Category Archives: Ecology

Earmark Supporters Should Run for Local Office


If you are interested in national issues such as defense, foreign policy, and trade, and want to hold public office, you should run for Congress. If you are interested in roads, beaches, subways, and policing, you should run for city council or the state legislature.

The push to restore earmarks in Congress is led by politicians who got elected to the wrong democratic body. In a pro-earmark story today, the Washington Post highlights projects that members say justify the narrow spending set-asides:

“There is a 14-mile gap in Interstate 49 outside Fort Smith, Ark., and Rep. Steve Womack, who represents the area, would very much like to secure the estimated $300 million in federal taxpayer money needed to fill it.”
“Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), who is pushing a proposal that would allow Congress to earmark money for … a pair of water projects he said have been neglected in his district: a beach restoration in an area where the Gulf of Mexico is starting to lap at homes, and repairs to the massive Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee.
“The Second Avenue Subway in New York City, which opened last year, received more than $600 million.”
“Dozens of police departments received money to improve their equipment and communications systems.
I have questions for the members supporting federal spending on these projects:

Why doesn’t the Arkansas legislature fund the I-49?
If Florida beach restoration is important but neglected, why don’t landowners and city councils along the coast fund it?
New Yorkers may support their subway project, but why should taxpayers elsewhere pay for it? And when asked to vote on it, how could members from other states judge whether it made any sense?
Since policing is a crucial function of local government, wouldn’t citizens support local taxes to buy needed equipment?
The earmark issue is usually framed as a battle of the purse between federal politicians and federal bureaucrats. But the more important issue is ensuring that activities are funded at the level of government that makes the most sense. I discuss here why state and local funding makes sense for state and local activities. As for Congress, it suffers from structural failures that cause it to spend wastefully much of the time, so the less money flowing through it the better.


Autopilot for Refuse Collection Vehicles

Waste Management World

The Autonomous Refuse Collection Vehicle (RCV) is driven normally on
the highway, but having ‘learned’ the collection round (route) it is able to start and stop at the location of each waste container automatically, without the driver being in the cab. As is about to be demonstrated here in Brussels…

It works for aircraft. It works for harvesters in agriculture. So why shouldn’t refuse collection vehicles benefit from ‘autonomous technology’? Malcolm Bates got invited to a demonstration in the heart of Brussels where just such a question was posed.

This is surreal. I’m standing in a square in the heart of Brussels, Belgium. My day started out with what, to most people at my local railway station, would have been a commuter journey into the City of London. Instead, I transferred to a Eurostar train, arriving in Brussels just a couple of hours later.

But I’m not here to make representations to the European Parliament. Or to look at the admittedly rather grand architecture. I’m here to see a garbage truck that can drive itself. Seriously. And here it is, surrounded by a cordon of barriers – and some heavy-looking security guards wear- ing dark ‘shades’.

My first question? Are they here to stop the vehicle escaping? Or, more likely I guess, stop over-inquisitive passers-by getting too close? Not that any of them are looking inquisitively at a garbage truck – even one as advanced as this.

They mostly seem to be wondering why the square is covered in cones and barriers. And journalists. Clearly the organisers – Volvo Truck Corporation, together with compaction body manufacturer Geesink and the end- user, the waste contractor Renova, were keen the demonstration should go ahead without any hitch. Because aside from journalists from all over Europe, some very important people from the offices of various EU commissions and committees that might have a say in how road vehicles in the future might be operated and regulated, were also invited to the demonstration.

While I’m looking at the still stationary truck, I’m also wondering what happens if there was some interference, technical failure, or some other unforeseen set of circumstances. Would the autonomous refuse collection vehicle quite literally be able to drive itself off in the wrong direction? And if so, who could stop it?

