Mass Transit Prioritized in US Election – $200 Billion Approved by Voters

As gridlock continues to be a problem in the United States, exacerbated by crumbling infrastructure, the American public has reportedly approved up to $200 billion for rapid and mass transit.

According to the American Public Transportation Association (Apta), the 49 ballot measures totalling nearly $US 200bn that were voted on were the largest in history.  […]

The largest measure in the country, Los Angeles County’s Measure M, was passed with 69% approval with all precincts reporting. The sales tax increase needed a two-thirds majority to pass and is expected to raise $US 120bn over 40 years to help fund transport improvement projects, including Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) schemes to connect Los Angeles International Airport to LACMTA’s Green Line, Crenshaw/LAX line and bus services; extend the Purple Line metro to Westwood; extend the Gold Line 11.7km; extend the Crenshaw Line north to West Hollywood; and build a 6.1km downtown light rail line. The measure will also provide $US 29.9bn towards rail and bus operations, and $US 1.9bn for regional rail.

California’s other big transit wins include Measure RR in the San Francisco Bay area, which will authorise $US 3.5bn in bonds for Bay Area Rapid Transit rehabilitation and modernisation. It required a cumulative two-thirds vote in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties for passage and received 70% approval. (1)

Image result for BART train

Figure 1.  Bay Area Rapid Transit (2)

 

BART’s Focus on Material Conservation, Energy Savings and Sustainability

BART’s infrastructure requires the train cars to be extremely lightweight. To meet this requirement, most of the exterior of the new train cars will be constructed out of aluminum. Aluminum is abundant, doesn’t rust, and when properly finished, reflects heat and light, keeping the train cars cool. It is lightweight but strong, yet fairly easy to work with, reducing the energy investment during the manufacturing process. Additionally, aluminum is easily and readily recyclable, making it very low impact when the train cars are eventually retired and dismantled.  (2)

Federal Investment in Rapid Transit and Transportation Infrastructure Lagging

Yet, despite the public’s continued desire to see greater investment in transit, historically transit has received only a small minority of funding at the federal level. Currently, only 20 percent of available federal transportation funds are invested in transit and just 1 percent of funds are invested in biking and walking infrastructure. Meanwhile, 80 percent of federal transportation dollars continue to be spent on roads.

“While many localities recognize the need to invest in transit, biking, and pedestrian solutions that can bring our transportation system into the 21st century, federal officials remain woefully behind the curve,” said Olivieri. “While it is great to see such widespread support of transit at the local level, the need for these measures speaks volumes about how out of sync federal decision makers are with the wants and needs of the American people,” he added.

The nation currently faces an $86 billion transit maintenance repair backlog, while data from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory show that despite the large discrepancy at the federal level between investment in transit and spending on roads, the nation’s road system is in similarly bad shape. To date, more than 58,000 bridges remain structurally deficient.

“Despite the fact that roads receive 80 percent of available federal transportation dollars, both transit and roads continue to face enormous repair and maintenance backlogs,” said Lauren Aragon, Transportation Fellow at U.S. PIRG. “While the overall level of funding is important, how states spend the limited federal funding they receive can have even greater consequences but states continue to funnel road funding into new and wider highway projects, leaving the existing system to crumble. We need to fix what we have already built first,” she added.  (3)

MAY15_11_000001667330

Figure 2. Typical image of steel bridge in disrepair (4)

 

Harvard Business Review Reports on Crumbling American Infrastructure

Bridges are crumbling, buses are past their prime, roads badly need repair, airports look shabby, trains can’t reach high speeds, and traffic congestion plagues every city. How could an advanced country, once the model for the world’s most modern transportation innovations, slip so badly?

The glory years were decades ago. Since then, other countries surpassed the U.S. in ease of getting around, which has implications for businesses and quality of life. For example, Japan just celebrated the 50thanniversary of its famed bullet train network, the Shinkansen. Those trains routinely operate at speeds of 150 to 200 miles per hour, and in 2012, the average deviation from schedule was a miniscule 36 seconds. Fifty years later, the U.S. doesn’t have anything like that. Amtrak’s “high-speed” Acela between Washington, D.C., and Boston can get up to full speed of 150 mph only for a short stretch in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, because it is plagued by curves in tracks laid over a century ago and aging components, such as some electric overhead wiring dating to the early 1900s.

Numerous problems plague businesses and consumers: Goods are delayed at clogged ports. Delayed or cancelled flights cost the U.S. economy an estimated $30-40 billion per year – not to mention ill will of disgruntled passengers. The average American wastes 38 hours a year stuck in traffic. This amounts to 5.5 billion hours in lost U.S. productivity annually, 2.9 gallons of wasted fuel, and a public health cost of pollution of about $15 billion per year, according to Harvard School of Public Health researchers. The average family of four spends as much as 19% of its household budget on transportation. But inequality also kicks in: the poor can’t afford cars, yet are concentrated in places without access to public transportation. To top it all, federal funding for highways, with a portion for mass transit, is about to run out.  (4)

 

References:

(1)  Nearly 70% of US transit ballot measures pass;  http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/north-america/nearly-70-of-us-transit-ballot-measures-pass.html

(2)  BART – New Train Car Project;  http://www.bart.gov/about/projects/cars/sustainability

(3)  BILLIONS IN TRANSIT BALLOT INITIATIVES GET GREEN LIGHT;  http://www.uspirg.org/news/usp/billions-transit-ballot-initiatives-get-green-light

(4)  What It Will Take to Fix America’s Crumbling Infrastructure;  https://hbr.org/2015/05/what-it-will-take-to-fix-americas-crumbling-infrastructure

The Hidden Costs of Fossil Fuel Dependency

It is estimated that 80 to 85 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. is from fossil fuels. One of the main reasons given for continuing to use this energy source is that it is much less expensive than alternatives. The true cost, however, depends on what you include in the calculation, and there are so many costs not figured in the bills we pay for energy.

