Archive | Transportation Economics

Portland Transport Audio – Complex Systems and Lifecycles

No, we’re not starting a podcast (at least not yet).

But we will from time to time point our readers to interesting content we come across in audio form.

This week’s Tech Nation radio program features a fascinating discussion (MP3, about 10MB) with John Thackara on the design of complex systems.

Included is a discussion of lifecycle costs that reaches a surprising conclusion about passenger rail versus air travel.

It movitivated me to order the book.

More on Peak Oil

The New York Times Business Section had a long and interesting article a few weeks ago on oil consumption in the US. The Oil Uproar That Isn’t

A few interesting quotes:

The most visible element of this new equation is that relative to demand, oil is no longer in plentiful supply. The time when we could count on cheap oil and even cheaper natural gas is clearly ending. — David J. O’Reilly, CEO of Chevron.

Furthermore, Mr O’Reilly stated that it took 125 years to consume a trillion barrels of oil; the next trillion is likely to be consumed in the just 35 years.

On our dependence on foreign sources (who may not always behave according to the laws of economics…):

Crude oil imports have doubled over the last three decades and now account for nearly two-thirds of the oil Americans burn… In the same three decade period, oil demand in the US has grown by 18 percent while domestic production has continued on a slow and probably irrevocable path of decline.

The basic approach to energy policy in this country, according to the nation’s first Energy Secretary, James Schlesinger, is “only two modes–complacency and panic.”

Relative Energy Use of Various Modes

In response to a question on another thread some time ago, here is the data on energy usage of TriMet vehicles, compared to representative numbers for autos, measured in BTUs per passenger mile:

TriMet MAX646
TriMet Bus 3,792
Auto (17 mpg)6,712
SUV (14 mpg)8,150

Guest Column: Fare Increases for Honored Citizens

Joel Weishaus is a neighborhood activist in NW Portland and a member of the Northwest Elder Advisory Team, a program of Friendly House.

He writes that he has sent this letter to TriMet (PDF) [linked document removed at request of author] regarding the impact of fare increases on senior citizens. The letter was copied to Mayor Potter and Commissioner Adams. He indicates that to date no response has been received.

Transportation on the Cheap

A common criticism of Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) is that it drives up housing costs. While I believe there is ample evidence that housing costs have risen even more dramatically in many sprawling regions, a new report offers evidence that Portland’s compact urban form generates an economic benefit in reduced transportation costs.

Driven to Spend: Pumping Dollars out of Our Households and Communities, released this month by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Surface Transportation Policy Project, puts Portland at position 27 on the list of the country’s 28 major Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) for cost of transportation (Baltimore edged us out for the lowest cost). The national average is 19.1% of household expenditures spent on transportation, while here in Portland we come in at 15.1%. Houston is most expensive at 20.9%.

On the housing side of the ledger, the Portland MSA spends 34.5% of household expenditures (12 MSAs are more expensive), against a national average of 32.9%. Looking at housing and transportation combined, we are the fourth most affordable, at 49.6% of household expenditures (national average, 52.0%).

Among the key findings of the report: “Households in regions that have invested in public transportation reap financial benefits from having affordable transportation options, even as gasoline prices rise.”

I’ll cringe a little bit less as I pay my Trimet fare come September.