Who would be legally responsible, in case of an accident? After all, it’s one thing for the technicians at Volvo to modify a truck to work ‘driverless’ in a mine, or quarry, or some other hostile environment. Any dangerous environment might endanger the life of the driver, so clearly, not having one is an advantage. But a garbage truck working in a typical subur- ban street containing parked cars, children playing and older people crossing the road at any time? That is surely a different scenario?


So is this a case of ‘technology gone mad’? Or are there some real advantages we all might have missed? Technicians at Volvo Truck Corporation, headed by Hayder Wokil, the director responsible for ‘Autonomous and Automated Driving’ development, have indeed already developed the technology to enable trucks (and agricultural and construction machinery) to operate more efficiently than would other- wise be possible by entirely manual control.

In Brazil, for example, ‘auto- pilot’ technology enables the trucks to follow in exactly the same tracks as the harvester in sugar cane fields, thus damaging less of the crop. In such a case, the driver is still in con- trol of speed – and braking – but the technology handles the steering in the fields.

In Sweden, Volvo trucks have indeed been modified to work totally autonomously in mines and quarries, where regular blasting requires a long safety period before sending in a manually driven truck. Because there is no driver in the cab, the fully autonomous vehicle is able to go into the work zone sooner, thus increasing productivity.

Autonomous technology can also offer advantages to operators of ve- hicles on the highway: computing the optimum engine revolutions, throttle input and braking can save a considerable amount of fuel, while reducing wear and tear on the truck’s brakes and driveline. The hard part is deciding how far this technology might – or should – go in the collection of waste and recy- clable materials.

The officials have arrived from a series of seminars now and we’re ready for the ‘live’ demonstration. To make full sense of the thinking employed by Volvo technicians, we need to remember that Sweden is a country of just 10 million people, many of whom live in rural areas. And because housing density out- side of the major cities is low, refuse collection vehicles (RCVs) tend to operate either with a driver and one crew member, or in many cases, just the driver. This is where the techno- logy is designed to help …

The demonstration represents what in real life would be a cul-de-sac of suburban houses, each requiring the driver to make a stop, collect the bin, then move a few more metres to the next.

With a driver and one crew member, this would be an easy task, but for council (commune) collections in rural areas, or for commer- cial waste operations where only the driver is employed, it would involve the driver entering and exiting the cab in between every binlifting op- eration. Or requiring the driver to walk between each house, leaving the vehicle unattended. Or – and here’s a key safety issue – when under pres- sure, perhaps forget to engage the handbrake, after each stop. Or make a rash reversing manoeuvre, without checking it is safe to do so.

With the autonomous techno- logy, the RCV follows the driver from house to house without the need to get in and out of the cab between each lift. In Sweden and other cold climates, there is an added safety advantage in that each cab entry/ exit operation is a potential slip-up which might result in injury. So any- thing to reduce that number could potentially reduce the risk.

But what about injury to pedestri- ans? What stops the vehicle running them over? Or the vehicle ending-up on a suburban lawn? And how does the vehicle ‘drive’ without the driver being in the cab? The answer is a combination of things. Firstly, this otherwise entirely standard-looking Volvo ‘FM330’ RCV chassis is fitted with four sensors located at each cor- ner.

These are capable of detecting anything that might be getting too close for comfort – like a parked car. Or small child. Secondly, the driver – who is likely to be walking from one bin to the next – has a small con- sole which contains a manual over- ride control to stop the vehicle in an emergency. But the really clever as- pect of the Volvo Autonomous RCV is that is already knows where it is going and what manoeuvre it needs to undertake next.

How? By the com- bination of GPS technology and route software – plus the fact that it is able to ‘learn’ the right sequence of events in any given collection round (route) from a manually controlled run with the driver in charge. It then replicates the same stops where each bin is located on subsequent visits.

To watch the vehicle following the driver at a slow walking pace between each bin, or container, helps make the point about reducing the risk to the driver from slipping on the cab steps due to icy conditions in northern climates like Norway or Sweden. But what about in the rest of the world?

