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By Robert Rapier on Mar 24, 2011 with 19 responses

Modes of Transportation

Because of my interest in energy, I have a long-standing interest in different modes of transportation. One of the reasons that I am not overly pessimistic about a future in which I foresee even higher long-term oil prices is that I believe we can make a shift from modes of transportation requiring a lot of energy to move people around to modes that require much less energy to move people.

Within the U.S., there are cities in which a large fraction of the population walks to work, cities in which almost everyone drives alone to work, and cities in which more than half of the working population takes public transportation to work. A reader recently called my attention to a database he has developed that compares the various modes of transportation for more than 2,100 U.S. cities. The database is called Modes of Transportation to Work.

The site allows you to find and compare the percentages of people that use different modes of transportation for getting to work (walking, carpooling, driving alone, public transit, etc.). The site has filters that allow you to rank and compare U.S. cities, and find the answers to question such as:

You will discover that there are U.S. cities in which more than 40% of the working population walks to work (Ithaca, NY – 41.8%), cities in which large fractions of the population works from home (Fort Bragg, NC — 48.5%), and cities in which almost everyone drives to work alone (Southgate, Michigan – 91.6%).

Beyond the interesting statistical comparisons are the questions of why one city is walkable, while in another city of similar size almost everyone drives alone to work. With some the issue is population density or climate, but some city governments have just been more proactive in developing programs that encourage car-pooling and mass transit.

I lived in Europe for about 5 years, and was generally impressed that they maintain high standards of living at half the per capita energy consumption of the U.S. Much of this is related to their modes of transportation; Europeans on average travel more efficiently than we do in the U.S. But as this database shows, you don’t have to look all the way across the Atlantic to find examples of walkable cities. And as fossil fuel supplies deplete, we need to learn from some of these cities where workers don’t consume a lot of fuel to commute to work.

  1. By Douglas Hvistendahl on March 24, 2011 at 7:41 am

    When I lived in a city, I used bicycle or bus, depending on the weather. Then there are new possible developments – look at Morgantown, WV’s Personal Rapid Transit system! Or look at the J-pod.

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  2. By John Q. Galt on March 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Ithaca, NY isn’t a city, it is a college campus.
    Fort Bragg, NC isn’t a city, it is a military base.

    These extremes (?) of lifestyle explain plenty well any stats. Maybe we can evolve to an all-inclusive resort style lifestyle but other than that the only thing that will change in the future is the reduced need for human transport through automation and localization of production.

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  3. By Wendell Mercantile on March 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    …cities in which large fractions of the population works from home (Fort Bragg, NC — 48.5%)

    I lived in Fayetteville, NC while assigned to the 82d Airborne at Fort Bragg, and am having trouble coming to grips with that piece of data. The soldiers at Fort Bragg and the airmen at Pope Air Force Base (adjacent to Ft Bragg) certainly aren’t working from their homes, and they are the main engine of the Fayetteville economy.

    There may be a large number of military spouses doing e-trading, selling stuff on E-Bay, or running other businesses on websites from their homes — that is the only explanation I can think of.

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  4. By rrapier on March 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Douglas Hvistendahl said:

    When I lived in a city, I used bicycle or bus, depending on the weather. Then there are new possible developments – look at Morgantown, WV’s Personal Rapid Transit system! Or look at the J-pod.


     

    Somewhere out there is a picture of my sitting in a J-pod. :) Bill James had one on display at ASPO a few years ago.
    RR

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  5. By rrapier on March 24, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    John Q. Galt said:

    Ithaca, NY isn’t a city, it is a college campus.

    Fort Bragg, NC isn’t a city, it is a military base.

    These extremes (?) of lifestyle explain plenty well any stats.


     

    No, they might exlain the extremes of the stats, but there was plenty in between the extremes.

    RR

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  6. By rbm on March 27, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Found a recent development related to Hydrogen tranportation -
    Hydrogen Student Design Contest.

     

    Since an economic analysis was a contest requirement I went looking for it. I didn’t find it. Can anyone else find it ?

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  7. By Kit P on March 27, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    “and am having trouble coming to grips with that piece of data.”

     

    Wendell how many watermelons does it take to screw up a study?

     

    Fundamentally you have to ask why people do things. Of course why they do thing is none of my business. For the most part, watermelons are a judgmental lot. I am not saying that bible beaters or the tea party are not a judgmental lot either.

     

    What I am saying is be careful what you ask for. Energy provides people the freedom how the want. It is very hard to control. That ‘all-inclusive resort style lifestyle’ might turn out to be a ‘reeducation’ camp North Korean Style.

     

    “I lived in Europe for about 5 years, and was generally impressed that they maintain high standards of living at half the per capita energy consumption of the U.S.”

