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Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

So, you've got Plan A. And in case something goes awry with Plan A, you've got your fallback plan, Plan B.

But what if the fit really hits the shan? What if all the assumptions that lie behind your planning turn out to be false. Things are far worse than ever contemplated in Plan A and Plan B? That's when you turn to your Plan C, your Plan in case of Complete Catastrophe. In the event of a complete catastrophe, all of the polite fictions of the normal planning process go out the window. Which also means that Plan C is quite often the answer to, "Oh, now what do we do?, and the answer is, "Come up with something that will work "

So, we have a crisis. A serious crisis, affecting our current transport system, which means a crisis that at the very least interferes with our supply of gasoline. But we have the Petroleum Reserve, so ... assume its not a temporary emergency, but a crisis that threatens to last for years. Whether the Crisis hits next year or next decade, well, I don't know that, do I? But suppose that its coming sometime in the next decade.

What would we face in coming up with something that will work?

The Rail Elements of Plan C

Last time the United States faced something like a national Transport Plan C was World War II. And in World War II, for Plan C, we had a pronounced tilt to our Plan C toward rail:

Railroad traffic increased as the armed forces rebuilt. A freight car shortage occurred in late 1939 for the first time since 1921, and the railroads worked steadily to put long-dormant cars and locomotives back in service. Determined to avoid the chaos that resulted from government seizure during World War I, an Office of Defense Transportation was created to exercise general control over the railroads and ensure that national transportation priorities were met.

World War II would prove to be the zenith of public rail transportation. More people and materials than ever before had to travel, and nearly everything moved by rail. Demand increased spectacularly. In 1940, steam railroads handled 378,343 million ton-miles: about 62 percent of all freight. This nearly doubled by 1944 to 745,829 ton-miles, representing 70 percent of all freight transported in the United States. Passenger miles increased at an even greater rate during the same period, from 23,816 million passenger miles to 95,663 million passenger miles. In 1944, the peak war year, more than 75 percent of all commercial passengers traveled by rail, as did an astonishing 97 percent of military passengers.

The reason, of course, was material efficiency. Moving passengers and freight long distances by rail rather than car, bus and truck saved petroleum and rubber for the war effort. Similar material efficiencies are likely to apply to the use of any available rail transport capacity in any future "Plan C" scenario.

If we have little advance warning or, more likely, ample advance warning which is ignored in service of some alliance of vested interests, that would point to first allocating diesel fuel that we have to making most effective use of our rail network, and then applying the balance to competing truck, bus and automobile users by priority. If we have ample advance warning, and if vested interested do not succeed in blinding the nation to the warning, we would immediately begin the process of electrifying the mainline rail corridors to gain the even greater material efficiencies of electric rail transport.

In a Plan C scenario, we will have whatever Express HSR corridors we have got around to building, and they will see a dramatic increase in use. We might, indeed, run them under an energy efficient speed profile rather than a speed profile competing for patronage against car and air travel competition, since in a serious Crisis scenario, there will be limits on ability to travel by car and air.

The timelines of planning and building new Express HSR corridors would seem to make it unlikely that we will be launching a major new Express HSR building program in the middle of a major Crisis. So we will be regretting whatever Express HSR corridor that we planned to build but where derailed by the vested interests of Big Oil and the politically engaged road-building industry, but by the time the Crisis hits, it will be too late to do more about it than shake our heads and wonder, "just what were they thinking?"

On the other hand, in a Crisis situation we could do quite a lot to expand the capacity of the existing rail system. After all, the addition of a few miles long passing track section to each fifty miles of single-track is a substantial increase in capacity. You can go incrementally from 2:50 to 10:50 to 25:50 to double track, gaining substantial capacity increases at each stage along the way. So a coordinated effort of a few years could provide substantially expanded freight and passenger capacity in our conventional rail network, if required.

So, the rail elements of Plan C is a nationally coordinated plan to shift passengers and freight from air, cars buses and trucks to rail, to identify capacity bottlenecks that can be eliminated in a couple of years work, and to make full use of whatever Express HSR infrastructure we've been lucky enough to get completed by that point in time.

Obviously, if the crisis lasts long enough, people will start to look to the expansive and materially-inefficient expressway system and consider whether there is a more efficiency use that can be made of all of those overpasses and underpasses.


The Bus Elements of Plan C

If we are free to waste as much gasoline as we presently do by relying on gasoline powered automobiles for local, regional and intercity passenger transport, then with respect to transport, its not really a Crisis, is it? The question that will dominate planning on coping with the crisis will be how to maintain transport when over half of the current annual automobile vehicle miles are no longer permitted to be driven.

There will be some element of ride sharing, of course. With an average occupancy of under 1.6 passengers per vehicle, and average available seats over 4 (a load factor below 40%), heavy reliance on ride sharing will allow us to make maximum use of the automobile trips that are allowed.