According to Hayder Wokil, one of the other key areas of concern in respect of safety – and one with a wider global appeal – relates to damage to the vehicle and/or incidents involving the vehicle and pedestrians when reversing. Of course where a crew is employed, the rule should be that the driver only reverses while under the direction of a ‘banksman’ – a crew member tasked with the job of ensuring that it is safe for the vehicle to reverse.

Tragically, however, in spite of many modern RCVs having reversing radar warning systems and multi-camera CCTV systems (which automatically switch the driver’s screen to view the rear camera when reverse gear is engaged), injuries and even fatalities continue to occur. Hayder Wokil, who made a presentation in Brussels, points out that as the ‘driver’ is able to walk around the autonomous RCV as it reverses, it is possible to see any potential danger far sooner.

We Should Never Allow Science to be Defeated by Fake News

Why the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is an affront to science, our planet, and our future generations.

As Donald Trump pulls the plug on the United States’ involvement in the Climate Change Agreement, ISWA President Antonis Mavropoulos makes it very clear that this is an affront to science, our planet and to our future generations.

The International Solid Waste Association stands with all the industrial and political leaders who have since spoken out against this dangerous action.

The recent announcement that the US is leaving the Paris Accord is a decision that will create huge profits for the fossil fuels industry and huge costs for the whole planet, especially for the poorest and more vulnerable countries and populations.

It demonstrates how vulnerable and politically fragile is a landmark agreement that took many years to be developed. It highlights that the available tools and mechanisms for a global response to planetary challenges are not yet strong enough. It also reminds us that the road towards the implementation of the Paris Accord will be a continuous fight against long-term established interests that still try to dominate our future.

The immediate reactions from 61 US Mayors and 3 US States, in combination with the global outrage against Donald Trump’s decision, confirm that the world will find a way to respond to this historical pushback that puts the whole planet at risk. I do hope that this decision will create a new wave of coordinated efforts to implement and simulate climate adaptation and mitigation measures.

This decision is also a clear sign of the divorce between US climate policy and science. In today’s complex, multipolar and interconnected world, science and scientific analysis remain the key elements for proper policy making. ISWA, as a scientific organisation, will always advocate, and contribute to, more and not less science in public policies and decision making.

The message for all of us is clear. ISWA will work harder to ensure that the Paris Accord, as a minimum measure to avoid the planet’s catastrophe, will stay on track. We will work more intensively to close the world’s biggest dumpsites and ensure that this will result in substantial reduction of CO2 emissions.

We will continue to demonstrate that integrated sustainable waste management is a key-contribution to climate change mitigation efforts, and a cornerstone of the Sustainable Development Goals. ISWA will insist to transform the waste sector, worldwide, to a net CO2 saver, as the evolution of the waste sector in Europe has already highlighted.

We should never allow science to be defeated by fake news. We cannot afford a revenge of Middle Ages against Renaissance.

Outrage from Many as Trump Dumps Paris Climate Agreement

OMG!!! Even usually conservative Waste Management World is uptight about President Trump and his decision not bow out of Paris Accord.

Having made good on his promise to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, President Trump is once again the focus of a hailstorm of criticism.

“We’re getting out,” he told the assembled crowd. “We will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. If we can, that’s great. If we can’t – that’s fine. As President, I can put no other consideration ahead of the wellbeing of American citizens.”

“The Paris climate accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers – who I love – and taxpayers to absorb the cost, in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production,” continued President Trump.

“It would once have been unthinkable that an international agreement could stop the US conducting its own domestic affairs,” he said in a public address at 3 pm this afternoon Eastern Time today. “At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?”

“The Paris agreement handicaps the United States Economy,” he said, later adding: “The Paris Framework is just a starting point, as bad as it is, not an end point.”

