Re: Too Many Cars!

Bill Duesing writes:

 >Living on the Earth, February 21, 1997:  Too Many Cars!

 >Middle East will control an increasing share of world oil reserves. And
there is
 >a very real question about how much of the carbon in that oil we can
release as
 >carbon dioxide from our exhaust pipes before we create dramatic changes
in our
 >climate.  Indications are that those changes will not be good for human
 >The economic losses from weather-related natural disasters in just the
 >half of the 1990s were twice what they were for all of the 1980s. 

  While I don't dispute the last statement in the above (I don't know if
it is true or not, but it sounds plausible), ther is no evidence that
such weather related disasters are connected in any way to the total
consumption of fossil fuels in the US.

  Bill goes on in later paragraphs to write:

 >A visionary governor might suggest a large increase rather than a
decrease in
 >the gasoline tax in order to clean up our air and to protect our
future.  The
 >new revenue could be used to create a Connecticut that is more
 >"transportation-friendly" to disadvantaged groups- a place where
teenagers can
 >get to work and senior citizens can get to stores and doctors using
 >mass transportation.
 >A visionary governor might propose more "bicycle-friendly" road and
 >policies.  He or she could begin to build a light rail system. 

 Now I don't l know anything about the governor of Connecticut.  Didn't
even know his name until Bill mentioned it.  But his action in proposing
cutting gasoline taxes could be seen as that of a visionary if you don't
mind really looking at a few additional facts.

  One diesel locomotive pulling one of those trains on the current
computer rail lines, or one on that suggested light rail system, spews
out more CO than several hundred cars; much more than would be offset if
each passenger were to stop riding the trains and drive his/her own car
instead.  Or maybe he meant that the light rail system should be run on
electricity fed through a third rail?  Same thing.  All you have done is
move the CO dispersion from the rails to some distant generating plant,
unless of course, you are using nuclear power.  Hydroelectric plants that
do exist have all of their output already spoken for and I don't think
anyone is advocating building more dams on the country's rivers to
support more hydro plants.

  I don't know if the governor was catering to special interest groups
who support the total addiction to oil that Bill speaks of, or if he was
thinking about the facts as outlined above.  But in either case, I think
he wins this round.  His actions appear to me to be in the correct
direction to cut pollution, not increase it.

  Bill does make several good points concerning existing problems.  The
young, the old, the disabled, the poor; who cannot afford cars of their
own DO need some form of transportation.  I am just not sure the building
of a large scale mass transit system will solve those problems.  Busses
and trains do help to move people.  But they move them only from a
specifically designated place to another.  What about all the points in
between?  I rode busses in several different metro areas in the US on
several occasions while I lived and worked in those cities.  I always
seemed to end up walking a good distance to the bus stop near my point of
origin, and from the bus stop near my destination; even when living and
working right in the heart of the city.  Taxis are not an answer as they
are way too expensive for everyday use in most cases; especially for the
poor.  And the busses still spew out very heavy and large doses of
hydro-carbon pollutants; usually equal to that of several cars.

  A different type of system has evolved here on the island, especially
in areas outside the main metro area (a bus system runs in the metro area
as well as this other system).  There is a system of public cars that run
on regular routes, on rather loose schedules.  An owner/operator (or
several hired drivers for a fleet owned by one individual) drive the cars
which are regular four-door passenger cars and vans that carry either
five or up to eleven passengers (in the case of a large van).  One can
catch a public car at either the public car parking area in each town or
city, or simply stand along the road and flag one down as he passes. 
They all have distinctive license plates and marking, so they are easy to
spot from a distance.  Cost is variable depending on the route.  Ranging
from a low of 25 cents up to two dollars or so.  The routes are much more
diversified than bus routes, and for an additional, reasonable fee, a
passenger can usually find a driver who will make an extra side trip at
the end of the route to take you to your door.

  Consider the above as possible alternatives.

--Dan in Sunny Puerto Rico--