Sunday Train has long supported the Steel Interstate concept … but Sunday Train is “merely” an online activity composed of my online blogging in various forums and your discussion in various forums. However, since 2013, I have also been involved in the advocacy of the Steel Interstate concept in a more direct collaboration organized by …
Tag: sustainable transport
May 26 2015
Sunday Train: In Worrying News, Non-Petroleum in Transport Hits 60-year High
The US Energy Information Administration released a story last week which sounded like good news: Nonpetroleum Share of Transportation Energy at Highest Level Since 1954. “Since 1954” means, since before I was born or, as hard as it is to wrap my brain around, a period spanning six decades.
So, surely this is good news? Well, if you have glanced at their accompanying chart, no, not so much. A more descriptive headline would be, “US transport continues to be addicted to petroleum as its primary energy source”. And digging into the US EIA numbers reveals that the situation is even more grave than the chart to the right would make you think.
May 11 2015
Sunday Train: Benefits of the Maryland Red and Purple Lines
Just as national attention has been focused on the sections of Baltimore that have been largely locked out of the revival of economic activity in downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor, the new Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, is considering whether to proceed with the construction of the Red Line in Baltimore, as well as the Purple Line in the Maryland DC suburbs.
As discussed in StreetsblogUSA back in January, “Considering to proceed”, here, means:
Early in his gubernatorial campaign, Hogan promised to kill the projects, saying the money would be better spent on roads and that the western, eastern, and southern parts of the state deserved more attention. But closer to the election he moderated his views, saying the lines were “worth considering.”
Now Transport for American (t4america.com) has weighed in, producing a report that argues that the benefits of the lines make them well worth their cost.
Indeed, part of their case may well help explain why Gov. Hogan is “deciding” when originally Candidate Hogan sounded like he had already made up his mind. For the Transport for America case for these lines, join me below the fold.
Apr 14 2014
Sunday Train: Transport Cycling and Austin’s Awesome Bike Plan
Last week, I came across a post at People for Bike, called Four Simple Lessons from Austin’s Brilliant Bike Plan Update … and after reading the post, I clicked on through to the overview of the Bike Plan Update that they were referring to, and it was even better than they said. Once I saw that, I know that Sunday Train was going to talk about both Austin’s Awesome Bike Plan and the Four Key Lessons that People for Bikes draw from it:
- 1) The point of bike plans isn’t to appease bikers, it’s to make bikes useful to everyone.
- 2) Good biking makes good transit better.
- 3) You’re not going to turn every long car trip into a bike trip – all you have to do is turn short trips into bike trips.
- 4) A good bike network increases the capacity of your entire road system.
So follow me below the fold to consider both these four important points and also the general Awesomeness of Austin’s Bike Plan Update.
Mar 24 2014
Sunday Train: Car Subsidies & Ebbing Vehicles Miles Travelled
Earlier this month, the philly.com from the Philadelphia Inquirer carried a story, Drop in traffic on area highways forces review of plans. It cites several “area” road funding decisions based on assumptions of growing traffic, which turned out to be false:
- A $2.5b New Jersey Turnpike widening justifiedm in 2005, by projections of a 68% increase in traffic volumes over the coming 25 years … where turnpike traffic in 2013 is only 90% of 2005 levels
- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission undertook to provide up to $900m in annual funding for other roads around the state, based on projections of Turnpike traffic growth of 3% to 5% … while to date, there hasn’t been any appreciable traffic growth
- The Scudder Falls bridge taking I-95 over the Delaware River was a four lane bridge that the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission decided in 2003 to replace with a nine-line $328m bridge based on projected traffic increases of 35% by 2035 … and to date, that growth in traffic has not yet materialized
The article poses the question of “whether” the traffic growth that went away following the Panic of 2008 and which hasn’t shown up in the ensuing Depression of 2008 to, optimistically, 2015, might not ever turn up.
Well, it probably won’t. And that raises the follow-up question, what are we going to do about it?
Dec 23 2013
Sunday Train: Bringing This Oil Tanker to a Halt
Its been said that it takes miles for a fully-loaded super-tanker to come to a stop, because an ordinary stop takes 20 minutes, and even an emergency, or “crash”, stop takes 14 minutes. But that is less than the blink of an eye compared to the time it will take to bring the emissions of CO2 to a stop.
As Do the Math reminds us, in order to have some plausible chance (far short of certainty, by the way) of leaving global warming at under the 3.6°F that implies that the already ongoing climate catastrophe tips over into the super-catastrophe range, we need to keep additional CO2 emissions at under 565 gigatons. And we have computed reserves equivalent to 2,795 gigatons. So we must, by hook or by crook, find a way to refrain from consuming 80% of our CO2.
For the US, our main focus has to be on our energy emissions due to petroleum, coal, and natural gas, since 85.7% of our total CO2 emissions are due to energy production. As of 2011 41% of our emissions from energy production comes from petroleum emissions, 34% from coal, and 24% from natural gas. Of that 41% due to petroleum, 15% is from domestic petroleum production, and 26% from petroleum imports. So if the United States were to today achieve petroleum independence from carbon-neutral energy sources and energy savings, and totally replace coal combustion with carbon-neutral energy sources and energy savings, that would save 60% of the 86% of emissions from energy production, or 52% of the total. We would “only” have to cut the remaining energy-related emissions and the 14% from other sources by 60% to get to an equal proportional share of an 80% reduction.