ISWA’s Response
The International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) President, Antonis Mavropoulos, immediately warned that by ditching the hard won agreement involving 197 countries, Trump is divorcing US climate policy from science. In a statement to WMW he said:

“Trump’s move demonstrates how vulnerable and political fragile is a landmark agreement that took many years to be developed.

“It highlights that the available tools and mechanisms for a global response to planetary challenges are simply not suitable to manage the challenges ahead. It is also a clear sign of the divorce between US climate policy and science.

“The message for all of us is clear: we need to work 10 times harder to ensure that Paris Agreement, as a minimum measure to avoid the planet’s catastrophe, will stay on track.

“I am pretty sure than many US States and the majority of US citizens will follow this path too. ISWA will take part actively in each and every effort that contributes to keep the Paris Agreement alive and active – we will always have Paris, with or without Trump”.

Financial Implications
According to Anthony Hobley, CEO of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, the move is an economic and leadership failure of monumental proportions.

“The rest of the world and key parts of the US economy, such as California, will get on with implementation regardless,” he said.

“Our financial analysis shows beyond doubt that the low carbon transition underway is driven by unstoppable technological change and innovation. New energy generation from renewables has overtaken new generation from coal. In the United States alone solar jobs grew 25% last year, more than in the oil, gas and coal sectors.

In a letter to Trump arguing against the move, Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) highlighted a similar point:

“Withdrawing from the agreement or failing to meet our commitments would undermine the United States’ credibility and position as a global leader, empowering sometimes adversarial nations like China to not only drive the agenda and set international standards but also reap the economic benefits of a growing clean energy sector.”

Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) also issued a statement on the issue: “Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement would put the future of our country and our world at risk. The science is clear. If we don’t act on climate in this pivotal moment, future generations will be the ones who pay the price.

“Yet, at a time when the world is looking to our country for leadership, the President seems intent on stepping back. We must keep fighting to reduce carbon emissions and preserve the health, economic, and environmental security of our communities.”

State Level Action
Regardless of Trump’s actions at a national and international level, a number of US States themselves are stepping up to their responsibilities.

Though not surprised, he said that he was disappointed by the intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, and labelled it “misguided, ill-informed, and backward-looking”.

In a statement, he said: “We should not be making America dirtier again. Abandoning the Agreement would also result in the United States ceding its leadership in addressing carbon and methane pollution at a time when we cannot afford inaction. Now more than ever we need states like California as well as our allies overseas to fill Trump’s void and continue fighting for a greener planet…. P.S. Coal is not coming back.”

State level action was something proposed by Sierra Club Illinois Director, Jack Darin:

“Donald Trump may be doing everything in his power to take America backward on clean energy and climate action, but that doesn’t mean Illinois has to follow him.

“Climate change is a grave threat to Illinois’ health, communities, and agriculture. Dozens of Illinois mayors and communities have already made commitments to reduce carbon emissions, and Illinois should do the same.

“A state plan to reduce carbon pollution would help Illinois benefit from the global clean energy economy, despite Trump’s steps backward, and build on the good jobs in clean energy that are on the way for our workers and communities under the Future Energy Jobs Act.”

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman called Trump’s decision the latest example of his administration’s dangerous attack on urgent and common sense efforts to kerb the devastating impacts of climate change.

“Climate change is causing real harm to communities around New York and across the country. Yet time and again, President Trump has proven he’s more interested in protecting polluters than people.

“I have not – and will not – hesitate to hold President Trump accountable for any climate policies that threaten New Yorkers. Efforts by Attorneys General and concerned citizens across the country are already forcing the Trump administration to retreat from some of its dangerous anti-climate policies.

Schneiderman noted that Just last week, the Trump administration reversed course on energy efficiency standards after we sued.

“From defending the Clean Power Plan, to fighting President Trump’s efforts to gut the Clean Water Rule, our work to preserve and protect public health and the environment will continue,” he said “I will use the full power of my office to protect New Yorkers and our planet – and to fight the Trump Administration’s harmful and retrograde actions.”