There will also be some share of electric automobile use. A wholesale replacement of gasoline for electric automobiles is, however, a gross material waste during crisis conditions, since automobiles spend so much of their day idle. Far better to devote those resources to the construction of electric buses, which can be kept in use for a much longer service day.

Given the range of transport tasks to be undertaken, there will be a range of buses to meet the need. Under Crisis Conditions, trolleybuses are an existing mature technology that will be a compelling. For school bus routes, and for more flexible shuttle buses to provide book-a-ride services, pluggable hybrid electric vehicles would attempt to run as much of their route as possible on electric power and as little as possible on liquid fuel, and would be competing for selection against battery trolleybuses relying on no-contact power sources or intermittent trolleywire power sources.


Local Individual Transport in Plan C

Bicycles will be the backbone of individual transport in the early stages of a Crisis Scenario that upsets all of our thinking in transport. Indeed, in taking a large share of the automobiles off the road, a serious Crisis scenario almost instantly removes the single largest real and imagined impediment to heavy transport cycling use, which is the dangers actually posed by the vary large numbers of motorists who are grossly unskilled, negligent, and totally ignorant of their responsibility to share the public right of way with road users other than cars, and then the threat that is imagined to be coming from all motorists, since once cannot, after all, tell whether or not that car approaching your from ahead or behind contains one of the tens of millions of Americans who have no credible claim to a right to carry a driver's license.

Indeed, even in our outer suburban areas, where there may be nothing within convenient access by bike, the newly established bus routes are likely to be fairly widely separated, and for many people in outer suburban areas, the start of their trip to anywhere could well be a bike ride to the closest bus route.  As the crisis wears on, there will be households along the bus route who organize some form of goods and package delivery and convert their garage into a corner store ... and when that happens, there will be somewhere to cycle that is within convenient access by bike.

The range and convenience of bikes can be extended by adding supplementary electric motors. This is particularly useful in hillier terrain, and for destinations that are in easy reach of a sports cyclist on a training ride but beyond the range of an everyday transport cyclist.

However, there are a range of other individual transport options that are viable to rely upon in a Crisis Scenario. There are neighborhood electric vehicles, which are far less cheaper to build than freeway-capable electric cars, and so offer an option for those who are not physically capable of cycling. There are a range of 100mpg+ two seater vehicles under development, many of them freeway capable. Indeed, the same characteristics that make them very fuel efficient would also give electric versions substantially greater all-electric ranges than a conventional American sedan.

Neighborhood electric vehicles are presently limited to streets with a speed limit of 35mph or less. It would be possible to identify a road network that gives access to local destinations, and to bus and rail connections further afield. With fewer cars in the road in the crisis, there would be less opposition and more support for converting the roads in that network to 35mph.


Plan C Regrets

Having Express HSR corridors will be a substantial benefit during the Crisis Scenario, with their all-electric trains and very energy efficient routes that are the side-effect of engineering to support high speed rail. However, as I've already mentioned, their long planning and construction horizon implies that we are unlikely to respond to the Crisis Scenario by setting out to build new Express HSR corridors. At best we would be able to accelerate the completion of projects that are already underway.

This is far from the only, let alone the most important, of these "Plan C Regrets", things that we ought to have built, and in Plan C conditions wished that we had built, but are unlikely to be able to build under Plan C conditions.

Regulatory barriers to providing effective passenger rail transport on freight rail corridors might fall away under Plan C conditions. And some upgrades to capacity will be possible. But the big ticket local passenger rail investments seem likely to be a "Plan C Regret". So, for example, we are likely to have to accept most of the big passenger rail access bottlenecks into our big cities that we presently have ... unless we end up fixing them between now and when the Crisis Hits.

All of the downtowns that fell into the "streetcar fad" will, of course, be very happy that they did, but in Crisis Conditions, it does not seem likely that we will be building many more. Under Crisis Conditions, we will be more likely to be busing people to the infrastructure that we were lucky enough to have got completed before the Crisis hit.

The Steel Interstate is a sufficiently big payoff, and paying off in increments as it is built under Crisis conditions, so it is plausible that it would go ahead under Crisis Conditions. However, those who ride in the Crisis-era long distance passenger train capacity, built in a standard container profile to be carried on equipment designed to carry freight containers, will regret that they didn't get to ride in the pre-Crisis era long distance passenger rail equipment.


Conclusions

So, how will you be getting around if the fit hits the shan? And if the "Transport Crisis Scenario" does hit, what will be your "Plan C Regrets"?


Midnight Oil ~ The Dead Heart

Originally posted to Sunday Train on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 05:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Hawks, DK GreenRoots, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  your conclusion... (16+ / 0-)

    a few decades ago, as did many cities, portland had two newspaper- a morning and an afternoon. many people subscribed to both, but the afternoon journal was always the smaller sibling, always trying harder. one day, a large ship ran into one of the many bridges over the willamette river. the headline on the journal: ship hits span...

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 05:21:34 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for remembering those who (15+ / 0-)

    cannot bicycle in your scenario -- which, of course, includes large numbers of Americans, including a subset of each of the elderly, the injured, the ill, and people with disabilities.

