Hybrid Nation?

Samuel Staley's picture
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My Toyota Prius just turned 100,000. That's quite a milestone for a car and it may be a harbinger of things to come. Many planners are betting so-called "peak oil" will undermine our car culture because we won't have the fuel to feed them. The history of my Prius suggests otherwise.

When my Prius was "born" in 2001, hybrids were an oddity. Toyota sold fewer than 15,000 of the cars in the U.S., despite the fact the technology had already been proven in Japan. It even subsidized the retail price of the car, using it as a loss leader to build a new market.

In 2003, my Prius had been sitting on the lot for six months, unwanted, until the salesman gave me a deal to roll it home. It's diminutive size reminded us of the family car Fred Flintstone "drove" using his feet to power it along. So we named it "Fred".

Despite these humble beginnings, Fred has been great. In fact, he's still running on his original rear brake pads. We had the front pads replaced on its 100,000 birthday. We change the oil every 5,000 miles, and it hums along, often silently, reliably getting 48 mpg.

Now, driving in 2007, my decision to buy Fred looks brilliant. Gas prices bumped up to $2 per gallon by the end of 2004. By the summer of 2005, prices had eclipsed $3 per gallon in many parts of the nation, particularly on the coasts. Refinery bottlenecks, reformulated gas mandates, Nigeria, uncertainty created by pesky South American socialists, and a protracted military presence in the Middle East conspired to keep prices relatively high.

Hybrid sales jumped along with gas prices. Hybrid sales are on track to sell 345,000 by the end of the year according to JD Power & Associates. Toyota continues to be the leader, wracking up more than half of all hybrid sales. But this is the tip of the iceberg. JD Power speculates that 65 hybrid models will swarm onto the market by 2010. Toyota alone has a corporate strategy targeting 600,000 sales in the U.S. early in the next decade. The next generation will advertise fuel efficiency approaching 70 mpg (or more).

Hybrids are still a small part of the overall car market, but it is a growing segment. And this bodes well for the future of the automobile. The technology is improving, potentially building into all automobiles resilience to environmental regulation and eventually dwindling oil supplies. So, reports of the death of the automobile and automobility are greatly exaggerated. We need to make sure we plan for more mobility, not less.
Sam Staley is Associate Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Comments

Comments

Hybrids And Planning For More Mobility

Do Mr. Staley's figures really justify his conclusion that "We need to make sure we plan for more mobility"?

He says that gas prices have gone up by over 50% (from $2 to over $3) since he bought his Prius 3 years ago.

He also says that the next generation of hybrids will be about 40% more fuel efficient than the current generation (70 mpg rather than the 50 mpg of his Prius). Presumably, it will be more than 3 years before those 70 mpg hybrids appear.

From those two numbers, it sounds like fuel efficiency probably will not keep up with increasing gasoline prices, so it will probably continue to become more expensive to drive.

Even if did become cheaper to drive, would that be a reason for "planning for more mobility"? We make people's lives more convenient by planning to give them access to nearby services, so what is the benefit of planning to make them spend more time on the freeway?

I have to admit that Mr. Staley practices what he preaches about mobility. He says he has driven his Prius 100,000 miles since he bought it 3 years ago, so he is burning much more gas and emitting much more CO2 by driving a Prius than the average American does by driving a non-hybrid car.

Charles Siegel

Mike Lydon's picture
Blogger

Nail on the head

"I have to admit that Mr. Staley practices what he preaches about mobility. He says he has driven his Prius 100,000 miles since he bought it 3 years ago, so he is burning much more gas and emitting much more CO2 by driving a Prius than the average American does by driving a non-hybrid car."

EXACTLY!

Mike Lydon
Avid Bike Commuter

Samuel Staley's picture
Blogger

hybrid mileage

Just to clarify, I bought the Prius used in 2003. I've put average mileage on it.

The point about technology and gasoline prices was apparently missed. It's basic economics--the higher the price, the greater the incentives to develop and implement new technologies to meet consumer needs. So, the higher prices spur the development and refinement of new technologies. That's why the next generation of hybrids will get 70+ miles per gallon. And this is just the beginning.

3x mpg means 3x the travel for the same damage!!! YAY

Your point was not missed. I for one at least recognize what you are saying, and I do welcome the emergence of hybrid technology.