International Reaction
Both US and foreign politicians have been quick to express bewilderment, alarm, disappointment, and a determination to go on without the US.

Following discussions regarding the Paris Agreement at the recent G7 conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said talks with Trump has been “very difficult, if not to say, very unsatisfactory.” She concluded that if the US would no longer work with its allies then Europe needed to unify and take care of itself.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni echoed this thought: “This takes nothing away from the importance of our trans-Atlantic ties and our alliance with the United States, but the importance we put on these ties cannot mean that we abandon fundamental principles such as our commitment to fight climate change and in favour of open societies and free trade,” he told the media.

In a 1 June article by the Guardian, Richard Black, director of the UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, was reported to have said: “A pullout would widen the diplomatic rift with Europe that emerged at the G7 summit and could even lead to trade barriers being erected against US exports.”

Union Station’s Fred Harvey Room is officially restored

LA Curbed via California Rail News

Just off of Union Station’s South Patio, an elegant sign hangs from a gorgeous wall of brass-paneled windows, stating simply “restaurant.”

That restaurant—a Harvey House that, during World War II, became a popular waystation for soldiers shipping out of the railway station to their posts—shuttered more than five decades ago.

Today, stepping through the glass doors and into the airy Art Deco space, known as the Fred Harvey Room, feels like traveling back in time.

It’s a feeling that’s all the more pronounced now that its neglected mezzanine has been meticulously restored

One of the last restaurants operating in a chain once ubiquitous at railway stations, Union Station’s Harvey House closed in 1967, but continued to host the occasional private event or film shoot, including a music video for Fiona Apple’s 2009 song “Paper Bag.”

What is a GREEN Railroad?

The Railpower GG20B Green Goat is a low-emissions diesel hybrid switcherlocomotive built by Railpower Technologies Corp. It is powered by a single Caterpillar C9 six cylinder inline engine developing 300 horsepower (224 kW), which is also connected to a large battery bank where both sources combine for a total power output of 2,000 horsepower (1,490 kW).

Union Pacific Saves Fuel While Increasing Efficiency

Fuel reduction initiatives save nearly $7 million during first quarter

Omaha, Neb., April 28, 2006 – As fuel prices continue to rise, the pain at the pump is leading consumers to look for ways to improve fuel economy. The same is true for the nation’s largest railroad. Imagine the cost of fueling a 4,000 horsepower vehicle with a 4,900-gallon tank. Union Pacific fuels nearly 8,000 of these vehicles every day. They are the diesel locomotives that move the consumer goods, food, energy and construction materials fueling the nation’s economy.

Even though fuel prices are at record highs, and the railroad is hauling more materials than ever before (four percent more than last year at this time), Union Pacific was able to shave two percent off its diesel fuel consumption during the first quarter of 2006 – resulting in nearly $7 million in savings. The railroad was able to achieve the savings through a number of energy conservation initiatives, including:
* Creation and deployment of the Fuel Masters program to reward locomotive engineers for efficiently operating trains
* Acquisition of newer, more fuel-efficient locomotives
* Implementation of changes in traffic flow and operations to move freight more efficiently.

“We all have a role to play in helping conserve fuel for our nation, and Union Pacific employees are doing it every day,” said Jim Young, president and CEO, Union Pacific. “In a relatively short period of time, our employees have made great strides in implementing and creating world-class energy conservation techniques that are helping us to move more freight while saving fuel. With their help we will continue to improve our efficiency while delivering the goods America needs.”

Railroad versus Road

In terms of fuel efficiency, railroads are three times more fuel-efficient than trucks. If just 10 percent of the freight moved by highway were diverted to rail, the nation could save as much as 200 million gallons of fuel each year. And, railroad fuel efficiency has increased by 72 percent since 1980. Prior to 1980, a gallon of diesel fuel moved one ton of freight an average of 235 miles. In 2001, the same amount of fuel moved one ton of freight an average of 406 miles. Overall, railroads and rail suppliers have reduced the weight and increased the capacity of rail cars to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

Studies also indicate the diversion of freight traffic from truck to rail can reduce highway congestion. For example:
* One intermodal train can take 280 trucks (equal to 1,100 cars) off our already congested highways
* Trains carrying other types of freight can take up to 500 trucks off the highway.