    The new-to-me idea I came across recently was dedicated lanes and preferential lights for bus traffic.  It was instituted in a (not terribly wealthy) city in South America, and bus ridership shot up.

    © cai Visit 350.org to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 06:47:55 PM PDT

    •  Yes, Chicago is pursuing a genuine ... (10+ / 0-)

      ... Bus Rapid Transit system. Dedicated bus lanes and "BRT stations" along the middle of streets and all.

      That system from Curitiba made waves in US transit circle, but in application its often watered down tremendously to little more than upgrade bus shelters and some bus priority at stoplights. The thing was, in Curitiba they gained the space for the bus lanes by taking whole streets away from cars ~ none of the cities that propose something along those lines in the US ever seems to propose taking entire streets from cars as part of the process.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 07:53:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  amen to that; and: bikes, NEVs, and shuttles. (11+ / 0-)

      Urban police departments need to start taking bike theft & vandalism more seriously.

      Bicycles will not be viable for general transportation until there are measures in place to protect against bike theft and vandalism.    

      Some years ago I did the bike-to-BART (SF Bay Area urban rail) thing and one day came back to find that some cretin had attempted to steal my bike by cutting the (motorcycle-grade) lock cable.  Fortunately there was no other damage: but it certainly put me off on leaving my bike locked up while away for the day.

      After we legalize & regulate marijuana, we can fill up those prison vacancies with bike thieves and other quality-of-life criminals.  I have a couple of ideas about how to go about incarcerating them that will be a) humane, but b) punitive none the less, and c) cost-effective.  

      NEVs need to be redesigned to deal with urban reality.

      "Soft" passenger compartments made of light plastics without locking doors, or with pathetic EZ-pick locks, and NEVs with effectively no cargo space, are all total fail from the get-go.

      At very least, vehicle bodies need to be made of tough plastic panels or metal panels, with automobile-grade locks on the doors, with windows that can be opened for fresh air and locked from inside, and with space for real cargo.  The floor plan area of most existing NEVs is more than sufficient: just build a rectangular box on the same chassis and that takes care of that.  

      Using the rectangular box plan, the actual size of NEVs can be shrunk substantially and still have more than sufficient room for two people and a half cubic yard of cargo.  See also the micro-cars of the 1950s.

      On-call shuttle buses are a win-win solution.

      We routinely use them to get to airports, where timeliness is vital in order to catch flights.  

      Shuttle buses can get people to regular buses in areas where bus stops are relatively rare; and can easily get them to train stations.  

      Bandwagon-jumping nonsense such as special smartphone apps and payment schemes, effectively delays the implementation of systems that are much simpler and can be built right now.  

      All that's needed is a telephone number for people to call for appointments, and a computerized dispatching system.  You call in, give the address and the destination and the time you need to be at the destination, and the dispatcher does the rest.   This also creates right-livelihood jobs at the dispatch center, as well as driving the shuttle buses.  

      Ride-share programs and reducing crime risk:

      Users of ride-share programs need to be vetted for criminal record.  Otherwise ride-share will become like Craig's List: a haven for criminal scum who use these "friendly" systems to lure their victims.

      IMHO the best form of ride-sharing would be a database platform for people who already know each other: so they can list their regular trips needed & offered.  Any group of friends or neighbors could set up a private user-group on the system, and link among user-groups by way of affinity and reputation.  This eventually becomes a "social molecule" that links large numbers of people together in a web of verified trust, expanding the usefulness of the network as it goes.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 08:32:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I very much like the ... (5+ / 0-)

        ... bike lockers at train stations and every 4mi along a main bus route, but my best protection against bike theft in Newcastle, Oz, was a folding bike. I never left it locked up, I always took it with me.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 08:43:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  that's good if you can take it on the bus. (5+ / 0-)

          There were, a few years ago, a couple of English designs for folders that were very very clever.  The problem with most folding bikes being that they are a dyslexic nightmare to assemble & disassemble, with potentially dangerous consequences for error.  But these British designs were smart and simple, with little or nothing that could go wrong.  

          Ideal case for a folder is that it can be rolled around on one or both of its wheels, like one of those folding grocery carts.  This plus a built-in hook for a knapsack, would make it more accessible than something you have to lift and carry.  

          All of this stuff needs to be made accessible for people who are older or have physical limits on strength, stamina, and movement.  

          Bike lockers are excellent, and of course the supply of them has to keep up with the quantity of bikes that need them.  

          Ultimately there is no substitute for vigilant law enforcement to catch the bike thieves and punish them swiftly.  

          The key to reducing crime is for punishment to be swift and certain: for bike theft, the certainty of a two week sentence in the local pokey, served under austere conditions (e.g. solitary confinement, bare cell, writing materials allowed but no radio or TV or personal possessions) is a better deterrent than a long-shot gamble on a six-month sentence in county jail.  Two weeks in solitary does not equal cruel & unusual, but I suspect it would do much to deter bike theft.  