However your argument reminds me of a joke my parents tell...Early in their marriage my mother would come home from a store sale and tell my father how much money she had "saved". My father's punch line is that to my mother a 50% off sale means she can buy twice as much.

Yours and Ted Balaker's ideas seem similar. "Look" you seem to be saying, "by improving mobility we can drive three times as far on the same tank of gas to visit 15% more places." You're running into diminishing returns in benefits. When you factor in growth you see the current situation we face in California. The improvements in emissions technologies over the past 30 years have been almost lost to growth in the number of cars on the road, and the huge (libertarian embraced) growth in vehicle size.

So please understand when others may be hesitant to cheer your rosy-eyed optimism, or congratulate you on an admirable personal choice.

Samuel Staley's picture
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3x mpg means 3x less gas

My point was that I use *less* fuel now than before. I put about 20,000 miles on my prius, about the national average, and its largely unchanged for the last 10 years. My VMT didn't increase because I spent less on gasoline. My MVT is determined by such mundane things as soccer and volleyball schedules, school events, volunteer activity, etc. Our family now uses about half the gallons of gasoline we did previously because 1) the Prius substituted for a much lower mpg vehicle (although the Prius is less practical), and 2) we have shifted more miles to our Prius from our second, lower mpg vehicle.

The general point was that mobility is valued. As long as automobiles provide the most mobility, suppliers will find ways to meet that desire more cheaply.

My Average MPG x 1/4 Sam's Avg VMT = 1/2 gas of Sam's Prius

Sam:

My 1998 Toyota Tacoma, manual transmission, 90,000 miles on the odometer, gets 19 mpg city/25 mpg hwy, 21 mph average based on the revised fuel economy estimates. Since buying a home last year in a pre-war traditional neighborhood, roughly a mile from work, my overall VMT has dropped substantially.

Instead of filling up 3 times a month, I now only fill up every 3 - 4 weeks and have only put 3,8000 miles on my vehicle in the last nine months, which equates to an an annual mileage rate of 5,000 miles per year. This is less than a third of the "average" miles driven by males in my age group (18,858 for males 35-54) according to 2003 Federal Highway Administration data and a fourth of the 20,000 miles that you drive which is above average for your age group and well above 13,476 miles average for all age groups combined.

The 2001 Prius, based on the revised fuel economy standards gets 42 mpg city/41 mpg hwy, averaging 41 mpg. Despite driving an older vehicle that gets half the mileage of your prius, I still burn half as much as gas as you do because I don't *have* to drive as much.

Overall there are substantial savings for me over you even if I drive a vehicle that is half as efficient. First and foremost I didn't have pay a premium for hybrid technology to realize the "gains" that you did with your Prius probably retailing for 50% more than my truck when both were new. Overall I spend half as much on gas, have substantially less depreciation and maintenance costs simply because I live in an environment that allows me to drive *less*. Nevermind the immense time savings since on average you drive 54.75 miles per day while I average around 14. You likely spend between an hour and a half and two hours a day behind the wheel of your car, while I spend perhaps a third of that. Oh yeah and this includes being able to drive for lunch! What a concept!

So yeah Sam I'd say the previous poster was right about the diminishing returns of increased vehicle efficiency in low-density, urban sprawl type living arrangements.

The Market And Demand For Gas

As a member of the free-market Reason Foundation, you should know better. A basic principle of market economics is that lower prices shift people on the demand curve to a point where they buy more.
Buying a car that gets 3x the mpg is equivalent to cutting gas prices by 2/3, and people will drive more as a result.

In fact, we know that cutting gas prices in half increases the distance the average person drives by about 20%. If you drive the same amount now that you pay half as much for gas, then 1)either you are an anomaly 2)or free-market theory is wrong, and you better tell the economists at the Reason Foundation this news.

This doesn't mean I am against higher mpg. It means that higher mpg should be accompanied by measures to prevent driving from increasing, such as planning for more convenient access.

As I said in my last post, it is not true that "mobility is valued." Access is values.

Mobility is a means to an end - a means to getting to places where you want to be, such as shopping, work, soccer games, etc. If we can design cities so people can get to these places with less travel, that is just as good as providing more mobility - and it is much cheaper for the consumer and much less destructive to the environment.

