Cars - A bad idea that keeps on going

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Cars - A bad idea that keeps on going

Postby tsian » Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:25 am

Why do we still focus most of our energy on using gas powered vehichles...

Why, in larger cities, do most commuters even need a car? Their numbers dictate that were other forms of transportation taken, their trip time would surely be less than the time it takes to travel by car.

So why are people fixated with driving?

What are ways to encourage people to use alternative methods of transportation?

Should we increase gas and car taxes?

Should every road with more than one lane have a dedicated Mass Transit lane?

What are your thoughts?
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Postby Nuxius » Mon Aug 23, 2004 4:18 am

Well luckily, *some* hybrids are starting to make it out, so at least things are finally *somewhat* going in the right direction.

As far as why it's taken so long, well, you have the giant oil companies, like Shell and Phillips, and the Middle East/OPEC to *thank* for that.

As to why people need cars, well, I guess for most people it's a sign of independence.

When you own your own vehicle, you can go out whenever you want, you can basically make your own schedule. Whereas for most forms of public transit, you have to avide by someone elses schedule; you can't walk out your front door, hop on a awaiting bus or a subway at 7:35AM, and be dropped off right in front of the location you were traveling to. Of course, it also has a lot to do with the fact that people are lazy shmucks in general...

As for the gas and car tax thing, well, gas is already sky high in the States, and people aren't driving as much as they usually do (hence one of the reasons why the economy is so bad, people can't afford the gas to go out and leasure shop, nessicity driving only).

As far as the mass transit lane, in Houston, we have something very similar to that called an HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane(s), and they're on most (soon to be all) freeways.

Also, in downtown, the 2 outside lanes on most streets are reserved for buses and turning lanes only, you're not supposed to drive in them.
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Postby TerraFrost » Mon Aug 23, 2004 4:22 am

interesting post! :)

for the first question, i'm assuming the energy you're refering to is developmental energy (as opposed to, say, recreational energy). i think it's because oil companies are desperate to keep their monopoly and that they have a lot of clout (indeed - many would probably say they have enough clout to start a war).

as for why people prefer to drive over taking other methods of transportation (ie. walking, or whatever)... i dunno. being someone who drives about once every three weeks (thanks to buses) i'm not sure i'm the most qualified person to answer that, heh, but... if i had to guess, i'd speculate that it had something to do with the ease with which the info may be looked up. some public transporation systems just don't seem to be very forthcomming with info. i suppose this might be because they don't have the pressure that highway police have? hmmmm.

as for good ways to increase alternative methods of transportation... i think just more aggresive promotion would do the trick. perhapes they could mail out ads and "free-ride" tickets to people, or something.

as for every road having a dedicated mass transit lane... i dunno... unless they were in the right most lane, they'd have to switch lanes at some point, so there doesn't seem to be a lot of point. also, i'm not really sure how one would go about practically enforcing that...
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Postby tsian » Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:27 am

When you own your own vehicle, you can go out whenever you want, you can basically make your own schedule. Whereas for most forms of public transit, you have to avide by someone elses schedule; you can't walk out your front door, hop on a awaiting bus or a subway at 7:35AM, and be dropped off right in front of the location you were traveling to. Of course, it also has a lot to do with the fact that people are lazy shmucks in general...

Yes, but go to anywhere with high transit ridership and you'll see busses running every 10 minutes or less (the most frequent busses in Vancouver run about every 5 minutes, most heavy use busses run every 10 minutes or less. Other busses run every 15, with almost no bus having a frequency of less then 30 minutes), pretty much throughout the day. Now, if suddenly transit rideship trippled, you would probably see rapid transit options replace what are currently high frequency busses and most other busses go to 10-15 minute or less frequency.. With proper connections, and assuming a main portion of your route travely along a rapid transit corridor (which isn't difficult since most routes travel along major corridors which would conceivably be upgraded if suddenly there was demand for transit) and suddenly you have a transit service which is faster then a car and conciderably more relaxing and better for the enviroment.
Incidentally, rapid transit in Vancouver happens every 2-3 minutes during peak time for most of the line, and 4-6 minutes for the non-main portions. Off peak, trains come every 6-8 minutes (Time are of course approximate since sometimes an idiot will hold a door open in the station causing a delay in the computer releasing the train)

Add to this that such developments would allow the government to stop spending the ATTROCIOUS amount of money it does on roads (and re-allocate this funding to transit) and it is quite conceivable that you would see a large upsurge in rapid transit and busses which operate and better than 10 minute intervals in almost all areas (city areas of course, sparsely populated areas may still call for a car). Suddenly transit is faster than taking a car.