             

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 09:12:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  However severe punishment for bike thieves ... (4+ / 0-)

            ... is not an "encourage biking" policy, since you need bike ridership quite high to get it through.

            My bike was a Dahon folder, and there wasn't anything tricky abou folding or unfolding it.

            As far as the fact that its not a one-size fits all, nothing is ~ as we've seen with cars, one size fits all never fits all and always fits many badly. Its just one solution that will work for a substantial number.

            Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

            by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 09:42:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  On this point ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean, Judge Moonbox, BYw
        NEVs need to be redesigned to deal with urban reality.

        "Soft" passenger compartments made of light plastics without locking doors, or with pathetic EZ-pick locks, and NEVs with effectively no cargo space, are all total fail from the get-go.

        The notion that they are limited to having no cargo space is contradicted by options already on the market:

        They are often sold with limited cargo space simply because they are often bought by people with limited cargo space requirements.

        There is also often little that would be of interest in stealing in the passenger compartment. And remember that rather than needing to be designed to deal with urban realities, the majority will have to be designed to deal with suburban reality. That is where the need shall be the strongest.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 12:14:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  That would be Curitiba, Parana BR (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BruceMcF, Judge Moonbox, Woody

      Wiki it, if you haven't done so already.

      "No man is rich enough to buy back his past." ~ Oscar Wilde

      by ozsea1 on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 12:19:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's a quite common strategy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cai

      Even some US cities have this, both in terms of urban streets and highways (such as "Diamond Lanes" in CA where public transit and carpools have access).

      Lots of Chinese cities have traffic segregated into :

      Bicycle lanes
      Slow traffic lanes (truck/car)
      Express lanes (bus/car)

      And in some cases, bus/trolly viaducts in the center of highways/main roads with stops on central islands.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 02:37:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Consevative talking point about World War II. (10+ / 0-)

    There are some conservatives who say that Roosevelt got into World War II because he couldn't find any projects to spend New Deal money on, so he needed a war to bring unemployment down.

    The reality is that most railroads could have used substantial sums to upgrade their facilities, electrify their lines and build new locomotives and cars. I seriously believe that if FDR had foreseen the war and built the New Deal around Home Front Preparedness, the railroads would have gotten a lot of help modernizing and straightening their lines, along with building new bridges and tunnels.  Similarly, many cities would have been able to build subways.

    There are other fields which could have contributed much to home front preparedness--including turnpikes and airports. On the whole, the aid to railroads and public transit would have outweighed the competing modes, and they would have emerged stronger after the war.

    Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

    by Judge Moonbox on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 06:58:48 PM PDT

    •  Oh, and conservatives who ... (4+ / 0-)

      ... think that the primary element getting the US involved in World War II was something other than all of the Great Powers of the World being at full out, fight to the death WAR are living in some fantasy of a US floating in some alternate universe up above the lesser countries.

      Like the idiots in the Cheney White House who talked their absurd "we act and that forces others to react to us" bullshit, as they sent us into one reckless foreign adventure after the other, destroying the already decaying foundations of American Empire.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 08:03:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  the CT around FDR & WW2... (6+ / 0-)

      ... originated with nazi-sympathizers who would have preferred that Hitler take over Europe, and that the US made peace with Hitler.  

      Anyone who thinks we shouldn't have gotten into WW2, with the exception of consistent principled pacifists, can and should be written off as a nut.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 08:34:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not the only CT. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hoghead99, BruceMcF, BYw

        Some of the conspiracy theorists are old-school Navy men who couldn't accept that Adm. Kimmel could have been so unprepared for an attack, so they insist that someone in Washington must have withheld a critical piece of information.

        Still others didn't need to be Nazi sympathizers, they hated Roosevelt so viscerally that they couldn't let go of their hatred.

        But I will agree that they're not pacifists, they're nuts.

        Just how stupid does Mitt Romney think we are? -Paul Krugman

        by Judge Moonbox on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 05:16:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And now for something completely different. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, BruceMcF, NoMoreLies

    1. Feds nullify all local zoning laws.

    2. New payroll tax, assessed on employers, for each employee who lives more than 2 miles from workplace.

    Employers start to figure out how to lure employees to live close to work (or telecommute). This includes moving workplace to where employees want to live...so suddenly employers are interested in fixing schools and crime. And where employees can afford to live, so suddenly employers are interested in affordable housing.

    Commuting drops drastically. Air quality, schools, crime improve. People walk/bike to work, obesity drops. People have more time to spend with their families.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 07:10:04 PM PDT

    •  Feds can't nullify all local zoning laws ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HeyMikey, ozsea1, Judge Moonbox

      ... they are a state authority. Its awfully hard to make the argument to use interstate commerce authority for mandating real estate zoning.

      A state can put whatever restrictions they wish on zoning laws, of course. A state could insist, for example, that no zoning can require parking more than one car for each five residents of a building. A state could forbid side set-asides wider than required by a lane and front set-asides wider than required by a wide sidewalk.