A study of 50 major U.S. metro areas by transportation consultant Wendell Cox found that the diversion of 25 percent of truck freight to rail would lead, by 2025, to:
* 2.8 billion fewer traveler-hours wasted in congested traffic
* A savings of 16 billion gallons of fuel
* Nearly 800,000 fewer tons of air pollution.

“Union Pacific is committed to the development and use of new technologies to preserve the environment for future generations,” said Young. “Environmental protection is a primary management responsibility as well as the responsibility of every Union Pacific employee.”

A Green Railroad Did you know that railroads are one of the most environmentally friendly modes of freight transportation? It’s true. Freight trains are three times more fuel-efficient than over-the-road trucks and have less of an impact on air emissions than trucks.

With nearly 55 percent of its locomotives certified under existing EPA Tier 0, Tier 1 and Tier 2 standards, UP owns the cleanest fleet in the nation, using technology to further reduce fuel consumption and diesel engine exhaust-related emissions.

Union Pacific has been working with two manufacturers to field-test new, high-horsepower locomotives that surpass the EPA’s most stringent emission standards. UP was able to test the locomotives under severe operating conditions before the locomotives went into production. Since 2000, more than 2,600 new fuel-efficient, long-haul, high-horsepower locomotives have been added to Union Pacific’s fleet. More than 1,700 older locomotives were retired, and more than 1,700 locomotive diesel engines were overhauled or rebuilt.

To reduce emissions in the train yard, Union Pacific tested the world’s first diesel-battery hybrid switch locomotive in early 2002. The “Green Goat” is similar in concept to the Toyota Prius automobile, which relies on both a gasoline engine and on a battery-powered electric motor.

The Green Goat, however, depends entirely on its large, onboard storage batteries, which are charged by a small diesel engine, to provide all propulsion power. The Green Goat hybrid locomotive is estimated to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter by up to 80, and reduce fuel consumption by at least 16 percent, compared to a conventional switch locomotive.

Union Pacific also is pioneering another low-emissions switch locomotive, the “Genset Switcher.” This prototype uses modified, low-emissions EPA-certified “off-road” diesel engines (derived from low-emissions, truck-style diesel engines) and was delivered to the railroad in late 2005.

Like the Green Goat hybrid, the Genset is expected to reduce emission of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter by up to 80 percent and achieve a similar 16 percent reduction in fuel consumption. In 2007, some 150 Gensets are scheduled to begin service.

AL GORE, take note, these people are trying!

A lot of us think more mass transit when we think “Green Railroad”. Both freight and passenger are important.

Take a look at an “OP-ED” viewpoint on green railroads. Thought provoking!


Find other stories like this one


Real Welfare Cadillacs Have 18 Wheels

Truck freight movement gets a subsidy of between $57 and $128 billion annually in the form of uncompensated social costs, over and above what trucks pay in taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

If trucking companies paid the full costs associated with moving truck freight, we’d have less road damage and congestion, fewer crashes, and more funding to pay for the transportation system.

What with all the speculation about a possible trillion dollar spending package for infrastructure, we’ve been hearing a lot about about crumbling bridges, structurally deficient roads, and the need for more highway capacity.

It’s clear that our transportation finance system is broken. To make up the deficit, politicians frequently call for increased user fees – through increased taxes on gasoline, vehicle miles traveled, or even bikes. All the while, one of the biggest users of the transportation network – the trucking industry – has been rolling down the highway fueled by billions in federal subsidies.

