Sunday, November 18, 2012

Freakonomics' Steven Dubner: Save the Earth, Drive your Car

Our pal Steve
This Freakonomics generated piece warmed my heart in a most global way. A website owned by the New York Times and edited by Steven Dubner, Freakonomics is a friendly place where you can go to find perspectives on the news that often run quite contrary to what you might read almost everywhere else. Something that has made it one of my favorite places to check out. Which I do quite often.

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."

Wait. What?

“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."

And trains? Trains are on average better than cars, roughly two-thirds of energy per passenger -- although that number is warped a bit by the New York City subway, which is just a monster of efficiency.

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.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. Aiyiyi, what an error for Henderson Poole Carpenter Mystery Gal to make!
    How out of touch with city matters can a person be?!

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    1. Is it disinformation? Stupidity? With Susan the two run into each other, so it is hard to say. BTW - Susan is still claiming to have attended Berkeley on her Facebook page. Didn't she get fired from the Democratic party for that?

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    2. She was fired by the Democrats for "misusing funds". Now the Dems would have no problem with that, if it were taxpayer funds, but Susan was ripping off the Dems.Charging personal items on their dime.
      Perhaps Susan wishes to be on the Pasadena School Board?
      Now that's okay with the Dems.

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    3. According to the San Francisco Chronicle Susan Henderson was also fired for "resume padding." Which included the false claim that she had received a law degree from Berkeley. You can read all about it in an arr=ticle titled "Demo leader resigns under fire." Tap that title into Google along with the name H. Susan Henderson and it will come right up.

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  2. I suspect that Henderson's "writing style" is more like telling someone else what the blurb should be about.

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    1. Susan would never hire anyone who might actually know something. She would perceive that to be a threat.

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    2. Speaking of shaky claims to journalism, the top story on Patch all weekend has been about a run on Twinkies at a Stater Bros supermarket.

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  3. So the new gang of 3 in town want us to abide by the UN Accords (now deceptively renamed Committments and goals) so we can save e planet, but at the same time they voted to get rid of the shuttle bus that roams around town. Major disconnect here.

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    1. According to Freakonomics empty buses result in more greenhouse gases than cars. I think we should have a Shuttle Chevy.

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    2. red ryder riding shotgun on a radio flyer. these hills are built for it.

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    3. Horse carts pulled by unicorns and driven by resident Realtors.

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    4. Perhaps we need to do what the Cubans did, their sustainability was to go into peoples houses and smash all the lightbulbs.
      We could do the same with cars. Sort of like our Western Waste trucks, except for cars. Pick them up in the driveways, and run them through a compactor.

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    5. The Community Services Commission wanted to discontinue the Round About which had a really poor ridership and expand the Dial A Ride which had a rising demand. However, the City Counsel chose in their infinate wisdom to cut the Dial A Ride service, and cut the Round About service so they could use some of the funds for streets. Only catch is, the money for street improvements can only be used for those streets the Round About busses drive on. So, only a few streets in Sierra Madre will qualify. Most of Those streets already qualify under a different funding program. Go figure.

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  4. I have to say that I agree with the Onion on this one. I am all in favor of other people taking mass transit to work. It would reduce congestion on the freeways and reduce my commute time. I see it as being the John Harabedian stance on the environment. Buses for you, a Corvette for me.

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  5. One could extrapolate from data given above that to maximize efficiencies of auto travel that a median speed per vehicle would have to be maintained to bolster, and, or, prove such a proclamation. I'll go out on a limb and guess that a freeway full of cars averaging 3-5 mph during rush hour is not as environmentally friendly as the train whooshing by, full of passengers, at 55 mph. Inversely, 4 hours later when freeway is moving at speed, 55-70mph, and same train is now carrying 1/10 the amount of passengers, the efficiency tables are turned. Having said all that, what is right? Seems to me that in order to improve the worse performance hours of the freeway model that capacity on freeways would have to be increased, increasing size of freeways, not a very popular idea around these parts, coupled with improving logistics of freeway routing, providing the shortest distance between two points is most efficient, thusly bolstering the argument for the construction of the 710 Tunnel. The article was informative but incomplete in its ideas and conclusion...Good Day!