      Lots of things along those lines could be done be a state that wanted to have low unemployment by allowing the development of the type of communities that are in under-supply in the marketplace.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 07:57:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Blue-sky dreaming. Or not. Probably. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF

        I suppose if the feds enacted the payroll tax I mentioned, and if it were high enough, the zoning laws would fall by popular demand.

        But I suppose it'll be a cold day in hell before we see a tax enacted by popular demand.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 08:17:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  As long as we are talking about a crisis (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey

        I don't see why a constitutional amendment. (giving the federal government greater control over local land use) couldn't be part of the solution.

        Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune. Walt Whitman

        by Sacramento Dem on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 10:05:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Zoning doesn't have much ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HeyMikey

          ... impact over a few year period.

          Its not as if the current zoning regimes required federal action to put them into place. They were just part of an establishment status quo that helped ensure income to a particular set of people who could set themselves up as property developers.

          So, over a longer period, those who want to do it are likely to push it through at the state level, and then the fact that it works better could well  push it through faster than trying to win a Federal amendment.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 11:12:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Though it could easily qualify as a ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HeyMikey

          ... "Plan C Regret" the longer we use zoning laws to extract a tithe as a share of all new development as a direct subsidy in kind to the automobile.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 11:39:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  to this, add major tax incentives for telework. (7+ / 0-)

      You have telecommuting listed as a parenthetical.  I say make it the main item in the game.

      Almost every "office" job that involves using a computer and a phone and having meetings, can be done by telework.  

      The only jobs that need to be done in-person are jobs that entail putting one's hands on the product.  

      The cost of telework infrastructure (new computer and telephone equipment) pays for itself in a matter of about six to eight months, compared to the cost of physical office space for those employees.  This I know because I invented a key piece of it (on the telephony side) and I did the spreadsheets.  

      One thing that would make telework immediately practical on a huge scale, would be the widespread adoption of BRI: "Basic Rate ISDN."  This is far more secure and cost-effective than VOIP, and solves a multitude of technical issues that I won't describe further since only fellow geeks are interested.

      Bottom line is: all those highrise office towers should be redeveloped into low-cost apartments, and all those commuters should be equipped with VPN and ISDN.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 08:45:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, some fraction of the ... (5+ / 0-)

        ... fraction of transport taken by work can be partially or completely replaced by telecommuting, but its hard to telecommute to a factory or warehouse job, or to a restaurant for the occasional meal out. Grocery shopping by telecommute isn't an elimination of the transport, but swapping a visit to the grocers for a delivery from the grocers.

        Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

        by BruceMcF on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 09:35:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  clearly; but all of those are "putting hands on" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean

          Factory, warehouse, farm, construction, mechanics, tradesworkers, municipal, restaurant, health care, etc. etc., all involve hands-on.   All of those workers still need transport to and from workplaces.

          Going out to restaurants, theaters, most forms of common household shopping (grocery, hardware, clothing), etc.: all of those are hands-on.  

          But go to any downtown and look at the office towers.  Holy cow, gazillions of cubicles full of people who type on computers and talk on telephones all day, and occasionally go to staff meetings.  All of those can work from home, saving themselves 5 - 10 hours a week from transportation time, and saving their companies enough $$ in real estate lease costs to pay for the telecommute infrastructure in months and add to the bottom line thereafter.  

          From experience with my clients (rather shamelessly promoting my telecommuter solutions), the only "office-based" companies that can't do telecommute (aside from doctors' offices) are architectural firms.  This because very often they are working with physical scale models of buildings, and with physical samples of materials.  Computer models are not a substitute for physical models.  

          Attorneys like to have offices because they need to meet with clients in a setting that is confidential.  But much of an attorney's support staff can be telecommuters, and the partners in the firm will happily do it on days they're not meeting with clients, if they can access all their written material over the VPN.  

          Really, the major items standing in the way of vastly increase use of telecommuting, are a combination of a) lack of familiarity with the technology and b) lack of familiarity with how to manage a remote workforce.  

          There isn't even a tax incentive needed since the payback period is so fast and pure competitive factors will encourage it to spread.  Though of course anything that has "tax incentive" on it is politically popular, which could help make it more visible.

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 02:28:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Telecommuting pros, cons, expansions. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BruceMcF, G2geek, Judge Moonbox, BYw

            I'm an appellate lawyer. I'm a member of a small firm, office about 30-45 minutes from my house (depending on traffic), but I go there maybe a half-dozen times a year. Started working from my house about 18 months ago.

            The downside is that it's emotionally isolating. I am starting to pay more conscious attention to seeking out human contact, and am lucky enough to have good friends and family nearby. I can easily imagine a significant % of teleworkers, who are not so lucky or who take less initiative to meet their social needs, slipping into isolation and depression.