Charles Siegel

Not quite

You have correctly interpreted a principle of economics and then butchered it and misused in context. First, you need to examine the concept of elasticity of demand in your example. Driving is fairly inelastic relative to most "goods or services" (on both sides of the demand curve). So, increases and decreases in the price of fuel will not have exact corresponding differences in the consumption of driving. In addition, the consumption of driving is not exactly the same as consumption of fuel. Fuel is an input and affects the use, but there are a host of other factors and trade-offs like time, convenience, etc.

Mobility is a means to an end, but I don't see anything wrong with letting the consumer decide what is an appropriate amount of convenience as long as they pay for the direct costs associated with their driving and indirect costs (which will reduce their driving, but not "one-to-one").

If the market defined convenience exactly as you do, I think you would get more of whatever that is, which in fact to some degree we are (infill, downtown development, some higher density projects). To the extent we are not has much to do with local governments perverse incentives to not let the market work.

Inelastic Demand for Gasoline

I realize that demand for gasoline is relatively inelastic. That is why I said that doubling the price of gasoline reduces demand by 20%. If demand were relatively elastic, doubling price would reduce demand by over 50%.

I was responding to Mr. Staley's point that he didn't reduce his driving AT ALL as a result of having a hybrid and paying half as much for gasoline. That claim ignores market economics.

I can' agree with you that:
I don't see anything wrong with letting the consumer decide what is an appropriate amount of convenience as long as they pay for the direct costs associated with their driving and indirect costs (which will reduce their driving, but not "one-to-one").

I don't think the usual economic analysis applies here because the effect on the commons is too overwhelming.

Take a look at the picture of a car-free Main Street at http://preservenet.blogspot.com/2007/09/car-free-town-in-michigan.html.

If everyone has the choice of driving based on their own convenience, even if they pay a price for the externalities, then no one has the choice of living in this sort of car-free neighborhood.

I wish I had the option of living someplace like this, but the ideology of freedom of choice has denied me this choice.

Charles Siegel

Mackinac Island and Cars

I visited Mackinac Island as a kid and love it there as well, so I understand what you are saying. But perhaps you underestimate some people's choice not to drive even though it is relatively available. We see that already. Some people intentionally choose to live where it is difficult to drive because of density and other factors - NYC, San Fran, Chicago, etc.

Your statement:

"If everyone has the choice of driving based on their own convenience, even if they pay a price for the externalities, then no one has the choice of living in this sort of car-free neighborhood."

If we priced pollution high enough, the market would respond (as it already has to some extent) to deliver more pedestrian friendly places. Maybe they wouldn't be car free, but much less auto-conducive. And, let's face it, car free works on Mackinac because you need a boat to get there and it's a summer tourist spot. Bike riding would decline in a -10 environment.

Wouldn't you agree that a car-reduced environment with the option of having it for certain conveniences would be just as good if not better? Isn't that essentially what a new urbanist development is all about? That would work for me.

Car-Free versus Car-Reduced

I generally agree with the principle of internalizing the externalities caused by the car - as you say, pricing pollution to deliver more pedestrian friendly places.

But I would also like to see some car-free, rather than just car-reduced neighborhoods, since I think this would be a very attractive option for many people. Bicycling would be a very convenient and generally pleasant way of getting around in a car-free neighborhood, but many people won't bicycle (especially with young children) in a car-reduced neighborhood.

There is a car-free neighborhood on the edge of Freiburg, Germany, and when preschool lets out, the parents are lined up in front of the school, riding bicycles with trailers to take their children home.

Fewer people would be willing to do that in a car-reduced neighborhood. Because the the cars make it much less comfortable to bicycle, many people would feel compelled to drive. The pricing for externalities would not prevent them, since they live only a few blocks from preschool and driving there would create very little pollution.

Note that people who live in a car-free neighborhood can rent a car occasionally, eg, for vacations.

So, I agree with you that many people would prefer a car-reduced neighborhood with the use of cars for certain conveniences, but I also think many people would prefer a car-free neighborhood.

I think you preferred Mackinac car-free and would not have liked it as much if people could bring their cars over on the ferry. And car-free can also work in neighborhoods that are not on islands, as Freiburg has proven.