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

>” […] Just last week, on May 19, a pipeline rupture caused over 100,000 gallons to spill into Santa Barbara waters. The channel where the spill occurred is where warm water from the south mixes with cold water from the north, creating one of most bio-diverse habitats in the world, with over 800 species of sea creatures, from crabs and snails to sea lions and otters, and a forest of kelp and other undersea plants; it’s also a place through which 19,000 gray whales migrate this time each year. […]

Hidden Costs of Using Fossil Fuels for Energy

It is estimated that 80 to 85 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S. is from fossil fuels. One of the main reasons given for continuing to use this energy source is that it is much less expensive than alternatives. The true cost, however, depends on what you include in the calculation. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, there are so many costs not figured in the bills we pay for energy. The following includes just some of them:

  1. Human health problems caused by environmental pollution.
  2. Damage to the food chain from toxins absorbed and passed along.
  3. Damage to miners and energy workers.
  4. Damage to the earth from coal mining and fracking.
  5. Global warming caused by greenhouse gasses.
  6. Acid rain and groundwater pollution.
  7. National security costs from protecting oil sources and from terrorism (some of which is financed by oil revenues).

Additional Costs From Continued Subsidies

That’s not all. In addition to the above costs, each and every U.S. taxpayer has been subsidizing the oil industry since 1916, when the oil depletion allowance was instituted. Government subsidies in the U.S. are estimated to be between $4 billion and $52 billion annually. The worldwide figure is pegged between $775 billion and $1 trillion. Why don’t oil and gas companies and governments around the world divert at least some of these subsidies to invest in alternative clean energy sources? Rather than invest in the depleting and damaging energy sources of the past, isn’t it time to look to the future and stop “kicking the can down the road”?

More Hidden Costs

While some call it an urban legend, others say quite emphatically that the oil industry conspired with the automobile industry and other vested interests to put streetcars out of business so that people would be forced to use automobiles and buses to get from point A to B — selling more automobiles, tires, fuel, insurance, etc. Fact or fiction, many big cities (and especially Los Angeles, where alternatives are sparse) are choking from traffic gridlock. The first study on this subject determined that traffic congestion robbed the U.S. economy of $124 billion in 2013. That’s an annual cost of $1,700 per household. This is expected to waste $2.8 trillion by 2030 if we do not take immediate measures to reverse the situation. For those who are skeptical, visit Los Angeles and try to drive around. Even with Waze, much more time and energy is wasted sitting in traffic than you could ever imagine. A commute that formerly took five to 10 minutes can now take upwards of an hour.

There Is a Solution

The solution to many of the problems related to gridlock, damage to the environment and human health includes the following:

  1. Clean energy and storage. […]
  2. More effective and efficient transportation (clean and safe mass transit […]
  3. Better marketing of, and accounting for, the true cost of the alternatives.
  4. Investment to do it.
  5. Political vision and will to transparently tell the truth and make the investment.

Doing the Right Thing Is Rarely Easy

While what is most worthwhile is rarely easy, it is necessary for the planet and living things that call it home.  […]”<

See on Scoop.itGreen & Sustainable News

Nonpetroleum share of transportation fuel energy at highest level since 1954

“In the United States, petroleum is by far the most-consumed transportation fuel. But recently the share of fuels other than petroleum for U.S. transportation has increased to its highest level since 1954, a time when the use of coal-fired steam locomotives was declining and automobile use was growing rapidly.”

Source: www.eia.gov

>” […] After nearly 50 years of relative stability at about 4%, the nonpetroleum share started increasing steadily in the mid-2000s, reaching 8.5% in 2014. Of the nonpetroleum fuels used for transportation, fuel ethanol has grown most rapidly in recent years, increasing by nearly one quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) between 2000 and 2014. Nearly all of the ethanol consumed was blended into gasoline in blends of 10% or less, but a small amount was used in vehicles capable of running on higher blends as the availability of those flexible-fuel vehicles grew. Consumption of biodiesel, most of it blended into diesel fuel for use in trucks and buses, grew to more than 180 trillion Btu by 2014.

In 2014, transportation use of natural gas reached a historic high of 946 trillion Btu, 3.5% of all natural gas used in the United States. Transportation natural gas is mostly used in the operation of pipelines, primarily to run compressor stations and to deliver natural gas to consumers. Natural gas used to fuel vehicles, although a much smaller amount, has more than doubled since 2000.

Electricity retail sales to the transportation sector grew more than 40% from 2000 through 2014, although sales have declined slightly since 2007. Electricity for transportation is mostly sold to railroads and railways. However, this increase does not include the consumption of electricity in electric vehicles that are not used in mass transit, because charging stations for these types of vehicles are likely associated with meters on residential, commercial, or industrial customer sites where this specific use may not be differentiated from other uses. […]”<

See on Scoop.itGreen Energy Technologies & Development