Monday, August 17, 2009

"The Prius Effect": Light Rail is Becoming Obsolete, And Falling Gas Tax Revenue Threatens Road Repair

1. DENVER POST EDITORIAL -- Light rail — useful from the gritty-aired 1970s to not so long ago, when cars drank gasoline like frat boys drink beer — is now obsolete, and a transportation option that our environment can no longer afford. That's right. Unless we change energy sources or greatly increase light-rail ridership, we should just drive our cars to work instead.

Automobiles are becoming more fuel efficient at a much faster rate than light rail, which gets its power largely from carbon-spewing power plants. That regrettable, counter-intuitive fact is an unintended consequence of "the Prius Effect," as the rise of hybrids and increasingly fuel-efficient cars outstrips the environmental benefits of light rail.


2.
MARKETPLACE -- Road repairs are funded though taxes on gas, but as more people buy hybrids and plug-in cars, some are worried about what's going to happen to that revenue.

Originally posted at Carpe Diem.

17 Comments:

At 8/17/2009 9:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nonsense. Have you been to large cities with no signifcant mass transit? Try Cincinatti. Traffic is a mess. And they keep expandning freeways for more cars. They will just increase the gas tax if reveues fall..

 
At 8/17/2009 10:51 AM, Blogger Ironman said...

Speaking of the "Prius" effect, what if we bought cars for the poor, instead of light rail systems?

 
At 8/17/2009 11:31 AM, Blogger Colin said...

I don't know if light rail or Priuses make more sense and I suspect the Denver Post doesn't either. After all, doesn't the Prius get tax benefits -- a de facto subsidy from the government?

In order to gauge which one makes more sense we should privatize light rail, tax cars based on the pollution they emit and set the gas tax at a point where it covers the road of road construction and maintenance.

 
At 8/17/2009 12:14 PM, Blogger Bill said...

The trouble with comparing rail transit to air transit and car transit is that the car advocates never take into account the large subsidies government gives to the airlines and car drivers. I would be interested to see a study which compares apples to apples in that it studies the actual costs at all levels of all methods of travel. I suspect private car transit would still win out but who knows. Personally, I drive an SUV and never use mass transit but I think different modes of transportation should be available where feasible.

 
At 8/17/2009 12:55 PM, Blogger 1 said...

"Nonsense. Have you been to large cities with no signifcant mass transit? Try Cincinatti. Traffic is a mess."...

Hmmm, have you been to the city of Chicago with their much heralded CTA (Chicago Transit Authority)?

Auto traffic is a mess even though the CTA has been around for decades...

"The trouble with comparing rail transit to air transit and car transit is that the car advocates never take into account the large subsidies government gives to the airlines and car drivers"...

Hmmm, I understand what you are talking about regarding the so called 'car subsidy' for the supposedly 'greener car'...

I am a 33+ year airline employee and when airline deregulation kicked in during the Carter administration whatever subsidy program (usually via what mail was hauled by the air carriers) was in effect for airlines is no longer there that I know of...

Could you please explain what you mean by 'airline subsidy'?

Govt Picks a Winner: Tesla Gets $465 Million

 
At 8/17/2009 2:45 PM, Blogger Bill said...

1: I am admittedly no expert on air travel but doesnt the government pick up at least some of the tab for air traffic controllers and for the airports and associated air travel infrastructure in much the same way that government subsidizes auto travel by building roads? Again, I have no idea as to the exact dollar amount or which mode of travel is most heavily subsidized. I am just wondering if there exists a study which honestly looks at the true costs of all methods of travel including government subsidies. If this were conducted honestly by someone without an axe to grind, it would shed significant light on the subject.

 
At 8/17/2009 3:13 PM, Blogger OA said...

They're also excluding the fact that many light rail riders transfer to buses on the tail ends to make it to their final destinations.

Also it seems mainly to judge based on CO2, which is hardly the only measure of effectivenes.

I would like to see someone do a study of the total CO2 footprint of buying a brand new Prius versus just keeping an old car a few years longer. Do people not realize the gobs of CO2 produced by the manufacturing process that brings parts from all over the world to an assembly plant? I'd be interested to know how many years it takes the Prius to dig out of the manufacturing CO2 hole.

 
At 8/17/2009 3:22 PM, Blogger 1 said...

Hello Bill:

Your question: "I am admittedly no expert on air travel but doesnt the government pick up at least some of the tab for air traffic controllers and for the airports and associated air travel infrastructure in much the same way that government subsidizes auto travel by building roads?"...

Well Bill consider the Airport and Airway Trust Fund as described by the FAA: 'The Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF), created by the Airport and Airway Revenue Act of 1970, provides funding for the federal commitment to the nation’s aviation system through several aviation-related excise taxes (MS Excel). Funding currently comes from collections related to passenger tickets, passenger flight segments, international arrivals/departures, cargo waybills, aviation fuels, and frequent flyer mile awards from non-airline sources like credit cards'...

The same can be said of roads and highways via the Highway Trust Fund as described by the Federal Highway Administration...

In both cases its supposedly 'user fees' that finance the systems...

 
At 8/17/2009 3:47 PM, Blogger 1 said...

Mr. Chuck Plunkett said in his opinion piece: "Automobiles are becoming more fuel efficient at a much faster rate than light rail, which gets its power largely from carbon-spewing power plants. That regrettable, counter-intuitive fact is an unintended consequence of "the Prius Effect," as the rise of hybrids and increasingly fuel-efficient cars outstrips the environmental benefits of light rail"...