            Amazon.com recently bought a robotics company (to replace people filling orders in their warehouses) and seems on the verge of making next-day delivery standard, with same-day delivery available. This could devastate retail employment; net fuel consumption might go up or down, depending on the fuel source of the delivery trucks. Ford already has a battery-electric version of its small Transit Connect van in production.

            Drone technology seems on the verge of trickling down to enable people in Bangalore to vacuum carpet and empty office trash cans in Peoria; replacement of factory workers in the USA seems inevitable.

            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

            by HeyMikey on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 06:39:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh, and of course... (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              G2geek, Judge Moonbox, Woody

              ...there are already services offering good-quality USA legal research and writing by lawyers in India. My firm in the Atlanta area has lawyers working for us, on Atlanta-area cases, in California, Montana, Pennsylvania, and England.

              "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

              by HeyMikey on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 06:42:57 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And yet one more thing... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek, Woody

                Imagine Amazon's same-day delivery, with warehouse orders pulled by robots and those delivery vans with Google's self-driving-car technology. Even if the delivery van has to spend lots of extra time waiting outside the destination for package recipients to come out and get the package, requiring Amazon to have a bigger fleet of vans...extra vans are cheaper than extra human drivers.

                And we'll see the same thing happen with fast food. It won't be just pizza and Chinese that work on the delivery model. Pizza Hut now makes it especially easy to order via their website--easier and more reliable than calling the store and talking to the human who writes down your order wrong half the time anyway.

                We're on the cusp, I suspect, of drastic loss of retail and restaurant jobs.

                "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                by HeyMikey on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 02:45:17 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  self-driving cars: liability risk. (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  NoMoreLies, Woody, BYw, HeyMikey

                  The first time one of those squishes a pedestrian and keeps going, is going to be "really interesting" in terms of precedents.  

                  Pizza hut?  Ewww.   New York native pizza-snob here.  Pizza doesn't come from a "hut," it comes from a "joint," and the pun also works.  

                  As for all those jobs going away: yes, and the plutocrats will be perfectly happy with climate change at +6 Celsius, the death of about 3 - 5 billion humans, and a world where their insatiable needs are served by machines.   Let's make no mistake about where this is going: the redundancy of the majority of the world's people, turned into their deaths from the consequences of ecological catastrophe: a Holocaust on a scale hundreds of times larger than the Nazi Holocaust.  And avoiding that outcome is why we fight!

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 03:16:39 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Liability: I doubt it. The rest: could well be. (0+ / 0-)

                    Yes, self-driving cars will get in some wrecks and cause some liability payouts. But:

                    1. Human fleet drivers also cause wrecks and liability payouts. At some point--maybe now, maybe later, likely soon--self-driving cars will cause fewer wrecks than human drivers. An operator of a fleet of hundreds or thousands of vehicles will likely be able to demonstrate a net safety improvement fairly easily by switching to self-driving vehicles.

                    2. This part will remain undocumented, perhaps, but it's probably there. Suppose Big Delivery Co. has 3,000 vehicles. Suppose they see that switching them all to self-driving is projected to cause 5 additional wrecks per year, costing them $10 million per year in additional liability payouts. And suppose they see it's going to save them $12 million a year in salaries, employee healthcare, 401(k) contributions, etc. Might the $2 million a year be enough for them to accept a more dangerous fleet? Some figure likely would be. See: Ford exploding Pinto scandal.

                    The rest: I don't know how bad global warming is going to be, but it looks like it's going to be pretty bad. It's beyond shameful how little the world's governments are doing about it, especially the rich world's.

                    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                    by HeyMikey on Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 12:26:28 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  that's scary. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Woody, BYw

                When we outsource the legal profession like that, we run the risk of our culture at-large becoming even more detached from the law as the basis of our society.

                Consider what happens when the number of people in America, who have intimate working knowledge of the law, decreases.  

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 03:08:50 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  practical, emotional, electrical: (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Woody

              Agreed, telework can produce some degree of isolation, but this can be more than made up for with increased contact with friends and family locally: and minus the time spent driving back and forth to work, there's more time for socializing (just as long as we can pull ourselves away from work long enough to do it!).

              The one thing Amazon doesn't have is the ability for people to put their hands on products first.  Retail employment will continue in areas where that's important, such as clothing, hardware, appliances, and so on.  The major problem with Amazon is that it is tending to become something like a monopoly, which in my view of things means it should be regulated like a utility.  

              Ford Transit Connect: I have the gas version (couldn't afford the electric version and need more range).  EPA rated 22/25mpg.  Actual observed: 30 - 35 mpg at any steady speed from 30 - 60 mph, and 17 - 20 in stop-and-go driving.   BTW, these are made in Turkey, and fully up to any USA/European standard.

              Drones:

              Won't replace humans at tasks where there is a safety issue, e.g. vacuuming under office desks, one needs to be careful about power strips and suchlike.  The latency of internet-protocol connectivity works against that.  