A 2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office estimates that truck freight causes more than $58 to $129 billion annually in damages and social costs in the form of wear and tear on the roads, crashes, congestion and pollution – an amount well above and beyond what trucking companies currently pay in taxes.

CBO doesn’t report that headline number, instead computing that the external social costs of truck freight on a “cents per ton mile basis” range between 2.62 and 5.86 cents per ton mile. For the average heavy truck, they estimate that the cost works out to about 21 to 46 cents per mile travelled.

Unfortunately, trucking companies don’t pay these costs. They are passed along to the rest of us in the form of damaged roads, crash costs, increased congestion and air pollution. Because they don’t pay the costs of these negative externalities, the firms that send goods by truck don’t have to consider them when deciding how and where to ship goods. This translates into a huge subsidy for the trucking industry of of between 21 and 46 cents per mile.

For comparison, CBO looked at the social costs associated with moving freight by rail. Railroads have much lower social costs, for two reasons: first, rail transport is much more energy efficient and less polluting per ton mile of travel; second, because railroads are built and maintained by their private owners, most of the cost of wear and tear is borne by private users, not the public. Railroad freight does produce social costs associated with pollution and crashes, but the social costs of moving freight by rail are about one-seventh that for truck movements: about 0.5 to 0.8 cents per ton mile, compared to 2.52 to 5.86 per ton mile for trucks.

There’s a clear lesson here: It may seem like we have a shortage of infrastructure, or lack the funding to pay for the transportation system, but the fact that truck freight is so heavily subsidized means that there’s a lot more demand (and congestion) on the the roads that there would be if trucks actually paid their way. On top of that, there’d be a lot more money to cover the cost of the system we already have.

So the next time someone laments the sad state of the road system, or wonders why we can’t afford more investment, you might want to point out some 18-wheelers who are now getting a one heck of a free ride, at everyone’s expense.

View the full report: “Pricing Freight Transport to Account for External Costs: Working Paper 2015-03“

Uber Can’t Replace Transit — Here Are 3 Reasons Why

Transit projects from Detroit to Nashville are running up against a new argument from opponents. The latest line from anti-transit types is that ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft are going to make fixed-route bus or rail service obsolete.

It doesn’t hold up if you’ve given some thought to the huge amount of space cars consume compared to buses or trains. But many people don’t spend their days thinking about the spatial efficiency of transit.

1. Uber and Lyft hog too much space

Let’s say, hypothetically, that a city gives up on transit service because officials think Uber and Lyft can take care of things from now on. Imagine what happens next: Everyone who rides the LA Metro Bus system suddenly crowds onto the 405 in an Uber, every passenger on New York’s L train has to hail a ride over the Williamsburg Bridge. The result would be total gridlock.

Uber and Lyft have some advantages in certain contexts. But car services can’t overcome urban geometry.

2. Even lightly-used transit beats heavily-used ride-hailing services

Not every bus is packed, but even a mostly-empty bus can use streets more efficiently than Ubercars. A bus carrying about 10 passengers per service hour is generally considered to be “low-performing,” TransitCenter points out. But that still beats the pants off ride-hail services.

“For an Uber or Lyft driver to serve ten people per hour,” writes TransitCenter, “it would mean the driver is picking up a new passenger every six minutes, physically impossible in American cities.”

3. Demand for transit peaks at different times than demand for taxis

If you look at when Uber and Lyft are most popular, it’s during the night, when transit runs less often. Meanwhile, transit is at its fullest during the a.m. and p.m. rush. Not many people use Uber and Lyft for regular commuting.

Transit and ride-hailing services can complement each other — especially at times or in places where transit is weaker. But don’t be taken in by anyone predicting the end of transit — buses and trains aren’t going anywhere.

