|Our pal Steve|
And this particular Freakonomics article, as revealed on an NPR site, has outraged many of the "smart growth" websites that I also read. They are perfectly livid about it, to the point where they're posting articles that are, to soft soap it, highly indignant.
Here is what Steven Dubner's interview with Clemson urban planning professor Eric Morris reveals. You should be able to see quite easily why it is causing so much excitement:
Save the earth, drive your car (click here): Mass transit in the Northeast was hit hard by Sandy. New Yorkers had to do without the subway, for example, but now the transit system has mostly recovered. It’s a perfect time to be thankful for the extensive network of public transportation that exists in the city. In fact, it means that New Yorkers have one of the smallest per-capita carbon footprints in the U.S.
But you’re probably sensing a hidden side here, right?
"Mass transit can be an incredible boon for the environment," says Eric Morris, a regular contributor to Freakonomics and a professor of urban planning at Clemson University. He told Freakonomics' Stephen Dubner: "It can also not help the environment or maybe even hurt the environment."
“Obviously, the energy expenditure in moving around a transit vehicle per passenger mile depends on the number of passengers," Morris continues. "Whether you have one passenger in a bus or 40 passengers in a bus, you're going to be expending almost the same amount of energy. So it all depends on the ridership and the occupancy that transit vehicles and, for that matter, autos carry."
So here comes the rub. The average American car carries 1.6 people -- not many, of course, when you're comparing it to mass transit. On the other hand, the average bus carries only 10 people. And a bus burns a lot more fuel than a car. Not exactly what mass-transit advocates would have us believe. Which led Morris to this rather surprising conclusion: "Typically, moving a passenger a mile by bus requires roughly 20 percent more energy than moving a passenger around by car… So, just in terms of energy expenditure, bus actually fares worse than car."
The caveat here: it’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison, since transportation is so complex. But here's Eric Morris's point: In terms of energy efficiency, mass transit is not the panacea that a lot of people would like to think. Yes, it works great in a dense urban area like New York, but Morris argues that we've already picked a lot of that low-hanging fruit, and that light-rail systems in places like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Memphis actually do worse than cars in terms of energy efficiency, simply because they're underused.
Think of the ramifications. SB 375, the Sacramento spawned central planning boondoggle that its proponents claim will save the earth from global warming, has as one of its central tenants the notion that if you build so-called "transit villages" in towns such as ours, and force people to ride buses and trains instead of their cars, greenhouse gas emissions will drop thereby saving the planet.
To say that driving your car can be greener than taking mass transit is, in certain circles, heresy.
The SB 375 mindset is, of course, at the very core of our most beloved and true Green Committee's (formerly known as) "Accords." As it is in the claims of most so-called "smart growthers." Yet here is some very inconvenient information being put out in a very public place.
The smart growth people are not amused. Here is a steaming slice of umbrage as posted on the DCStreetsBlog.org (click here):
The intellectually dishonest argument rests on the per-passenger energy consumption of cars versus buses. Buses are potentially much more efficient than cars, Morris admits. But many buses are underutilized: The average bus carries just 10 passengers, while the average car carries 1.6. As a result, Morris says, those traveling by bus consume 20 percent more energy per passenger than people driving in cars. (American trains, he concedes, are two-thirds more efficient than cars on this measure, but he qualifies that by saying the “number is warped a bit by the New York City subway, which is just a monster of efficiency.”)
So let’s say you’re an average, environmentally-concerned Joe, and you take this segment to literally mean that you should, in fact, drive your car to “save the earth.” How would that affect the environment? Well, the decision to take transit would consume essentially no additional energy — you would be using the system that’s at your disposal. While driving a car would spew greenhouse gases into the air that would otherwise stay in your fuel tank. It is pretty clear which choice is better for the environment, and it’s the intuitive one.
I love it when these guys get mad. And they are doing that quite often lately.
Of course, if you want to get the real skinny on this stuff, the place you need to go is the Onion. Their article, "98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others" (click here), pretty much nails it.
Looney Views News - Wrong Again
There usually is something wrong in Susan Henderson's paper. But this week it is a little more grating than usual as it deals with an issue that has some people very upset. That being Sierra Madre's inability to gain elected representation on the newly configured PUSD Board of Education until a full 2 years after (most of) the rest of the district has elected their own. Something brought about by the atrocious Measure A. In the "Education and Youth" section of her paper there is an article dealing with the upcoming PUSD Board of Education elections. Here is what the Looney claims:
The filing period to run for the PUSD Board of Education will close December 7, 2012. Voters in Altadena, Pasadena and Sierra Madre will go to the polls March 5, 2013 for the primary nominating election and April 16, 2013 for the general election (if necessary).
Which is, of course, absurdly incorrect. Thanks to the ineffectual work of her good friends Joe Mosca and Bart Doyle while on the PUSD "geographic subdistricting" commission responsible for this travesty, Sierra Madre won't be involved in selecting representation on the newly aligned Board of Education until sometime in 2015. Two years later than Susan cares to admit. The real reason why Sierra Madre was given second class status in this important process still remains unknown. None of the usual suspects are talking.
Sierra Madre gave an overwhelming "No" vote to Measure A because most people prefer to be able to participate in things like Board of Education elections. The numbers were 1,076 against, 882 for. But don't ask Susan why this might have been. She isn't saying anything about it, either.
That is, if she even knows.