Monthly Archives: November 2010

Megabus Business Booming

Ridership on Megabus is “well up from last year,” and starting in about two weeks the company plans to expand service to several new cities. Megabus will then serve nearly 50 major cities, all with virtually no subsidies.

Megabus near Chicago Union Station.
Flickr photo by compujeramey .

Meanwhile, high-speed rail nuts want to spend tens to hundreds of billions of dollars of public money on trains that, for the most part, won’t run faster than Megabus and for many years won’t be running at all. In contrast, Megabus has low start-up costs and can tailor services to local demand.

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Where Do We Draw the Line?

“How much is sustainability worth?” asks Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Nigel Jaquiss. “Try $65 million in public money.” That’s how much taxpayers will be spending on a $72 million “green” building in downtown Portland. At $462 a square foot, it will be “perhaps the most expensive office space ever built in Portland.”

The director of the Oregon Environmental Council defends the building as something that can “leverage long-term outcomes,” whatever that means. But she would defend it, since the state is promising OEC, 1000 Friends of Oregon, and other left-wing environmental groups office space in the building at low rents that are guaranteed to stay fixed for decades.

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Happy Thanksgiving

The Antiplanner wishes everyone a happy holiday. This year the Antiplanner is thankful for having had the company of Chip the Wonder Dog for more than 17 years.

The photos of Chip that I’ve previously posted here were mostly taken in the digital age. I recently spent a couple of days scanning many of the photos taken during the film era. If you want to see more unbearably cute puppy photos, click on through, and click on any photo for a larger view. We’ll leave political discussions to other posts. Continue reading

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Crying Over Cancelled Trains

There is much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the so-called high-speed train in Wisconsin. A Madison newspaper that calls itself “the Progressive Voice” claims that Governor-elect Walker’s promise to cancel the Milwaukee-to-Madison train is economic treason. That makes sense if you agree with Paul Krugman that the federal government should spend a few more trillion dollars on “stimulus” projects that few people will ever use. For those who think that the national debt plus social security obligations plus medicare obligations are likely to bankrupt the nation if not immediately fixed, the real economic treason would be to build the rail line.

Labor unions and other rail activists held a candlelight vigil last night to “save the train” and the thousands of jobs it would supposedly produce. If they really want to create jobs, they should bring back stagecoaches and riverboats.

The fact that, after spending nearly a billion dollars, the average speed of this supposedly high-speed train will be only 59 mph doesn’t seem to bother people. Nor do they fret about the fact that the subsidies to each train rider will be more than $100. Continue reading

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Why Transit Will Never Be Energy Efficient

At a recent presentation, the Antiplanner mentioned that transit is not energy efficient because most transit vehicles run nearly empty most of the time. A “gotcha” look appear on the face of an audience member, who said, “but what if more people rode transit?” Yes, and cars would be more energy efficient if they were filled to higher occupancies, the Antiplanner replied, and if pigs could fly, we could just ride around on pigs and we wouldn’t need to debate this at all.

ModeAverage Occupancy
Automated Guideway7%
Cable Car36%
Commuter Rail21%
Demand Response12%
Heavy Rail17%
Light Rail14%
Motor Bus15%
Trolley Bus16%
Van Pool59%
Ferry Boat20%
Publico34%
Monorail7%
Inclined Plane19%
Vintage Trolley10%

Yet there are very good reasons why public transit occupancy rates will never rise much above their current levels of about one-fifth full. Suppose you take a bus or train to work during rush hour and it seems full. But it really only seems full as it approaches the center of town. It is likely to be nearly empty when it starts its journey in the suburbs, and be nearly full only when it gets close to the city center. Over a single, one-way journey into town (or out of town in the afternoon), the vehicle is likely to average only about half full. Continue reading

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GOP Advances Two Decades

A left-wing blog accuses Republicans of wanting to “bring transport policy back to the 1950s.” At least, the GOP is two decades ahead of where the Democrats wanted to go, considering that 110-mph intercity trains and light rail both date back to the 1930s, and streetcars to several decades earlier.

Denver Zephyr traveling at 90 mph in 1939. Otto Perry photo. The train’s average speed of about 65 mph was far greater than the so-called high-speed trains proposed for Ohio (average 38.5 mph) or Wisconsin (average 59 mph).

The truth is that Republicans are proposing to be far more fiscally responsible than the Dems. Where House Transportation Committee chair James Oberstar proposed a $500 billion spending bill when less than $300 billion was available to spend, Republicans say they will spend no more than is actually available.

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CBO: User Fees for Infrastructure

The Antiplanner has long argued that transportation and other infrastructure should be paid for out of user fees, because user fees are the best indication that such projects will be truly productive. A report this month from the Congressional Budget Office reaches a similar conclusion.

The report observes that “carefully selected infrastructure projects can contribute to long-term economic growth,” but that “the potential gains from public spending for transportation and water infrastructure depends crucially on identifying economically justifiable projects.” In order to identify such projects, “the demand for infrastructure could be better aligned with the existing supply by putting a price on those services that reflects the full cost of using infrastructure.” This price should include “both the cost of providing infrastructure services and the costs that one person’s use imposes on others”–in other words, congestion pricing.

The report adds that the federal contribution to infrastructure projects should depend on “where the benefits are expected to accrue.” Projects that primarily provide local benefits should primarily be funded by the locals, while projects that provide more national benefits could get more federal funding. Federal funding of primarily local projects would “result in too many projects, or projects that are too expensive, being undertaken.” Continue reading

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Urban Sustainability

Portland, Oregon is full of sustainability advocates who look forward to petrocollapse and “experiment” with such things as country living and learning to live as voluntary peasants. Two such sustainability advocates are trained engineers and have a blog promoting urban gardening and raising chickens as if these were somehow new ideas.

Apparently, these engineers have discovered a new means to sustainability: robbing banks. Police allege they had already robbed two banks and had plans to rob a third when they put up their latest post about pickling beets “found” (quotation marks theirs) in a farmer’s field.

Banks are, after all, merely a front for America’s petro-dependent lifestyles, so bringing down the banks will hasten petrocollapse and allow us all to more quickly reach nirvana as involuntary peasants. Or anyway I imagine they justified it in their minds using some similar logic.

Thanks to Bojack for pointing this out.

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