Charles Siegel

Access Versus Mobility

My apologies for misunderstanding how much you drive. But I do want to repeat my main point, which I don't think you have answered:

"Even if did become cheaper to drive, would that be a reason for "planning for more mobility"? We make people's lives more convenient by planning to give them access to nearby services, so what is the benefit of planning to make them spend more time on the freeway?"

We should plan for access by giving people convenient nearby services, and then they will have less need for mobility.

During the past 60 years, auto-oriented sprawl has reduced the availability of nearby services. This is what you miss when you say:

"...in the vast majority of cases, cars allow access to more places more quickly."

Not true. People used to be able to walk to Main Street in about the same time that it now takes for them to drive to the mall. The automobile plus automobile-oriented planning has not given them more convenient access to shopping.

Charles Siegel

Cars do not = mobility

Great, once we have cars that get 100mpg, we can build urban sprawl wherever we want. Cars do not equal mobility. When planners plan exclusively for cars they eliminate the possibility of walking, cycling, and effective mass transit. Thus there is a net reduction in overall mobility.

sustainablecity.blogspot.com

Cars do not ? mobility

Cars do not equal mobility.
Care to correlate? Got something less than 90%?

Which provides more mobility?

I don't see what's difficult to understand about the statement I made. When I am walking, cycling, or using mass transit I am mobile. These modes combined can move a far greater number of people than highways with single occupant vehicles. Therefore there is an overall reduction in mobility when planners design places exclusively for the car.

Highways with single occupant vehicles: 2,400 passengers per hour per lane

Light rail: 25,000 passengers per hour per track

sustainablecity.blogspot.com

Samuel Staley's picture
Blogger

which provides more mobility

Cars provide flexibility and allow travel to be customized to individual needs and preferences. So, from the view of the consumer, cars provides more mobility for most people, most of the time. Also, in the vast majority of cases, cars allow access to more places more quickly.

Light rail, in theory, can move 25,000 passengers per hour per track. But most light rail lines fall well under that theoretical capacity because the rail lines do not go where people want to go on the schedule they want. Fixed route transit provides more mobility (defined as moving people from pont A to point B most quickly and efficiently) for people that have a fairly limited set of travel objectives.

Flexiblity + adapatability + speed = car (at least for now)

"Light rail, in theory, can

"Light rail, in theory, can move 25,000 passengers per hour per track. But most light rail lines fall well under that theoretical capacity because the rail lines do not go where people want to go on the schedule they want."

Hence the need for transit oriented development which would also encourage walking and cycling.

"Also, in the vast majority of cases, cars allow access to more places more quickly."

With auto-oriented sprawl, the extra range provided by the car is offset by the increased distance between places. Therefore running an errand usually takes the same amount of time or more as running that same errand in a transit oriented development (when properly designed).

sustainablecity.blogspot.com

limited mobility

"Cars provide flexibility and allow travel to be customized to individual needs and preferences."

This is true for some parts of the population, but isn't true for everyone. There are lots of people (children, the disabled and the poor) for whom cars aren't available. Designing for multiple modes of travel means that there is more mobility for more people.

In my moderately dense mixed-use neighborhood with sidewalks, bike lanes and frequent transit service to key regional hubs, I am able to get most places without needing or wanting to get into a car. I have greater mobility, and will continue to have greater mobility even as I become less mobile, than in areas that have been designed only with auto mobility in mind.

And people are willing to pay more to live in a neighborhood like mine than one that is designed for cars first. My house is half a mile from a comparable neighborhood without sidewalks, and my house is worth at least $50,000 more because of the sidewalks.

Cars = Freedom

Where I live...cars equal freedom.

"Reduction in Net Mobility" is an interesting topic. Most people choose not to walk, ride bikes or use public transit. By not planning for these alternative modes, and considering most people don't use them anyway (at least currently), how is there a net reduction in overall mobility? That mobility would have had to exist in the first place, right?

Allowing only one choice as a choice isn't freedom.

By not planning for these alternative modes, and considering most people don't use them anyway (at least currently), how is there a net reduction in overall mobility? That mobility would have had to exist in the first place, right?

You noted, I'm sure, the stories of people taking the bus more often when gas prices shot up. Not allowing people to make this choice as crude prices continue their inexorable climb takes away their freedom.

Hope this helps.

Best,

D

But if it can't be a choice...

My comment was that where I live, cars equal freedom.

