Friday, May 23, 2008

Gasoline, a bargain still

Image courtesy of

In a article, "Gasoline is cheap", business correspondent Robert Bryce points out that the current price of gasoline in the US is only slightly higher than it was in 1922. British motorists pay $8.38 per gallon, while drivers in Turkey pay three times as much as their US counterparts. For those of us who cannot get over the shock of the $4 gallon of gas, a related article describes the Five Stages of Grief and gasoline prices in America

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Go Green! Go Used!

Photo courtesy of Parker's.

Wired published an article that might make you think about the next vehicle you purchase. Worried about greenhouse gas emissions and global warming? Leaning towards a hybrid because they're better for the environment? Wired breaks down the emissions produced by building a hybrid car versus those emitted by a sensible used vehicle:
If a new Prius were placed head-to-head with a used car, would the Prius win? Don't bet on it. Making a Prius consumes 113 million BTUs, according to sustainability engineer Pablo Päster. A single gallon of gas contains about 113,000 Btus, so Toyota's green wonder guzzles the equivalent of 1,000 gallons before it clocks its first mile. A used car, on the other hand, starts with a significant advantage: The first owner has already paid off its carbon debt. Buy a decade-old Toyota Tercel, which gets a respectable 35 mpg, and the Prius will have to drive 100,000 miles to catch up.

We're quite fond of the Daihatsu Charade, which looks like an egg and gets great mileage.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Is the Bay Area Ready for Congestion Pricing?

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

In August 2007, the US Department of Transportation’s Urban Partnership Program made $158.7 million available to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to relieve traffic congestion. In order to receive the funds, SF hopes to introduce a variable toll on Doyle Drive, a connector to the Golden Gate Bridge. This would encourage drivers to switch to public transit or drive during less congested times of day.

Federal funds are at risk, however, as Marin and San Francisco argue about the fairness of tolls on the bridge and Doyle Drive. The board of directors of Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District voted on May 9 to consider a congestion-based toll for the bridge but what impact that will have on Doyle Drive tolling remains to be seen. The SFCTA has issued a Toll Feasibility Fact Sheet that outlines how the electronic tolling would work.

The proposal is meeting from resistance from North Bay drivers who characterize it as an attempt by San Francisco to make them help pay for the rebuilding of outdated and seismically unsafe Doyle Drive. Others argue that this is a regional problem that needs to be addressed from that perspective. The public will be able to weigh in at a bridge district hearing July 11.

Laura Stonehill, a student in the dual-degree program in Transportation Engineering and City Planning at UC Berkeley, won First Prize in the American Planning Association’s Transportation Planning Division’s 2008 competition for her paper, Congestion Pricing on Doyle Drive. Congestion pricing in this context, she notes, would serve not only to reduce demand during peak traffic times but also to generate funds to reconstruct the connector to the Golden Gate Bridge. She recommends addressing concerns of North Bay residents, being open with the public about the pricing scheme and its objectives, and setting prices so that congestion is actually mitigated. The success of such a project is critical since it would be the first large-scale application of congestion pricing in the U.S.