However, the target we have to aim at is more ambitious than this. First, fossil fuels are non-renewable, and our timeline for the persistence of CO2 in the atmosphere is around a century. We don’t have a century’s worth of fossil fuels at the current rate of global consumption, so cutting back our consumption by 80% of the present rate is not enough.
And second, because of the time that it will take to switch to a low carbon emissions society, it is highly likely that by the time that a low carbon emissions society is within reach, we will have already emitted close to 565 gigatons.
This is why our target is no longer a “low net carbon emissions” society, but a “zero net carbon emissions” society, since we’ve likely already passed the “ordinary stop” stopping distance, and are coming up upon the “crash stop” stopping distance.
Dec 02 2013
Sunday Train: ‘the successful communities are going to be the ones who get rail.’
In covering the upcoming vote on the planned North Metro Rail line in Denver, the Denver Post writes:
People and circumstances over the years have tried to change the gritty image of Commerce City. There have been high-end homes on its eastern border and a world-class soccer and concert stadium not far from the city’s oil refineries, and even an attempt to wipe the city’s industrial name off of the map and replace it with the more low-key moniker of Derby. But it may be a stop on the Regional Transportation District’s North Metro Rail Line that brings some shine to the center of the city.
They quote the Commerce City Mayor:
“I’m very optimistic about the commercial opportunities that come with transit-oriented development,” said Commerce City Mayor Sean Ford. “Once rail comes, we can develop around it, and I think it will be highly beneficial.”
… as well as the Adams County Commissioner and Chairman of the North Area Transportation Alliance:
“In our world, the successful communities are going to be the ones who get rail,” said Adams County Commissioner Erik Hansen
And on Tuesday night, the Metro North line was approved, for a 2014 start and 2018 completion, when it had been previously set back to 2044 (an oddly exact date that clearly meant, “not now, but maybe later”):
A spontaneous offer from Graham Contracting in February stepped up the plans for the North Metro line after the company teamed with three other private developers and gave the Regional Transportation District’s board of directors a viable, ambitious construction plan, said RTD spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas.
Oct 28 2013
Sunday Train: Steel Interstate Revolution
The Steel Interstate is a proposal to pursue dramatic gains in the energy efficiency of long haul freight transport in the United States, resulting in:
- Substantial reductions in Petroleum Imports;
- Substantial reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions;
- Substantially improved protection from Petroleum Supply interruptions;
- Improved productivity for North American manufacturing; and
- Substantial reductions in damage to the existing Asphalt Interstate System
How can it promise all of this? By mining gross inefficiency. The United States has one of the most energy inefficient systems of moving freight long distances available under current technology, and we combine that with an economy that relies heavily on moving freight long distances.
Some of the specific sources of energy efficiency are:
- Moving cargoes in linked electric freight trains offers less air resistance than moving cargoes in individual trucks, because the freight car ahead provides a slipstream for the freight car immediately behind;
- Steel wheel on steel rail has less rolling resistance than rubber tire on asphalt road;
- Electric motors are more efficient than diesel or gasoline internal combustion engines; and
- When braking, electric trains can put a load on their electric motors and generate power, feeding it back onto the line
Overall, long haul electric freight is around 15 times more energy efficient than long haul diesel semi freight. I tend to express this as over ten times the energy efficiency, to allow leeway for possibly longer routings when taking advantage of the Steel Interstate.
Long haul electric freight trains are also more space efficient than long haul truck transport. Freight demands that would require multiple lanes each way just for truck traffic can be readily accommodated on a two track mainline route. This can be done while accommodating a mix of 60mph heavy freight and 100mph fast container freight by including regular extended sections of passing track: the difference between passing track and sidings is that on-schedule faster and slower trains using the passing track remain in motion, rather than one sitting still in a siding waiting for the other to pass.
Finally, the operating cost per ton-mile for electric freight for both 60mph heavy freight and 90mph fast freight is enough lower than the operating cost of long haul trucking that the government can fund a National Steel Interstate with interest subsidies alone, with Access Fees and User Fees refunding the original capital cost of the system ~ initially, funding expansion of the system, and finally funding retiring the bonds.
Sep 23 2013
Sunday Train: Rapid Rail and Pedal to the Metal Climate Change Policy (pt 2)
cross-posted from Voices on the Square
Last week, I considered the concept of Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policies: the kind of policies that we will now have to pursue if we become serious about Climate Change, because of the 16+ years we will have wasted since 2000 that would have given us the opportunity to pursue a more gradualist approach. At that time, there was a debate that could be characterized as an argument between “incrementalism” and “purism”. However, at present, and therefore by the time the current administration will be completed, we have passed the point of asking “how fast should we go”, and have passed into “how fast can we go” territory. Hence the Pedal to the Metal approach.
Last week, I did not rehash Micheal Hoexter’s overview of a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policy, but rather looked at the leading edge of that policy package, what I dubbed “front-runner” policies, and looked the Steel Interstate as one example of a front-runner policy for a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change policy package. This week, I am going to turn from Rapid Freight Rail and consider what kind of Rapid Passenger Rail policy would qualify as a front-runner policy for a Pedal to the Metal Climate Change Policy.