My point was that one cannot experience a net reduction in mobility if there is no existing positive value to make negative.

Think of a captive transit rider. Assuming his routes were on surface streets, would closing the interstate (in theory) reduce his net mobility? No. (Ignoring the added congestion on surface streets)

In terms of freedom, does not allowing a captive transit rider to make the choice to use the interstate take away any of his freedom? No.

Where's the loss in mobility? Freedom?

Cars = Necessity

Where you live (and where most Americans live) cars are a necessity.

To see that things could be different, imagine how Americans in streetcar suburbs lived one hundred years ago. They had shopping and transit within walking distance of their homes, and they got where they needed to go as quickly by walking and taking the trolley as Americans today get where they need to go by driving.

Weren't people effectively just as mobile then as they are today, even though they travelled much shorter distances and spent much less money on transportation?

So, it is an exaggeration to talk about a net reduction in mobility, but there has been no gain in effective mobility, even though there has been a huge increase in the distance we travel, in the amount of money we spend on transportation, and in the environmental damage that we do.

And most people have no choice but to travel those extra distances and pay that extra money, because most zoning laws do not allow developers to build walkable neighborhoods. Is this freedom???

(Note: I am talking here about transportation for everyday needs, such as commuting and shopping. There has been a real gain in mobility for recreational travel.)

Charles Siegel

Cars = Ammenity

I respectfully disagree...cars are not a necessity in any urban area (except Arlington). I get by just fine on the transit system in my midwestern oasis. Remember, I said where I live, cars equal freedom.

Most would agree that past performance is not always an indicator of future gains. That being said, just b/c the streetcar-shopping paradigm was functional 100 years ago does not mean that it would be effective in the modern economic climate. Especially since the "everyday" professional demands placed on our workforce were not present 100 years ago (ie commuting, outside sales calls, Just In Time Deliveries, multiple job sites, etc).

For these reasons, I'm hesitant to say there has been no gain in effective mobility (for everyday needs) during the last 100 years. It's an entirely different economic scale and, in my opinion, the streetcar-shopping paradigm was not up to the task.

Bicycles = Freedom

Most Americans do not live within walking distance of services or of a transit stop, so cars are a necessity for them.

You miss the main point that both Dano and I are making: when we centered our transportation system on freeways and cars, we also rebuilt our cities around the freeway, so people had to travel further to their everyday destinations.

Eg, living in a streetcar suburb 100 years ago, you walked 10 or 15 minutes to get to the local coffeeshop to buy a hamburger. Now, you drive 10 or 15 minutes to get to McDonalds to buy a hamburger.

Where is the gain in freedom here? The only differences I see are 1)you drive through a much uglier landscape than you used to walk through, 2)you spend much more on transportation than you used to, forcing you to work longer hours and reducing your freedom 3)you support ExxonMobile, General Motors, and other big corporations whose power makes our country less democratic, also reducing our freedom.

"Cars = Freedom" is a very short-sighted slogan. You mean that it is easier to get around by car than by transit where you (and most Americans) now live, but you haven't considered that it could be just as easy to get around by walking, transit, and bicycling if we built our cities differently.

This is a matter of convenience, not of freedom. If you used the term "freedom" more precisely, you would see that the automobile causes economic burdens on the average person and economic dominance of large corporations, both of which reduce our freedom.

If Americans lived in cities where they could get around easily by bicycle, they would have much more freedom.

Charles Siegel

I haven't missed your point,

I haven't missed your point, I just do not agree with your perspective.

I disagree that the automobile results in a net loss of personal freedom. First and foremost, I'm not sure the built environment in a freeway-centric society can be deemed "uglier" than the built environment in a streetcar suburb since many suburban communities have strict design codes and suburban corridors often weave through natural areas. Also, the expense associated with automobiles (gas, maintenance, insurance, etc) are nothing more than the price of admission for what you termed to be a "necessity" for most Americans. As far as "Big Business" is concerned, freeway-centric means we have to put up with GM and Exxon taking away our freedom and streetcar-centric means we'd be giving Cannondale all the power. At the end of the day, it's a wash.

"You mean that it is easier to get around by car than by transit where you (and most Americans) now live, but you haven't considered that it could be just as easy to get around by walking, transit, and bicycling if we built our cities differently."

