times this additional density will help “fill up” buses without requiring as many fare increases.

This is not a defense of park and rides (especially ones that don’t take advantage of existing empty pavement near commerce) or regional bus transit (when there’s still developable land within the city limits).

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Tue, 30 Oct 2012 16:54:31 +0000 Interesting. I wonder whether AATA has ever done a carbon footprint/emission study of their buses. They certainly have a lot of other data.

They have in recent years been buying a lot of hybrid buses. A comparison of both mileage and emissions would be interesting to see.

I’ll note that fixed-route buses are usually supplied only to areas with a certain population level. Obviously, every rider reduces the emission averages. Also, if we are to supply bus service to anyone at all, it is more efficient to encourage full usage of that bus. I watch two elderly neighbors of mine who do not drive and walk with assistance of a cane in one case. They make nearly daily trips downtown via our bus, often coming back with a little shopping bag. I’m glad it is there for them. We just need to utilize the bus well.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Tue, 30 Oct 2012 15:19:05 +0000 Ed,

Without addressing the accuracy of the information reported, I offer the following page as an example of those who question the “greenness” of transit: [link]

It addresses ITP, the 6 community transit authority in the Grand Rapids area.

What Bob forgets with his “give everyone a new Ford Focus” suggestion is that not everyone is able to drive.

By: Edward Vielmetti Edward Vielmetti Tue, 30 Oct 2012 14:49:33 +0000 Bob, where are your numbers from? They surprise me.

By: Bob Elton Bob Elton Mon, 29 Oct 2012 22:26:02 +0000 There sems to be an almost universal opinion that increased transit use means decreased pollution.

I would argue otherwise.

From what I can gather of system-wide fuel use, the bus system is lucky to get 10 passenger miles per gallon. (Figures from other systems, AATA hasn’t responded to my requests for hard numbers). That’s the same as 1 passenger in a car getting 10 miles per gallon. In reality, I do twice as good as that in my 2 ton Lincoln. And most cars do even better. And, some cars have 2 or mor epeople inthem, making them better yet.

And those buses get their 10 passenger miles per gallon with one of the dirtiest engines around, the diesel. Despite “clean diesel”, buses spew out particulates, benzine, ring compounds, and all sorts of other nasty things. Modern cars are so clean that the exhaust is sometimes cleaner than the air they take in. In fact, it is now impossible to commit suicide with an modern car in a closed garage because a tank of gas will not create enough carbon monoxide to kill you, just leave you with a bad headache.

So, if we wanted to reduce pollution, it could be argues that we should retire the diesel powered buses and simply give everyone a new Ford Focus.

There are valid reasons for having a mass transit system, of course. Not everyone can drive, or wants to drive, and there are issues of parking, congestion, and land use.

But air pollution aint one of them.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Mon, 29 Oct 2012 21:29:26 +0000 Re (6), you refer to “the general, community-wide social and economic benefits of people riding transit.” This seems to presume that if only people would ride transit we could be free of polluting single passenger vehicle modes of transportation.

I can’t think of any community where transit has replaced traffic congestion. It is not a choice between everybody riding the bus or everybody stuck in traffic. Think of New York or Chicago. Both cities have transit systems that allow one to forgo car ownership and rely completely on public transit. Yet neither city is free of traffic congestion and both cities have high costs associated with parking. In the Washington D.C. area, each time the public transit service area expands, so does the urban sprawl.

In a small town like Ann Arbor, great transit would not replace individual vehicle use. Instead, it would allow unsustainable population growth. We could increase the city’s population without providing additional road capacity. Expanding the service area for local transit (such as with commuter rail or the “countywide” transit plan) would simply encourage further urban sprawl.

It is important to distinguish between the use of transit for wishful environmental reasons and the more likely result of massive urban growth. Do we want our town to grow into a new huge metropolis? That is what proponents are advocating when they speak of “transit oriented development”. They wish to increase the population of the area beyond the capacity of our roads. But in the process, the roads will remain full of traffic, just like any city with a good bus system. No reduction in pollution, no net social good – just growth.