              What I envision for that will be fairly-local humans operating multiple devices.  For example one person can tele-operate a flock of vacuuming robots in an office from a station in the office, thereby multiplying productivity but preserving rapid connectivity and the ability to manually intervene where needed.  

              We already have something similar for "automated" refuse collection where one operator in the cab of the vehicle uses a joystick to control a hydraulic arm that lifts and empties the refuse bins along the road.  However, this is really only viable in suburban and rural areas: cities are too congested for it to work.  And the terrible irony is, it puts two guys out of work while turning what used to be a physically vigorous job into another sit-down job.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 03:07:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Company doesn't hire people... (4+ / 0-)

      ...who live farther away, or require people to live in a particular area under pain of losing their job.  

      Congratulations, you've just brought back the company town!

      9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

      by varro on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 11:53:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. Exactly. The tribe. (0+ / 0-)

        That's actually part of the point.

        Read Robert Wright's essay, "The Evolution of Despair." http://www.alamut.com/...

        The gist: people are happiest when we have a few to a few dozen intimate relationships, instead of hundreds or thousands of shallow ones. Living on a smaller scale would mean we'd know fewer people, but know them better.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 06:26:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think I want the ... (5+ / 0-)

          ... company I work for to decide my tribe with their hiring and firing decisions.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 08:04:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, but...compared to what? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoMoreLies, Woody

            I quite agree that's a crappy situation. But for an increasing % of Americans, the alternative is getting to be no tribe at all.

            It distresses me that "the pursuit of happiness" has dropped off the American agenda:

            * 100+ million of Americans are made seriously miserable by obesity, yet neither party takes it seriously enough to change food policy, land use policy, transportation policy, or education policy (most students don't have PE, and most PE is a joke).

            * Hundreds of millions of Americans waste billions of hours commuting--taking time away from their families, their volunteering, uncounted other possible productive activities--yet neither party gives a damn about that either.

            Both parties mostly talk about money. That's necessary, but it's not nearly sufficient. When they do get around to "social issues," it's generally to argue about whether this or that oppressive rule for some minority should remain in place--not about the basics that affect most people every day.

            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

            by HeyMikey on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 02:56:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Compared to working to ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cai, varro

              ... establish suburban village cores and rebuilding community in the human monocultures that the single-use zoning system has created.

              I can't see any upside in fighting for the establishment of company towns, because I do not see how it makes a vision of the future that people will be interested in organizing around.

              Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

              by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 03:40:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I like the idea of.... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BruceMcF

                ....the suburban core with apartment buildings and a local shopping district around a light rail line, with smaller houses behind it.  

                Retail workers can walk or ride bikes to their close-by work or to the light rail; people who live farther away can carpool or if they must, drive and park at a park-and-ride.  

                The problem comes with the lack of jobs in today's economy; people might have to accept jobs in other suburbs or areas of the city without direct public transit.

                9-11 changed everything? Well, Katrina changed it back.

                by varro on Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 02:53:12 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  If the ... (0+ / 0-)

                  ... new common carrier corridor (light rail, heavy rail, trolleybus, aerobus, whatever) was originally laid out to connect to job centers, then access to the new jobs at the suburban village cores along the corridor are in addition to the access to the jobs that the corridor has been designed to reach. So they are a bonus, rather the the core rationale for building the corridor.

                  The basic design pattern is to provide a standard zoning easement that makes it possible to build a suburban village core around a transport corridor stop ~ where today it is largely illegal to build a suburban village cores without a special variance being granted. Street level professional/ commercial space with stacked townhouse residential development on top allowed 1/8 of a mile around the station, pooled gateway parking at two road access points outside that zone, and 3 story stacked townhouse residential development allows 1/4 mile around the station.

                  20% of the incremental property tax over what is allowed without the easement going to operation of the service on the common carrier corridor.

                  Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

                  by BruceMcF on Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 04:05:51 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  From a restored trolley at the Western Railway (9+ / 0-)

    Museum in Rio Vista, CA:

    Fun fact: you can ride these cars. They've put in a pretty long string of electrified track at the museum, and it's quite fun. I like my train museums interactive, not stuffed and mounted.

    Of course, I like my electrified transit actually taking me from one place to another in my daily life even better.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Jul 22, 2012 at 09:58:43 PM PDT

  •  My town uses Biodiesel for buses (6+ / 0-)

    We don't have any electric tram cars, but it's a start anyway. If electric bikes were cheaper I'd get one. I can't manage a regular bike any longer, but an electric would get me up to the local grocery store and back with no issue. I couldn't carry a lot, but I could do some smaller shopping and get out of the house for a bit. I can't manage $400 for  a bike right now though.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 05:39:32 AM PDT

    •  The amount of shopping you can carry ... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, cai, Judge Moonbox, Woody, BYw

      ... on a longtail bike is quite substantial.