So, if it is just as easy for me to get around by transit, walking or bicycling as it is for me to get around by automobile...where is my incentive to change modes and how do you justify the soaring expense to "rebuild" our cities?

Just As Easy

So, if it is just as easy for me to get around by transit, walking or bicycling as it is for me to get around by automobile...where is my incentive to change modes and how do you justify the soaring expense to "rebuild" our cities?

If you agree that it is just as easy to get around by transit, walking, or bicycling, the incentives to change should be obvious. 1)Changing would save the average American a huge amount of money, maybe 20% of total yearly expenditures. 2)Changing would dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since automobiles are the number two source of CO2 emissions in the US even if you just count tailpipe emissions and if probably the number one source if you also count emissions caused by manufacturing and disposal of the cars.

(Of course, there are also other incentives. For example, changing would reduce obesity and improve our health, and changing would improve our geopolitical position by making us less dependent on imported oil. Those are just the two most important. If you haven't heard about all these things, I don't know where you have been hiding.)

Note that the "soaring" cost of gradually rebuilding our cities is no greater than the cost of maintaining the status quo. Continuing to build more freeways and more sprawl development is at least as expensive as building transit and transit oriented development. I don't know of anyone who says we should or can rebuild our cities quickly; environmentalists generally say that new transportation capacity should be public transit instead of freeways, and new development should be transit-oriented instead of sprawls, gradually make our cities more transit oriented.

Note also that I am not talking about "personal freedom," as you say. I am talking about political freedom. Cannondale and the other bicycle and transit manufacturers obviously would not be nearly as powerful as the auto and oil manufacturers, since we would spend much, much less on transportation overall.

Have you heard that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, representing a consensus of world scientists, has said that, unless we act dramatically to reduce global warming, hundreds of millions of people will die and billions of people will be displaced by climate change?

What is your incentive to keep building more auto-oriented neighborhoods, when 1) they do this sort of damage and 2) they are no more convenient and no more livable than streetcar suburbs?

Charles Siegel

Counter-productive

While anything that uses less fuel is generally a good thing, more vehicles on the road, hybrid or not, will exacerbate auto-oriented planning, or sprawl. People will choose transit, walking, or cycling less because they have "an excuse" to drive: they're getting such fantastic mileage. Besides, it won't matter how many miles per gallon cars can achieve when the oil's run out. America's obsession with keeping cars and car culture running is a waste of time.

better autos -> more autosprawl

http://www.freepublictransit.org

the beginning of the end of autosprawl

The real beauty of the nex-gen plug-in hybrid...

The beauty of the 'next generation' of Pruis-type hybrids, the "plug-in hybrid" or 'PHEV', (Ford Escape qualifies, GM/Saturn psuedo-hybrids do not), is how their slightly larger battery pack allows only 10-20 miles of zero-emission driving. Huh? Whaaa?

This zero-emission, low-speed, 'limited' driving range encourages patronage of local economies, their growth and development. Keeping daily driving range low is how the vaunted higher mileage is achieved. The LA Times titles PHEVs, the "500mpg solution"

In time, more destinations become accessable without having to drive. Walking and bicycling become more viable and even safer - figuring how a low-speed electric motor drivetrain tempts much less lead-footed accelleration. In such development patterns, mass transit is more practical to arrange. The Plug-in hybrid becomes the car that need not be driven.

Did I mention how the PHEV's larger battery pack is a perfect technological match with rooftop photovoltiac solar panels and a lifesaver in an emergency or grid failure? A small step to Public Power, Enron's nightmare? A means to measure and affect household energy consumption and conservation?

Apples and oranges

This has been an interesting thread, with lots of people shouting past each other. However, I would like to respectfully point out the following:

1. People have different home/family situations. A single professional has a much different trip generation profile than a family consisting of two working parents and children. Trying to find a happy compromise gets more difficult when additional factors other than work commutes are thrown into the mix (school, church, extra-curricular activities, health club, location of friends or family, etc.)

2. Much of the "walkable" argument doesn't take into account human desires for the "best". If I'm convinced that the preschool across town is the best in the city, I will take my child there, not to the preschool closest to my home. If my child has a chronic medical condition, I will find the best specialist for my child, not the one closest to my home. If I'm convinced that the therapist across town is the best one available, I will go to that therapist, not the one closest to my home.