Hmmm, where did Plunkett think that refineries got their power from?

Where did Plunkett think the power for his computer and for the Denver Post in general comes from?

As long as the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 keeps getting money from the Highway Trust Fund light rail will be around whether its needed or not...

Five Reasons Why Hybrids Suck

 
At 8/17/2009 5:45 PM, Anonymous Dr. T said...

"Light rail — useful from the gritty-aired 1970s to not so long ago, when cars drank gasoline like frat boys drink beer — is now obsolete..."

Light rail was never "useful" except to the builders and the politicians who received favors for supporting these costly toys. Improved gas mileage is just the Denver Post editor's justification for reversing its support for the boondoggle. But, if cars got only 10 mpg, light rail would not be cost effective. Light rail might become cost effective if car mileage falls to 1 mpg.

Bill: Plenty of studies have factored in the costs of government-funded roads when comparing light rail to car. Unless you pave the roads in gold, light rail always is far more expensive than car travel, usually by a factor of 10 or more. City roads are costly, but when you divide the costs by the numbers of vehicle-miles, the road cost-per-commute is just pennies. Light rail costs billions to build and has few users. The light rail cost-per-commute is huge. Then you have to add the cost for the commuter to reach the final destination (walk, bus, cab).

 
At 8/17/2009 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the Prius itself gets undeserved tax subsidies, the auto in general doesn't. Where do you think the massive subsidies for light rail (and public transit in general) come from, anyway? The gas-tax fund, that's where. Huge sums are diverted away from gas-tax revenues into light-rail and bus systems. Don't forget (and those saying cars don't pay for themselves always forget) income, sales, and excise taxes on sales of auto-related lubricants, parts, and repair services.

Don't forget that the 2009 auto emits essentially zero emissions of real pollutants (NOx, hydrocarbons, CO) when warm. Whoever is telling you that cars are still a pollution problem is either ignorant or lying. Further scheduled improvements in auto emissions regulations serve only to provide regulators with jobs and further screw cars to the delight of the anti-car zealot, they are totally meaningless in terms of environmental impact.

In any event, even if autos were more expensive than light rail, which they aren't, I'd still want them. Auto mobility and the freedom it brings is priceless. Those pushing rail and bus transit are control freaks who wish to control where you go and when.

 
At 8/18/2009 6:48 AM, Anonymous Ἐγκώμιον Shill said...

"
more people buy hybrids and plug-in cars, some are worried about what's going to happen to that revenue.Originally posted at Carpe Diem.
"

Remove fuel tax but levy leviathan tax on larger tires. 18 wheelers make the pot-hole, not tiny Prius.

 
At 8/18/2009 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gas tax is a thorny issue. I can't think of any solution other than the so-called "Smart Grid". (where somehow the car would "report" its consumption..)

But to the topic-- it seems a bit single-minded, and myopic, to reduce the argument to one of fuel efficiency.

There will always be a place for rail - of any kind - because of the productivity gain afforded. Try working on a site or spreadsheet, or having a serious teleconference from a Prius (without endangering the lives of thousands..)

Construction delays are also orders-of-magnitude different, cars to trains. Rail work might cause a 10 or 15 minute delay, but ONE lane closure always seems to be 45 minutes. (multiply that by number of lane closures..)

 
At 8/18/2009 12:03 PM, Blogger 1 said...

radian rightly notes: "Don't forget that the 2009 auto emits essentially zero emissions of real pollutants (NOx, hydrocarbons, CO) when warm. Whoever is telling you that cars are still a pollution problem is either ignorant or lying"...

Well it seems that since there isn't any real pollutants emanating from the most modern cars this present administration seems bent on dreaming some up...

From Green Hell blog: Obama EPA makes first threat on CO2 limits

Its all about the continued extortion of the productive American citizen by the bloated crapocracy that is our federal government...

 
At 8/18/2009 1:39 PM, Anonymous Ἐγκώμιον Shill said...

"
effect, what if we bought cars for the poor, instead of light rail systems?

8/17/2009 10:51 AM
"

Be happy.
don't worry.
Be happy.
Democrats will exchange all poor people's clunkers for one expensive hearse.

@_° | °_@

 
At 8/18/2009 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Approximately two thirds of the cost of operations for the light rail line in Minneapolis comes from taxes. Fares only pay a third. Note that this doesn't include debt service for the financing of the line.

The bus fares in Minneapolis cover two thirds of the operating costs. So why did the morons up there replace buses with light rail?

As Dr. T said - "Light rail was never "useful" except to the builders and the politicians who received favors for supporting these costly toys" - he's exactly right. Every large has to have light rail because every other progressive city has it. Call it prestige.

In the 5 years of operations, the trains have killed 7 people at grade crossings.

And now that Minneapolis has a light rail line, now they're working on a second line - this one goes between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In my opinion light rail should be placed only in metro areas which are dense enough to have enough ridership so the fares can cover the operating costs.

 
At 8/18/2009 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Green Hell blog: Obama EPA makes first threat on CO2 limits

Remember what a CO2 limit is: a fuel economy standard. It's a way of eliminating cars the PC crowd doesn't like, namely SUVs and sports cars, without the pushback they'd get for big raises in CAFE. It also effectively moves fuel economy regulation away from DOT and into EPA.

 

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