Wednesday, May 29, 2013

City Transport 2020: The Future Can't Come Soon Enough

Here is a sample compilation of technological breakthroughs reported in the second half of May 2013:

CNN: The future of travel: How driverless cars could change everything

The Economist: The future of the car -- Clean, safe and it drives itself

The Economist: How does a self-driving car work?

The Economist: Tesla "General Electric Motors" has high hopes for its high-spec electric cars

Daily Caller: Tesla electrifies the auto market (This week American electric auto manufacturer Tesla Motors (TSLA) broke $100 per share.)

INRIX Expands Real-time Traffic Coverage: US, EU. Traffic conditions in Honolulu at noon on May 29, 2013 compiled as a digital layer that can be used by in-vehicle, broadcasting and other means are shown at the end of this article.

New Geography: Driving Trends in Context
Figure 4: Drive alone, carpool, motorcycle and telecommuting are over 90%.

I foresee an epic battle: Google and the Technologists vs. Sierra Club and the Greenies.

Where are the Planners and Transit in this bright future? They are largely Irrelevant!

Back to now: Sadly greenies, liberal politicians and urban (transit) planners continue to waste a huge portion of public and transportation funds on Smart Growth, Rail Starts and Complete Streets. Like the current Plan Bay Area 2040 plan that allocates 62% of the transportation funding to the 10% mode of transportation.(1)

The new wave of automated urban transportation cannot come soon enough!

Note (1) Plan Bay Area Report: “The analysis for the most recent regional transportation plan, Transportation 2035, suggested that the region’s transit system is not sustainable based on current projections of transit costs and reasonably anticipated revenues. Transportation 2035 identified a region-wide transit capital deficit of $17 billion and operating budget deficits of $8 billion over the next 25 years.” These are staggering deficits for a transportation mode used by 10% of commuters and less than that by non-commuters.  Planners acknowledge that these deficits are not sustainable for the community. Yet Plan Bay Area calls for more deficit-making transit.

Honolulu Recycling Guide

The proper way to recycle household solid wastes in Honolulu is explained in this installment of my O'lelo show PANOS 2050: Solutions for a Sustainable Hawaii.

This subject was also covered in a pictorial guide a few months ago in this blog.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Handicapped Stalls for a StairMaster Trail!

I am sure you've heard the ironic saying "I am from the Government and I am here to help."

Here is proof of "I am from the Government and I am here to waste your tax money."

Koko Head trail is very demanding. "I'm 25 and in decent shape but this hike nearly killed me. It's short but super intense," said Heatherab87 on May 9, 2013.

I hiked it on May 21 and counted 1,115 tall steps. Hardly any hikers on this trail are overweight or over 50, or both (like me.) Many are fitness nuts.

In this case a couple handicapped stalls would be two too many, but ADA code requires six. So six of them with wide access isles were built. For over $100,000 expenditure these stalls are unlikely to see an annual occupancy of 1%.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chinese Straddle Bus -- Take 2

It appears that the developers of the Air Bus or Chinese Straddle Bus have read some of my concerns with their concept.

The new animation of China TBS Ltd attempts to take care of several of them such as accidents on the road and overhead obstructions that are difficult to remove.

This urban transit options is likely better than light rail and BRT, particularly for large cities with long, straight and wide arterial streets. Developing Asian cities should be a prime market for this concept.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Have We "Solved" the US Energy Crisis? Update: No!

In the last couple of weeks I stumbled through some blog articles (e.g., These Charts Better Not Reflect The True State Of The US Economy) that describe an astonishing development: Gasoline consumption has collapsed! (... Not really: See update at the bottom.)
  • Feb. 1993: 57 million gallons per day
  • Feb. 2003: 61 million gallons per day (+7%)
  • Feb. 2013: 28 million gallons per day (-54%)
See the data for yourself at the U.S. Energy Information Administration. I captured the graph below.

If this is not a hacker's job, we are witnessing momentous changes in the energy field. No wonder that Tesoro-Hawaii cannot find a buyer for its refinery at Campbell Industrial Park for over a year.

Also, the implications for the Highway Trust Fund and State DOTs are enormous. Their funding has been cut in half.

If this pattern is sustained, then all climate initiatives need to be shelved... "2040 targets" are already met!

The following reasons may explain this trend in part. I guestimate that the factors I list below can cause an one third reduction but I am not convinced that they can cause a staggering 54% reduction:
  • Gas price: A 10% increase in fuel price may cause a 2% to 5% reduction in trips and/or trip length. High gas prices reduce discretionary trips but do not reduce trips with an important purpose such as work, school, trips to doctor and grocery store, etc.
  • Persistently high gas price may lead people to change location; they move closer to work or school and they may replace a low efficiency car with a high efficiency car.
  • Unemployment in the US is much higher than officially reported since people who have given up looking for work are no longer counted as unemployed.
  • There is some evidence that ties with unemployment that younger Americans drive less.
  • Hybrid cars, electric cars and cash-for-clankers cars replaced thousands of low MPG cars so roughly speaking the same thousands of vehicles now consume less than half that their predecessors did.
  • HOT lanes (that promote carpooling and provide uncongested travel) and transit may have caused a marginal reduction. 

UPDATE: Colleagues on the mainland and I are still investigating this because the data shown above are suspect. This EIA dataset of gas consumption is much flatter. Using these data, the annual consumption differences are as follows:
  • 2002 to 2012 = -1.6%
  • 2005 to 2012 = -8.2%
2005 was the year with the highest consumption, according to this set.

Better MPG across most light duty vehicles classes, Hybrids, EVs, Cash-for-clankers and a little less driving did cause a drop. An 8% drop is much more believable than a 54% drop. We still do not know if these are "data we can believe in."