     

    This is what I call an unfounded judgment. What I found is that rich people in drive big cars just like they do in the US. The difference was the number of rich people. At the power plant I work at there was one rich guy, the plant manger. In the US, everyone was a rich guy even the guy who pushes a broom. Furthermore, there is nothing to stop the young kid pushing a becoming the the plant manger.

     

    If fact I know people on welfare in the US that have a higher life style than decreed engineers if size of car and square feet of living space is the criteria.

     

    In other words the EU is an interesting place to visit but give me Indiana or Iowa any day as a place to raise children. Of course I feel the same way about SF and NYC.

     

    “Because of my interest in energy, ..”

     

    Me too but for a lot longer time. If fact I have made a career out of doing what I am interested in. My job is to provide energy where and where they need it. I see no problem doing that. Next time someone tries to put a guilt trip on you for using energy grab their love bead and give a good the useless watermelons a good trashing.

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  8. By rrapier on March 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    “This is what I call an unfounded judgment.”

    It isn’t a judgment, it is a fact. Europeans use less than half the energy per capita as Americans. Fact. They also maintain very nice standards of living, something I am qualified to comment on given the years I lived there.

    RR

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  9. By Wendell Mercantile on March 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    “I lived in Europe for about 5 years, and was generally impressed that they maintain high standards of living at half the per capita energy consumption of the U.S.”

    I lived in Germany a number of years and support Robert’s conclusion — nothing “unfounded” about it. Europeans use energy more efficiently than we do — at about 50% less per capita as Robert said, and with a quality of life that is just as high — or often higher — than ours. (The last German house I lived in was probably the most well-built and energy-efficient house I will ever live in. I now live in a prosperous part of the Midwest and have never seen a house here built to the same standard of construction and energy efficiency. Even the McMansions around here that are supposed to be luxurious are not built as well as that German house I lived in.)

    Kit P let me ask: Have you ever been to Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, or Germany?

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  10. By Benny BND Cole on March 27, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Not sure we are depleting fossil fuels in a way that will limit our physical freedoms. We have natural gas to the moon, and can make methanol from it. Add to a PHEV–and where is the oil crunch? In side-show land. (There is no electricity shortage–we can make electricity from so many sources, such as wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, natural gas, coal, nukes). Also CNG cars. BTW, some say recent breakthroughs in catalysts could make methanol-fuel cells a winner.

    (And some say what is happening in Bakken may soon start happening all over the world).

    That said, I like less pollution and livable citiies and think that public transit and ride-sharing are worthy ideas. I also like unregulated jitneys, based on my experiences in Thailand.

    As always, it comes back to gasoline taxes. If we tax gasoline, and use the funds to make public transit cheaper, we can tilt the the playing field to public transit.

    BTW, many of us here in Los Angeles noted that our commutes got considerably “shorter” (time-wise) during the last gasoline price spike. One guy wrote in the Los Angeles Business Journal, “I am saving 15 minutes twice a day.” My guess is that I saved 10 minutes in my commutes, both ways.

    Hmmm. This means that, say, $5 gas would cut commutes by 20-30 minutes in Los Angeles for many. That just has to worth it. If you save three hours a week, but your fuel bills are, say $20 higher, you come out ahead.

    Side note to Wendell: I work with architects now, in PR. Many have commented that construction in Europe and Japan, both for commercial and residential, is simply more sophisticated and to higher standards than in the USA. Architects who migrate here are sometimes annoyed they cannot design as they did in Europe. I assume there are some paybacks, perhaps less-expensive buildings.

    The day of “everything we do is better in the USA” has passed, but some people still can’t believe it.

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  11. By Kit P on March 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    “Kit P let me ask: Have you ever been to Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, or Germany?”

    Yes, Europeans live in cities that are cesspools. If it Wendell  and RR’s judgment that is a ‘very nice standards of living’ he can keep it.

     

    “Europeans use less than half the energy per capita as Americans. Fact.”

     

    Who cares?

     

    Do Europeans grow corn more efficiently than an Iowa farmer? American farmers feed the world. Do Europeans mine coal more efficiently than they do in the Powder River Basin?

     

    How about RR’s father, do Europeans raise cattle more efficiently than ranchers in Oklahoma?

     

    I looked around at how most the people live . Rich American like to walk around with blinders and pretend everyday is festival day.

     

    So tell me Wendell if energy efficiency is so importation to you, why did you not stay in Germany? Of course the answer is it is not very important. It is something watermelons talk about ignoring the huge productivity of the US.

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  12. By jcsr on March 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    New York, New York stands out way ahead of all the rest in daily mass transit use and yet no Connecticut cities are listed in the top five users. Metro North carries around one million Connecticut commuters in and out of the city every day, most of them workers. I suspect New Jersey numbers are about the same.

