Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Forget the hybrid, fix mass transit

I live less than half a mile from a light rail station, I work on a street that the train goes right by, and my employer gives employees free service, so yesterday, I decided to take it into work.

I missed the train by about 5 minutes, and the next one was in 25 minutes. Once on, it takes about 20 minutes to go to the transfer station. In a planning flaw, I can walk a mile from the transfer station to work faster than waiting and catching the connecting train.

Over an hour after I left, I was at work... 10 miles away by car.

Granted, I'd save money, about $140 per month in gas, though honestly, with only 5,000 miles per year from commuting, light rail would cost me in a lot in depreciation, and it isn't like you can live without a car in California.

Here's the problem: instead of expanding mass transit and improving its infrastructure, we're giving money to people who buy hybrids. Hybrids aren't even a fix; the technologies needed to switch to electric cars haven't materialized in years of research, and the advancements that have been made, e.g. lithium ion batteries are near their theoretical limits. Making matters worse, hybrids encourage road usage. As the population increases, new roads create an induced demand on roads, leading to worse traffic.

The problem with mass transit is that it has and was designed for 1.5% market share. Now, while the system powered by oil is still running smoothly, is the time for urban planners and civil engineers to address problems, not when $500 / barrel oil makes it a necessity.

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