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    1. The 710 Tunnel will have tolls, and cars will need to slow down so they can pay them. As will the thousands of trucks coming out of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the true purpose for this potential public health disaster being built in the first place. You need to think these things through a little more.

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    2. Using transponders...no reduction in speed...hmmmmmm....you need to think things through a little.

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    3. To make the numbers on efficiency sound more favorable to mass transit, outlaw Toyota Priuses....

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  6. They are so many millions of cars, trucks and homes spewing out pollution now, calling the 710 tunnel a potential health disaster is really a disguise for not wanting more traffic passing near your suburban neighborhood. Just come out of the closet already.

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    1. It's true. I would much prefer all that crap to happen in whatever hellhole you come from. Obviously you have somehow earned it and it is not my place to stand in the way.

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    2. 7:41 is special in some ways. You need to learn to respect that.

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    3. This land is your land, this land is my land... Just stay right except to pass please.

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  7. John Crawford or Tattlers?

    Anyone know about these transponders we are now required to use on, so far two or three freeways....diamond lane?

    We drive to Hollywood Park 110 and 105, where you are required now to have a transponder and also pay a toll during rush hours. It will allow one driver to use the diamond lane.

    I inquired about it the other day at the Auto Club. It's over $40 to buy the device for your car, then you have to pay a monthy maintence fee. Also, you have to pay toll costs by the month.

    I chose not to purchase one, since we will not be driving those freeways after the middle of next month.

    It seems it's just another scam by the State of California to extract $$$$.
    Smells like a big tax to me.

    Does anyone have any opinion on this? Perhaps, Crawford could write us a column next week?

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  8. We are making asphalts of ourselves--one way or the other--in our transportation habits.

    Would be nice if we still lived on those little ranchos that started it all, had all the well water that we needed and bartered a few items with the next rancho for those we didn't produce ourselves.

    Oh, what else did we need? All that stuff that was eventually carried in by modern transport and now I can buy blueberries from Argentina with a very large jetfuel surcharge and carbon footprint. Damn little blueberry.

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    1. Speak for yourself ...

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  9. Living in Boston we had a transponder,as did everyone else. It is placed on the inside of the car and automatically responded to the toll and bridges so I never had to stop and pay. It was refilled as needed via my credit card. I traveled throughout the NE and it worked beautifully keeping traffic flowing.

    I am not for the building of the 710. But I think if we have tolls anywhere a transponder works and speeds up the toll lines. Any tolls in Southern Cal?

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    1. A couple of things that need to be added to the mix. Not everyone will have a transponder. Plus when you have as many lanes as you have on the 710 funneling into the far fewer that will be available in the 710 Tunnel, there will be back ups. If you are in Oakland and you wish to take the Bay Bridge into SF you can see this effect in action. There are cash lanes with long lines, plus the effect of the cars on the freeway squeezing onto the far leaner bridge. It will be a mess, and those living near the mouth of the 710 tunnel will breathe some of the foulest air anywhere.

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    2. Thanks for that information California driver.
      There are toll roads, I've seen them in Orange County, I'm sure they are many other places.
      I would get one, if I used the freeways often.
      I just wonder if they will make these diamond lanes more congested?
      Probably only in downtown Los Angeles?

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    3. So much for car pooling. What is it people are calling these things? Lexus lanes?

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    4. Given the cost of the Lexus Lanes, and the obvious knowledge it won't improve commute times. I'll just take city streets.

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    5. Transponders, hmmm, another reason to take my business and get out of Dodge.

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    6. You're never alone when you have a transponder.

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  10. In a decade or so emission free personal transportation will be widely available and affordable to anyone with a decent job. This absurd debate going on about public transportation saving the world will seem about as quaint as building bomb shelters. As far as transit villages go they will sit empty and unwanted as people drive their electric and hydrogen propelled cars out into a suburban sprawl filled with the single family homes that people really want.