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  13. By rrapier on March 28, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Kit P said:

    “Kit P let me ask: Have you ever been to Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, or Germany?”

    Yes, Europeans live in cities that are cesspools. If it Wendell  and RR’s judgment that is a ‘very nice standards of living’ he can keep it.

     


     

    You don’t have the faintest clue of what you are talking about. Based on that comment, it is clear that you have never spent any time in Europe.

    RR

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  14. By paul-n on March 28, 2011 at 1:32 am

    Europeans live in cities that are cesspools.

    America can play that game too – some photos of Detroit here that you won’t see on the Tourism Michigan website.

     

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  15. By moiety on March 28, 2011 at 3:52 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    Kit P said:

    “Kit P let me ask: Have you ever been to Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, or Germany?”

    Yes, Europeans live in cities that are cesspools. If it Wendell  and RR’s judgment that is a ‘very nice standards of living’ he can keep it.

     


     

    You don’t have the faintest clue of what you are talking about. Based on that comment, it is clear that you have never spent any time in Europe.

    RR


     

    I completely agree Robert. Especially when one considers that Houston is noe of the most polluted places

    in the world.

    So KitP in what way are European cities cesspools? Which European cities are you referring to?  Indeed even in former communist cities such as Sofia, Bucharest, Plovdiv, Bourgas, Sevastpol, Odessa, Ljubljana, Budapest, Zagreb etc (to name some of the ones I have seen ), there are certainly infrastructural issues. However most of these generally centre on the availability of public transport. Clean water supplies and waste collection facilities are in place (though the garbage is not especially efficient  in Sofia).

    Further I wonder at the fact that after Koninginnedag in the Netherlands that Amsterdam (which swells to over 2 million from 0.7 million) is clean and ready for the next day.

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  16. By Kit P on March 28, 2011 at 8:10 am

    “So KitP in what way are European cities cesspools?”

     

    Moiety that is what you call hyperbole but just a little. The degree to which a city is a cesspool can be measured by air and water quality. Also the degree to which you live in balance with nature. I have walked the streets of Amsterdam. It qualifies as a cesspool both morally and socially.

     

    PaulN you are safer waking in the worst part of Detroit than Amsterdam. One of the old engineers we traveled with got robbed and beaten during the day at the train station.

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  17. By moiety on March 28, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Kit P said:

    “So KitP in what way are European cities cesspools?”

     

    Moiety that is what you call hyperbole but just a little. The degree to which a city is a cesspool can be measured by air and water quality. Also the degree to which you live in balance with nature. I have walked the streets of Amsterdam. It qualifies as a cesspool both morally and socially.

     

     


     

    You seem to have a problem in the use of the Hyperbole. A hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device. I was using a question. You were using a hyperbole so by definition exaggerating i.e. already undermining your case (though it is not clear what reference is the hyperbole).

    But leaving the English aside you state an opinion on one single city whereas I have opinions on many more cities, many from the beyond the iron wall. Also you specifically reference Amsterdam. I suppose you take the Fox news view, the one that does not care how they use statistics or the numbers from Amsterdam.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..8bc_ZyORbM

    That is not to say that Europe has its problems. It is a bureaucratic example in many cases of over governance. We only to have to look to what the Irish were recently told.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..yq7WRr_GPg

    Making blanket statements and passing them as fact rather than opinion is a bit of jaffa (mistake).

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  18. By Wendell Mercantile on March 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

    you are safer waking in the worst part of Detroit than Amsterdam.

    Kit P.

    Did you forget your medication this week? I’ve been in both Detroit and Amsterdam and felt much safer in A-Dam.

    I lived in Frankfurt several years, and there is no part of that city I didn’t feel safe walking in. I used to ride my bicycle to work through the middle of Frankfurt, and would pass a small working-class, neighborhood grocery store each morning at about 0645. A bakery delivered fresh-baked bread and brötchen each morning, and would leave them in a wicker hamper on the sidewalk in front for when the grocery store opened.

    You tell me what would in happen in Detroit, Manhattan, Chicago, Houston, or even where you live, if a bakery left a basket of fresh bread in front of a closed grocery store hoping it would go untouched until the store opened?

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  19. By rrapier on March 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    you are safer waking in the worst part of Detroit than Amsterdam.

    Kit P.

    Did you forget your medication this week? I’ve been in both Detroit and Amsterdam and felt much safer in A-Dam.


     

    Yeah, Kit has stepped far off into areas he knows nothing about. I have walked all over Amsterdam with my wife and two little kids in tow (ages 4 and 6). I took buses and subways all across the city. Could I do this safely in Detroit?

    That is not to say there is no crime in Amsterdam, but in Detroit people are murdered. In Amsterdam, it’s mostly petty crime.

    RR

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