Elon Musk’s idea for fixing traffic suffers from one fundamental problem

Elon Musk — the restless billionaire behind Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity — was stuck in annoying traffic and mused that one solution would be to drill more tunnels. All he’d need, really, is a giant machine…

Everyone’s trying to figure out whether Musk is genuinely serious about starting a brand-new tunnel-boring company or not. Who knows! But tunnels are fun to think about, so why not pretend he is serious and think through how this might actually work….

One obvious hitch to Musk’s scheme is that some cities are already trying to dig new tunnels to accommodate traffic — and it’s far from easy! There’s a lot of existing infrastructure buried in the ground beneath cities, from water mains to electrical cables. And the tunnels themselves often need to be reinforced. That makes tunneling slow, difficult, and expensive work.

Seattle is a cautionary tale here: Since 2013, the city has employed a massive 57-foot-diameter boring machine named Big Bertha to drill a 2-mile highway tunnel beneath the downtown area. Yet six months after work began, Big Bertha broke down after overheating. Drilling finally resumed in late 2015 — but then had to stop again after a sinkhole opened up near construction. Perhaps Musk can improve on Big Bertha. But that brings us to an even deeper problem with his idea. Building more tunnels is just not a good way to alleviate traffic congestion. In fact, it would likely do the opposite.

The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more
In January 2016, during SpaceX’s Hyperloop pod design competition, Musk explained why he thought tunnels could help alleviate traffic:

It’s a really simple and obvious idea and I wish more people would do it: build more tunnels. Tunnels are great. It’s just a hole in the ground, it’s not that hard. But if you have tunnels in cities you would massively alleviate congestion and you could have tunnels at all different levels — you could probably have 30 layers of tunnels and completely fix the congestion problem in high-density cities. So I strongly recommend tunnels.

Except economists and traffic experts have been studying this issue for a long time and they’ve found the exact opposite. When cities add new roads to a congested area, it usually doesn’t alleviate congestion. Instead, it just induces more traffic, as people take advantage of the added road space to drive more.

Granted, there can still be good reasons for fast-growing cities to build new roads. They just shouldn’t necessarily expect traffic jams to disappear as a result. Los Angeles got a firsthand glimpse of this after widening its I-405 freeway, a project that cost $1 billion. “The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening,”

So what does help alleviate congestion? If cities really want to erase traffic jams, many transportation economists would instead recommend that they charge people to use roads when they’re crowded — a policy known as congestion pricing that has popped up in places like London, Singapore, and Stockholm.

Early research suggests that pricing really does cut down on traffic, as people decide to move their commutes to non-peak hours, shift to mass transit, or cut down on trips overall. It’s arguably even more effective if cities use the funds to provide alternative transportation options.

The downside is that congestion charging tends to be rather unpopular, since people don’t like it when they suddenly have to pay for something that used to be free. (It’s the same reason why checked-baggage fees on airplanes have incurred such a backlash.) So urban planners tend to favor building new roads and widening existing roads — or, in Musk’s case, new tunnels — even if the research suggests again and again that it doesn’t cut down on congestion.

Now, that doesn’t mean a tunneling machine would be useless! Remember, Musk also has plans to start colonizing Mars within a decade. And humans living on Mars would probably want to spend most of their time underground to avoid the higher levels of solar radiation that hits the planet.

High speed railway delivery service covers 505 Chinese cities

Chinese state-run express rail delivery service China Railway Express says its now able to serve all the cities across China which are directly connected to the high-speed rail system.

China Railway Express director Huang Jian says they are now able to provide three-tiered delivery services to 505 cities across China.

“For economical services we are able to deliver goods within 72 hours, charging 10 yuan for the first kilogram. Prices for delivery within two days start at 17 yuan for the first kilogram. For the same-day delivery, the price starts at 130 yuan.” (One Dollar is 6.8 Yuan)

China Railway Express began in 2014, and serviced around 100 cities at that time.

The company is a subsidiary of the China Railway Corporation, which is the former Ministry of Railways.

China is home to the world’s longest high-speed train system, with tracks covering over 20-thousand kilometers.