As for the gas and car tax thing, well, gas is already sky high in the States, and people aren't driving as much as they usually do

HAHAHAHA! Sorry, but thats funny. Gas is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT expensive in the US. Try Europe, and their economy is booming compared to yours. Heck, even Canada has conciderably higher gas prices (though still low compared to Europe) and our economy is doing fine. When gas costs $2 / litre maybe then people will think twice before filling up. Besides, at some point maybe gas taxes will actually be able to pay for the attrocious enviromental damage oil rigs can cause (and cars in general).

Then again, maybe it isn't surprising that most European cities have amazing transit systems.

As far as the mass transit lane, in Houston, we have something very similar to that called an HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane(s), and they're on most (soon to be all) freeways.

Yes. HOV lanes are fairly prevelant here. But here's an idea... what if every lane but one, on every road, was an HOV lane?

some public transporation systems just don't seem to be very forthcomming with info. i suppose this might be because they don't have the pressure that highway police have? hmmmm.

I'm not sure what you mean. In terms of transit info, I think Vancouver is probably one of the best cities I've seen for this. It isn't perfect, but by callling transit information or by accessing online (http://www.translink.bc.ca), riders can get directions from any address to any address in the greater vancouver area.


as for every road having a dedicated mass transit lane... i dunno... unless they were in the right most lane, they'd have to switch lanes at some point, so there doesn't seem to be a lot of point. also, i'm not really sure how one would go about practically enforcing that...


So put them in the right most lane, or as one dedicated bus lane here (and some tram lanes in Toronto do), run them down the middle with an extra "sidewalk" of sorts showing up for the stops. As for enforcement -- if you drive in a Transit lane and are caught licence... for each offense you lose it for a longer period.

Besides, complaining about how to enforce it seems silly, afterall, how are we going to get people to stop for little coloured lights?
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Postby Dracofrost » Mon Aug 23, 2004 7:18 am

Speaking as a person who lives out in the country, I find a car useful for getting anywhere else in less time than a few hours, or getting somewhere in an hour that would take a day's ride on, say, a bicycle. I imagine, however, that if I did live in an urban area with effective mass transit, that I'd use it, or perhaps just a bicycle.

And on your comment about road expenditures... while city roads undoubtabley take up a lot of money, I doub that the long long highways and interstates through open stretchs of land are particularly cheap, either, and since distance passenger trains of any sort in the U.S. seem to be very expensive, people still depend on roads for, well, road trips. Also, it's just hard to take a bus from the suburbs or the country, into a job in the city. Cars are what made suburbs possible in the first place. Not everybody wants to live in a city, but plenty of those who don't want to live in a city aren't willing to give up the good jobs they can get in a city. Thusly, suburbs develop, with their cars and commuters, and a very large contingent of city road traffic, as some cities are flooding daily with many times their own population.
So not only is it a sign of independance, it's funnily enough a sign of escape from the high smog and concrete jungle that, ironically, the very concept of suburbs and car commuters promote.

Yeah, I hope that made some sense and wasn't too ramble-ish.
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Postby Exalted Ugu » Tue Aug 24, 2004 1:08 am

Hmm, Jerry Mander in 'In the Absence of the Sacred' made an interesting point... At the inception of the automobile, had people been presented with the possible consequences of this technology, would they have embraced it so readily?
The automobile, which was initially presented as a 'clean, efficient' technology, actually generated FAR more pollution than the horses and trains it has displaced. The automobile contributes to the erosion of civic structures, dirties everything near it's main routes, creates abysmal noise (as anyone living on a truck route will tell you) depletes precious natural resources and creates a dependency on foreign resources (think about your balance of trade... now imagine it without all that oil). The automobile has required a massive and ongoing government subsidy in the form of road building, a subsidy that far exceeds that given to the early railroad barons.
Had you taken the average person in the early 20th century, and presented them with this, do you think that they would have accepted it as a good idea?

Now, however, we are stuck with it. There are a few mechanisms by which our societies have tied themselves to the automobile; one such mechanism is that old trap of money poorly spent, the more money we spend on cars and the infrastructure they demand, the less we can spend on alternative technologies and the harder it is to abandon our earlier poor choice (another excellent example of this problem is wet sewers, which should, by any other logic, have been abandoned decades ago) .
Another mechanism is the automobile companies themselves. Between the fifties and the seventies, automobile manufacturers had enormous profits, and they spent some of this money buying up and dismantling mass transit systems across the states. Commuter Trains, Urban Trolleys, even bus systems weren't exempt from this. Due to the rather more efficient nature of mass transit, the money value of one of those systems was always far less money than the Auto Company could recoup by selling vehicles to even a small portion of the displaced riders.
A further mechanism is the lobbying done by the auto corporations, both direct political lobbying (more roads, an interstate highway system, tax breaks for auto manufacturers) and indirect social lobbying, advertising and PR. The automobile was presented as a symbol of independance, of wealth and status, of manhood, of convenience. Whatever the companies could see that people wanted, they promised that a car could fufill it.

