Today’s Headlines

  • Walder: Improvements Coming in Bus Lanes, Tech, Cleanliness, Efficiency (News, Reuters)
  • DiNapoli Highlights Perils of MTA Farebox Dependence; Are Recalcitrant Pols Listening? (SAS, Post)
  • Why the Second Avenue Subway Costs So Much (SAS)
  • Booth-Free Toll Experiment Coming to Henry Hudson Bridge (NYT)
  • Bob Mionske Chronicles Long, Winding Path to Justice for Fallen Cyclist
  • Times Letters Section Belies Supposed Public Clamor for Built-In Driver Distractions
  • Political Reporters Get Fired, Jailed for Domestic Abuse; What About Politicians? (Gothamist, NYT)
  • City May Be On Its Way to Taking Control of Governors Island (Villager)
  • Former Riverdale Press Reporter Really, Really Excited About Alternate Side Changes
  • RIP: Urban Center to Close Its Doors; Checker Cab Company Is No More (City Room)

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • vnm

    To all the Monserrate fans out there: Don’t worry, if he’s expelled from the Senate, he’ll run to win his seat back.

  • Let’s hope that the booth-free tolling will finally shut up those know-nothings who claim that bridge tolls would add to pollution.

  • Very sorry to see the Urban Center close. I feel like I got my formal education in livable streets issues there from 2005-2009.

  • J. Mork

    It will be interesting to also see how many drivers switch from free crossings to a higher-throughput HHB.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Is mass transit a waste of energy?

    http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=38337

    “Let’s compare the average energy efficiency of different methods of transportation, expressed in British thermal units (BTUs) per passenger mile. These numbers were compiled or computed from government sources by my assistant Una, a professional engineer:

    • Motorcycle—2,200 with single rider.
    • Heavy rail (includes subway and commuter trains)—2,600.
    • Commercial aircraft—3,100.
    • Bus—4,300.
    • Auto—5,500 with single occupant, 3,500 with average passenger load.”

    I’ve seen figures like this before, and they aren’t fictional, though the ones I’ve seen have heavy rail doing much better.

    The key is a passenger load, which is assmed to be a little high for auto. If I drive my daughter somewhere, is that one passenger or two? They say two for auto, but don’t count the bus driver.

    Bottom line, lightly used bus lines use a lot of energy, and much could be saved if people shared rides in autos. But bikes, walking, telecommuting and heavy rail beats them all.

  • Larry, I am sure that the key is passenger load, which is why I find his ranking of bus use so puzzling. He says that he’s not talking about “lightly traveled suburban transportation systems,” but he gets his data from the Chicago CTA. Could it be that the CTA has especially lousy busses?

    I dug up this CTA news release from 2008. It says their busses only get 3.27 miles per gallon at that time:
    http://www.transitchicago.com/news/default.aspx?Month=6&Year=2008&Category=2&Archive=y&ArticleId=139

  • Larry Littlefield

    The CTA did have lousy buses when I was there, but their occupancy was high. Because there is less traffic on Chicago streets, the buses more, and out-draw the rapid transit system. So I’m surprised about Chicago — I expect overnight and suburban service is what pushs down ridership.

    The typical figure used for auto use is 1.3, but that isn’t justified, and I think it’s high. Out there in suburbia, often when there is more than one person in a car, the passenger (a child, a senior) is the only one making a trip, not the driver.

  • rlb

    “often when there is more than one person in a car, the passenger (a child, a senior) is the only one making a trip, not the driver.”

    In these cases, the occupancy should be .5.
    The reason being that the driver will go back and forth twice, while the person making the trip only once.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (In these cases, the occupancy should be .5. The reason being that the driver will go back and forth twice, while the person making the trip only once.)

    Good point, and of course shorter trips have much lower mpg because the engine isn’t warmed up.

  • David_K, both buses and cars are less fuel-efficient in inner cities due to congestion. In New York City, both hybrid and non-hybrid buses consume about 50% more fuel than identical buses elsewhere in the country; the non-hybrid buses’ average fuel economy is 2.75 mpg (link), whereas the overall average, including hybrids, is 3. However, because those buses are relatively full, the city bus system’s emissions-equivalent fuel economy is 47 passenger-mpg. The last figure includes adjustment for the fact that diesel emits more carbon per unit volume burned.

    Urban rail’s fuel economy depends on both load factors and what fuel powers the local grid. In the hydro power-rich Bay Area, BART’s emissions-equivalent fuel economy is 217 passenger-mpg (link). The coal-powered Chicago L’s figure is 32.5, the worst in the US after the underused Cleveland and Miami heavy rail systems. The national average is 81.

    Average automobile load factors depend on what trip you’re talking about. The overall average is 1.57, but it’s much lower for commute trips, about 1.2. The higher number includes family vacation trips, which are not where transit competes with driving.

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