3. Higher mileage is a good thing. The CAFE standards need to be adjusted upward NOW. We also need to bite the bullet and increase taxes on fuel.

4. People value their time. If the private automobile is the quickest way for door-to-door travel, many people will continue to use it, even if the cost is higher.

5. Given that this is a planning forum, I think that we should all be doing what we can as planning professionals to encourage and approve mixed-use development and other projects at densities and locations which are feasible for transit service. As long as people have a choice to drive, some will always do so; but we can at least make other modes a viable option, and make not owning a second or third car more attractive.

Greg Redeker

Closing thoughts...I'm not smart enough to carry on

Maybe I should not have left off with Cannondale...I'm sure the electric company would love to power the streetcars in a streetcar suburb. Most likely, this would be done with the American standard coal power plant. Coal generates over half our energy and pollution. Coal pollutes when it is mined, stored, transported and burned. Yes, let's get some more of that burning. I'm not sure this situation would be any better than the eventual shift in the composition of the American vehicle fleet towards light SUVs and hybrids, which would have quite an impact on tailpipe emmissions. Hopefully, steps like these will help save millions of lives and prevent the displacement of billions more.

I think TOD is a nice thought but find it interesting that studies indicate these developments will only be successful if they have plenty of parking. Nice. Not to mention, we function in a market econonmy and these developments will ultimately compete with one another. They will lose their mix of land-uses in favor of increased commercial and high-end residential (highest and "best" uses), thus catering to markets that are traditionally not transit users. Let's also not forget most American cities lack the density necessary for widespread transit use.

I will put my faith in technology, realistic alternatives, and the evolution of the workplace to help address our growing concerns. A combination of capacity improvements on freeways/arterials, deployment of ITS technologies, and changes in the corporate climate (flextime, telecommuting, video conferencing, networked pcs, carpooling, etc) will be the solutions to our demise; the market will invariably choose simpler, integrated solutions such as the aforementioned, along with park and ride facilities at bus/train terminals, tax incentives for hybrids, etc.

Prescriptive solutions that are centered on antiquated urban forms will be what they are...a thing of the past.

The automobile has a large seat at the American table; our solutions must be larger in scale and fit the modern world.

The First Step

Maybe we can agree that the first step is a carbon tax, which would increase gradually until we have reduced emissions enough to control global warming (maybe 80% by 2050). A cap-and-trade system could also work, though I don't think it is as good as a carbon tax.

Putting a price on CO2 emissions will let the market come up with economically realistic solutions that take into account the problems caused by global warming.

We can imagine what some of these solutions would be.

Utilities would gradually stop burning coal and other fossil fuels and would shift to renewable resources, so the streetcar lines would be powered by clean electricity.

It is harder to come up with clean substitutes for liquid fuels, so people would drive less. The higher cost of transportation generally would make people travel less - so people would be more likely to move to walkable neighborhoods with less parking, even if they are not identical to the streetcar suburbs of a century ago (though I myself live in a century-old streetcar suburb, and it still works quite well in today's world).

We would not need capacity improvements on freeways as the price of gas went way up.

I agree with you that it is often better to rely on the market than on prescriptive solutions - if you tax externalities. If we harness the market in this way, we will get the new technologies and realistic solutions that you want.

But I also think we can learn some things from the past. We should not automatically condemn the "antiquated urban forms" of a century ago, which are better in many ways that the freeway-oriented sprawl of fifty years ago, which now is also antiquated.

At any rate, I enjoy discussing this with you, and I appreciate your ideas. I should avoid giving the impression that I favor prescriptive solutions or that I oppose technological innovation.

Charles Siegel

Agreement

I pretty much agree with the previous 2 comments. Taxing externalities will spur the market to act in ways we don't fully understand yet. Whether its technological innovation, changes in personal choice and corporate behavior, or a combination -few things drive people to act quite like tax avoidance.

On urban form (the only apparent area of disagreement), here is my take. I don't forsee a trend toward the old urban forms so much, but likely more of a suburban, polynucleated form. The car will likely still be a staple of American life, but its use can be tempered and its negative effects mitigated to some degree. But, I could be wrong. It's anyone's guess which is why I tend to oppose prescriptive solutons as well. Punish the true negatives and reward the positives and consumers and producers will react accordingly.

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