So now we're stuck.

Luckily, however, the automobile requires gasoline. It is simply too inefficient in it's traditional mode to use any less energy packed fuel. And gasoline is running out. Already, we can see the beginnings of de-suburbanization, the middle class is afraid of the rising gas prices and is desperately seeking re-entry into cities, raising urban property values and pushing the poor and lower class out into the suburbs. This is happening slowly, but it is happening, and it will speed up.

After the demize of the automobile, i honestly don't know what will happen. The existing road networks represent far too big of a bad investment to ever be abandoned, so it is likely that governments will continue to maintain them, and whatever transportation technologies we develop will likely use them. Which is a pity in it's own right, given the rather toxic nature of the leachate from ashfault, but c'est la vie,right?

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Postby ChatOmbre » Tue Aug 24, 2004 1:46 am

I think it'd be great if Atlanta had a better public trasportation system. I don't live there, but I have to go there a lot, and it'd still be nice. In the last place my family lived in, which is about an hour away from here, my dad rode the bus to work every day. it was a short drive to the bus station, so that helped with our gas money a *lot*. when I visited NYC this summer, I was impressed with how things are there. most people don't even need their own cars there! but at home we're always having to be careful every time we go anywhere. I don't get to see some of my friends often because we can't afford the gas it takes to get to their houses, and it's the same with them getting to our house.

another thing that I'd like more of is sidewalks. they're simple, but very nice to have.
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Postby Nuxius » Tue Aug 24, 2004 11:12 am

Well, as far as the bus thing goes, all I have to go by is how Metro runs in Houston. Only one I've ever used on a daily basis (used it a lot when I was in college).

Buses come by every 5-10 minutes(depending on location), but their overall routes are different. You can't just jump on the first bus that comes by, you have to read the LED to make sure it's going in the direction you're going.

Don't take this the wrong way, but if your mass transit system has buses that come by every 10 or so minutes that share the same route, then you have one of the most ineffecient bus transit systems I've ever heard of. Either they're practically running over eachother, or their routes are so short they're worthless.

HAHAHAHA! Sorry, but thats funny. Gas is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT expensive in the US. Try Europe, and their economy is booming compared to yours.
Then again, maybe it isn't surprising that most European cities have amazing transit systems.
Rhetorical? If it was a question it would be, since you yourself answered why Europe's gas prices can be high without it effecting their overall economy.

On another note, in Europe, they can have a great mass transit system, because large corporations there can't 'buy out' canidates with the ease that ours do.

trains come every 6-8 minutes
(and some tram lanes in Toronto do), run them down the middle with an extra "sidewalk" of sorts showing up for the stops.
Yeah, our Light-Rail works like that. Unfortunately it's still new, and people here are so damn blind and stupid they've already had 58 collisions since it was introduced in January. All of them were standard commuters fault, because they got in the left turning lane on red (which is illegal) and didn't see the train coming. Blind. Stupid. Idiots. I mean they got friggin huge ass signs warning about the train and that you not supposed to ever go into the left lane when the huge ass red lights are flashing... :roll:

As for enforcement -- if you drive in a Transit lane and are caught licence... for each offense you lose it for a longer period.
o_O What?

Are you trying to say there that they get their license revoked for longer and longer periods each time they recommit an offense?

If you are, yeah, I agree, that is a great idea. They do that in a lot of other countries, and it's quite effective from what I have seen/heard.
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Postby tsian » Tue Aug 24, 2004 2:39 pm

Don't take this the wrong way, but if your mass transit system has buses that come by every 10 or so minutes that share the same route, then you have one of the most ineffecient bus transit systems I've ever heard of. Either they're practically running over eachother, or their routes are so short they're worthless.

While sections of many main roads have multiple buses, most people travel, at some point, down a major route. Most routes either terminate at a) a Skytrain Station or b) A frequent bus line (most frequently a 'B-Line', which is basically limited stop bus service which is designed to be replaced by rapid transit at a later date). Again, my point was that most people's destinations take them down a main corridor at some point, or to some main area which would ultimately be served by rapid transit.

The only areas where long strentch of road are served by multiple routes would probably be where the B-Lines run, since then the line needs to be served by both the limited stop B-Line and a regular route. Still, no 2 lines exactly duplicate each other.

If you are, yeah, I agree, that is a great idea. They do that in a lot of other countries, and it's quite effective from what I have seen/heard.

Yeah, thats what I meant.

Yeah, our Light-Rail works like that. Unfortunately it's still new, and people here are so damn blind and stupid they've already had 58 collisions since it was introduced in January.

Heh, sounds like Calgary... then again, our LRT is grade-seperated, so it never runs on the road.

Anyways, I'll post more later, but I can't be late for work :p
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