July 19, 2017
Brian D. Taylor: "A typical freeway lane can handle up to 2,000 vehicles per lane per hour, but in really bad traffic that throughput can be cut in half; just when we need the most out of our road system, it performs at its worst. So heavy traffic is not only irritating, it’s also really inefficient. Second, traffic delays are non-linear, which means that when traffic rises to certain levels it becomes unstable. Add just a few too many cars at the wrong time and fast-moving traffic suddenly slows to a crawl; take just a few cars off of the road at the right time and traffic speeds and throughput can both increase dramatically. If we can find a way to keep some cars from crowding onto already congested roads at certain times and places, many more people will get through the system overall, and at higher speeds to boot."
"Keeping drivers from crowding onto roads at the wrong times and places is not easy, and could entail a heavy-handed role for government. This is where pricing comes in. Road space is scarce and valuable, so why not use prices to allocate it like we do for almost everything else, including food, housing, and utilities?"
July 13, 2017
New York Times: "While the destabilization of the Larsen C Ice Shelf is certainly worrying, it pales in comparison with the threat from the increasing instability of the glaciers and ice shelves holding back the enormous West Antarctic Ice Sheet. If much of that ice sheet thaws and slides into the sea this century or next, global sea levels could rise by up to 17 feet."
July 05, 2017
The Transport Politic: "The U.S., of course, is the world’s notable exception. Over the past thirty years, almost two dozen countries have built up networks of collectively thousands of miles for trains traveling at least 150 mph. Since 1976, for example, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain slowly but steadily built up large networks, under varying political and economic environments (Japan had started opening such lines in 1964). Americans upgraded a route between Boston and New York and created 34 miles of track capable of such speeds."
"In face of the difficulties inherent in investing in large infrastructure projects that have the potential to transform the travel experience, the U.S. has been unable to advance. Over the course of an entire generation, American society has proven itself incapable of pooling either the sustained motivation or the resources to complete a single major high-speed intercity rail project."
July 05, 2017
Joe Cortright: "It may seem like we have a shortage of infrastructure, or lack the funding to pay for the transportation system, but the fact that truck freight is so heavily subsidized means that there’s a lot more demand (and congestion) on the the roads that there would be if trucks actually paid their way. On top of that, there’d be a lot more money to cover the cost of the system we already have."
Congressional Budget Office: "Locomotives are much more energy-efficient (per ton-mile) than trucks, so their emissions are much lower."
April 22, 2017
City Lab: "German rail’s most innovative project for 2017 won’t go especially fast, and you’ve probably never heard of the cities it will link. It will still revolutionize rail travel, quite possibly across the world, with one dramatic change. In December 2017, Germany will launch the first ever passenger rail service powered by hydrogen."
"Unveiled by French manufacturers Alstom this month, the new Coradia iLint will feature a motor that gains its power from a hydrogen tank and a fuel cell. Stored in a tank large enough to fuel a 497-mile journey, the hydrogen’s chemical energy will be converted into electricity by the fuel cell, propelling the train at up to 87 miles per hour. Any energy not used immediately is stored in Lithium batteries attached to the car bottom. Producing nothing but steam as a by-product, the motor will run far more quietly and cleanly than a diesel engine."
Alstom: "Alstom is a world leader in integrated railway systems. It recorded sales of €6.9 billion and booked €10.6 billion of orders in the 2015/16 fiscal year."
April 22, 2017
Walmart: "Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which fuel climate change, can seem daunting – but it doesn’t have to be. There are time-tested and cost-effective enterprise strategies that are designed to help address this challenge. So what’s stopping your company from taking the next step toward capturing a portion of these savings?"
March 18, 2017
LA Times: "When the Forest Service announced its calculation last November that the Sierra Nevada contained 102 million dead trees, it conveyed the immensity of a tragedy that is unprecedented in California’s history. It also challenged planners and innovators to find a beneficial use for at least some of the dead trees. As it turns out, there is one." . . . .
"One of the most promising technologies, deployed by Berkeley-based All Power Labs, produces electricity through gasification, which is more efficient and environmentally benign than combustion. Equally compelling, the company’s “power plant” units are small enough to fit inside a shipping container, which can be towed by truck to the hazard zones, reducing transport costs and greenhouse gas emissions."
"Aside from their main output, electricity (which can be fed into the grid), the units generate a key byproduct, biochar, a charcoal-like substance that is almost pure carbon. When applied to soil, biochar stimulates plant growth and reduces water consumption, which makes it a valuable commodity in water-stressed California fields. In essence, biochar is carbon that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere, which makes All Power’s gasification process not just carbon neutral but carbon negative."
March 05, 2017
LA Times: "Los Angeles is fed up with its traffic. Despite billions spent in herculean efforts to expand our roads, our freeways are as clogged as ever. We spent $1.6 billion to widen the 405 Freeway in 2014, and yet commute times through the Sepulveda Pass are the same. Perhaps even more frustrating, we’re spending billions more to get people out of their cars and onto Metro — and not only is our traffic problem unmoved, transit ridership is declining."
"Things have gotten so bad that billionaire futurist Elon Musk recently promised to “just start digging” tunnels underneath L.A. With enough layers of tunnels, says Musk, any amount of cars could be provided for."
"With all due respect to Mr. Musk, this plan encapsulates everything that’s wrong with how we think about traffic. Instead of building our way out of the problem, there is a proven solution to fighting traffic, one that’s much easier, more effective and less costly than our current approach. It’s putting a price on the use of our roads."
"Nobody likes paying for anything they are used to getting for free, and freeway tolls are no exception. But why are we willing to pay for electricity, gasoline or air travel, but not for roads?"
"The reason that electrical power and air travel don’t fail every time they get crowded is that we raise prices to manage demand. If things cost more, people use less of them. We all accept that airline tickets are more expensive during the holidays. And yet we miss that this very same, simple system of pricing could solve our congestion problem. Roads are the only piece of infrastructure we allow to consistently fail due to overuse."