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    1. Just think, we are building the slums of tomorrow... today!

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    2. I guess the transportation taxes we have been paying for better roads and highways is not enough to fuel the pockets of the state. The money to build Jerry's boondoggle up the central valley will be paid for by us again. Having seen the plan,and having been in the engineering business, it will not be $90B, but will swell to $500 billion by the time it is done. The $90B is just the down payment. The only people who will be able to afford to ride it, will be people who buy $2000.00 suits.
      But don't worry too much, the only people left in California will be those types of people. This truly is the solution of the "green revolution".

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    3. The Green Committee's downtown Transit Village would have been called a housing project back in the 1970s. The name may have changed, but the result will be the same.

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    4. Yep. Kind of amazing that someone would think to call wrecking our town "green."

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    5. Those folks would run over their dear old moms if it would get the DSP built.

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  11. I exercise my right to change the subjectNovember 18, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    That dynamic duo of Gil Aguirre and Kelly Aviles are at it again. From today's Pasadena Star News (only an excerpt; read the entire article):"Or at least that's what it appears in the ongoing fight between Citrus College and open government advocate Gil Aguirre and his lawyer, Kelly Aviles."

    Read more: http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_22019442/edward-barrera-is-citrus-college-hiding-something#ixzz2Cbc3V5Z5

    Gil and Kelly are good friends of the Sierra Madre Tattler and we need to support them in any way possible.

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    1. Nobody has worked harder to get to the truth in bad government than Gil Aguirre. Pretty amazing guy.

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    2. Is it the Dial a Ride, or the Round a Bout; I've understood that the hours are between 11:00am - 1:30pm M - F/ what purpose does this serve? who utilizes this time frame? Does anyone ride either of these anymore?

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    3. The DAR takes otherwise housebound people to their Doctors. The RAB? It was a pollutant. Of course, the green committee that killed it was the one to do with money. It was a reality based decision.

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  12. For about 5 years I rode the Metrolink from the ElMonte Station DT and back. If you watched and listened it was obvious that a large number of riders were City and County Employees which I suspect had "perks" to ride and commute (probably at greatly reduced fares or perhaps at no cost to them)

    I watched with the same suspecion the addidition of the Freeway Car Pool Lanes now being converted to toll status, the charging for use, to be activated by transponders mounted on the windshield. Can you imagine the rush by government employees to use these transponders to "ease their pain" from the crowded freeways.
    I hope the Times or some investigative arm is getting set to monitor the abuse of the transponders for the "free ride". This will prove to be a big grab bag of new "perks".

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    1. Very good points, 3:28
      Very good post, thanks!

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  13. During the 1984 Olympics there was a great effort to get people to change their commute patterns and driving habits to make way for the crowds headed to various venues. People were highly motivated and it worked. Lanes were added to off-ramps locally and you can still enjoy them today. Sometimes there has to be a discussion about the long range outcome and not just what is best for "ME" right now.

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    1. OK. You go and tell people they're selfish for driving cars. Then tell those people they need to give them up and ride buses. Be sure to let me know where exactly you plan to do this so I know where to send the ambulance. And the camera crew.

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    2. With all due respect, when is the last time any bureaucrat asked any of us to be part of the discussion?

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    3. 7:06 probably feels it is the duty of government to curtail our personal transportation rights.

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  14. I got a free metro pass when I served on jury duty. Was I a leech? I think the goal was to get you to town without your car. Parking was a nightmare. The Sierra Club did a study a number of years ago to add up all the space devoted to the car, starting with your garage and driveway, the city streets, freeways, repare shops, parking lots, gas stations, sales lots, car parts stores, vast amounts of pavement for landings all those imports at the harbor, what did I leave out? But if we went back to horses we would have some of the same. Maybe more open space in pasture land, however.

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    1. You're right. It is all about you.

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  15. 100 years ago Sierra madre had a trainstop right at Kersting Court. If we had a train here now I would ride it.

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