Our Own Little Think Tank

Rob Bertini at PSU passes on this press release about funding for the Center for Transportation Studies at PSU (in cooperation with U of O, OSU and OIT – how’s that for alphabet soup).

What research questions would Portland Transport readers want CTS to study?

This is only the beginning of news coming out the Federal Transportation Bill (finally being passed two years late!).

6 responses to “Our Own Little Think Tank”

  1. CTS could study which has been cheaper overall: the cost of living in the burbs while owning, maintaining, insuring, and fueling a car versus living downtown while using transit. Specifically, and this is for the sake of getting closer to the final word on this, whether the taxes required to pay for the transit have added up to more or less than the cost of driving. If it has added up to less, than how could it be expanded and made universally or near-universally available while staying under that cost?
    I think this would be a good way to coalesce all the vague theories into verifiable fact once and for all. We bicker about it quite a bit but no one apparently believes anyone else because we all look at different studies by different groups that measure different things, which makes any progress on the issue seem distant. Hopefully this would not turn out to be just another one of those vague and numerous studies…

  2. The congressman will be in Portland on Wednesday for the formal announcement:

    DATE: Wednesday, August 3.
    TIME: 12:30 p.m.
    LOCATION: PSU Campus, Park Blocks (north of the Streetcar station mid-block on Mill St. just West of Lincoln Hall).

    “Please join us for this important event, and invite your friends and colleagues. It is very important that we have a strong showing. Some refreshments will be served.”

  3. How about a feasiblity study of Biodiesel use for all of the large diesel vechicles that Trimet, The City of Portland, Multnomah County, Metro, and the School District use on a daily basis? As others are doing?


  4. How about a study based on interaction of modes of transportation and return on investment (minuses are things like maintenance, upgrades, less free time, obsolesence, reduced property values, etc. versus the items like increased property values, more free time, pollution reduction, less maintenance, etc..).

    Is there a compounding effect when more modes of transportation are involved? Which combinations have the best return on investment? And can high speed rail and air travel add value to each other and service unique customers in the same market.

    These questions would be asked of every major US and Canadian city first. And could also look at European and Asian transportation models and data.

    Ray Whitford

  5. What about the feasibility study of hydrogen internal-combustion hybrid buses? Based on my (admittedly shallow) understanding of the technology, any internal combustion engine can be converted to run on hydrogen for a couple of thousand dollars. Extracting hydrogen requires electricity, which is expensive if you need to bring more generators on line, but can be done any time of day.

    What happens to all the power generated by our hydro dams at night? Is it all used or stored? Could Tri-Met (for example) use night-time BPA power to make hydrogen for buses the next day?

    What about windmills spinning at night? If Portland wants to buy enough windpower to pay for all city operations, could the windmills power lights, HVAC systems and computers during the day, and make hydrogen for select city vehicles at night?

    Hybrid vehicles generate electricity from braking. Buses brake a lot. Could a hydrogen hybrid bus, create at least some of its own hydrogen while operating, thus extending its range beyond whatever hydrogen was in the tank?

  6. DJK –

    There are many issues surrounding hydrogen as an energy storage medium in vehicles.

    One issue is range… there are demonstration vehicles with basically modified gasoline engines, but the range on these vehicles is less than a gasoline or diesel engine. A bus converted for hydrogen burning would either have to give up much passenger capacity in order to have room for hydrogen storage tanks, or it would have to return to base to be refueled more often.

    And, even if conversion of existing engines to hydrogen burning were cheap, this does not get you hybrid vehicle… you would not be able to use regenerative braking because there would be A) nowhere to store the electrical energy recovered and B) no electric motor to turn this back into mechanical energy.

    You’d basically have to come up with a whole new bus for that.

    And various companies _are_ coming up with whole new busses and other types of commercial vehicles, but they are still mainly experimental, expensive, and suffer from range problems.

    Not to mention that hydrogen refueling facilities, at present, are expensive.

    This is not to say that hydrogen is usless or too difficult. But it is not the kind of technology you’d want to introduce today into a transit fleet…

    That being said, other types of hybrid buses are closer to production. TriMet has been experiementing with a diesel-electric hybrid bus… I’ve seen a few press releases from them about it, and I have seen it around town a couple of times.

    Can someone from TriMet comment on the current state of this experiment? How reliable is the bus? Do the economics pencil out for introducing more of these into the fleet?

    – Bob R.

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