      But if you can't afford $400 for a bike, you're in the same boat as I am. I'm not riding a cheap Target bike to work as some kind of statement against riding better bikes ~ if I could afford a Bike Nashbar AT-1 mountain bike, that's what I would be riding. And if I could afford to put a $250 ebike kit on it, I'd be riding that too.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 12:19:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I used to ride a cheap target bike... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BruceMcF, Calamity Jean, cai

        it worked pretty well. But I can't manage bike riding with my lungs any longer. Even If I am breathing well enough getting out, there's no promise I will be breathing well enough to get back.

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 12:27:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  On biodiesel ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw, cai

      ... the issue is that sustainable biodiesel is either recycling used cooking oil or is using some oil plant that is being sustainable grown. Biodiesel from oil from monoculture soybeans or from rainforest cut down for oil palm plantations is not sustainable biodiesel.

      And so we are likely to have a limited budget of actually sustainable biodiesel.

      In deploying that budget, range extension for pluggable hybrid diesel buses would have a substantial claim.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 10:00:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Street Networks (6+ / 0-)

    Things have improved a bit with La Hood's DOT, but USDOT and state DOTs still use the American Association of State Hihway and Transportation Officials ( AASHTO) Green Book which pushes big high speed roads. Transit, biking and walking benefit from robust street networks of streets small enough to safely walk across. http://www.cnu.org/...

    Cities are good for the environment

    by citydem on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 01:05:02 PM PDT

  •  40 yrs, 150k+ bike miles later (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Judge Moonbox, Woody, psyched, BYw

    And my plan C has been in effect since Regan tore the solar panels off the White House roof. Doing my part for 40 years has convinced me that nothing at all will happen in any significant degree UNTIL AFTER there is a crisis of the proportions outlined above. A sad state of affairs indeed, when we could flip the equation on its head by an act of collective will. But we will do nothing till the crisis, if then. Sorry for the negativity, but I hear a whole lotta talk, a lot of good intentions, but when it comes to breaking a sweat, not so much. The great majority of bicycles in the US spend the great majority of their existence collecting dust.

    Real change is uncomfortable, inconvenient and ultimately very very personal.

    Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

    by Old Lefty on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 03:57:04 PM PDT

    •  However, it would be a mistake ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Lefty, BYw

      ... to chalk all of that down to just "when it comes to breaking a sweat, not much". Big Oil has invested in building a think tank propaganda system to help maintain the transport system that we have that lines its pockets, and quite a bit more in directly buying politicians with campaign donations. Increasingly since the Great U-Turn in the early 1970's, our public policy has been for sale to the highest bidder, and in transport policy, Big Oil outbids everyone else.

      That's why I spend so much time looking at strategic projects ~ in part because they are projects that are important for being able to be able to stand up against that onslaught.

      This week's Sunday Train was more looking at what happens given whatever strategic projects get up. That is, when the shit hits the fan, we will have won whatever fights for strategic projects that we have won, and will have lost whatever fights for strategic projects that we have lost, and will then have to make do with whatever we got.

      5% trips on bikes ought to be a modest but sane national transport policy objective. But under the current political system and its massive subsidies to driving, and massive direct, physical penalties imposed by driving on most alternative means of transport, I really do think bikes are only going to get to 5%+ of total trips in specific local areas that adopt forward looking local transport policy. I still celebrate the local areas that achieve that, because they are going to be the some of the models that we look to when the shit hits the fan.

      Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

      by BruceMcF on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 10:10:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed, but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BYw

        my point, not a new one, is that making change in the world ultimately comes down to making change in one's own life, which is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and, apparently, highly unlikely till, like Wiley Coyote, the anvil lands on our heads. I have spent a long career in Civil Engineering arguing (and getting canned for arguing) for the implementation of simple, cost effective proven solutions to basic problems like storm water runoff quality, rational transportation planning etc. etc. ad nauseum, to no appreciable effect except to piss off the powers that be. My Crumudgeon-o-Meter is way off the scale this week, and I do not mean to gainsay your good work, clear insights, passion and logical solutions, but, I am not hopeful. Seriously, millions will have to die in misery before we make a real change in our consumption systems. I will make jerkey and render them down for lamp oil.

        Or not. We could stumble along the brink without ever falling off, we have so far. I don't know, but I DO know that for every 50 miles cycling I get at least one derisive shriek from a passing motorist, one hurled object per thousand miles, and one drive-by paintball assault per 100 thousand. The lifestyle and world view of those who live by NASCAR will perish the day the tankers stop running, but not one day before.

        Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

        by Old Lefty on Mon Jul 23, 2012 at 11:28:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My point is that sometimes ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Lefty

          ... making a change in the world is actually about directly making a change, in the world.

          When there are government rules and subsidies that create the current outcome, then changing those rules and eliminating those subsidies is going to be a big part to getting to a different outcome.

          Some change can come from making something possible that wasn't possible before, but there is going to have to come a time when reducing the number of cars in the road is going to come from changing the rules that force people to drive to get the things done that they need to get done.

          Support Lesbian Creative Works with Yuri anime and manga from ALC Publishing

          by BruceMcF on Tue Jul 24, 2012 at 03:55:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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