Thursday, June 26, 2008

Amtrak's Busiest Month in History

Last month Amtrak had its busiest month in its history. Nationwide ridership for May 2008 was up nearly 11%. For NPR's story, their reporter rode the Heartland Flyer, which travels between Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Fort Worth, Texas. One rider on that train compared the price of a round trip ticket on Amtrak, $66, to the price for gas one-way in his truck -- $80. When this blogger checked on ticket availability for the Hearland Flyer for Friday morning, he found the train sold out.

Amtrak spokesman Mark Magliari says that half of the increase in ridership this year is due to the high price of fuel. As of today, Thursday, a seat in coach from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, on Monday's train is $30.00. The trip of 200 miles in the most popular SUV in America, a Honda CR-V (22mpg), would cost $34.72 if you paid $3.82/gallon, the average price in Oklahoma City.

Photo from flickr user sheilaellen

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Work Underway on Flying Car

In 2005 Milner Motors started work on a roadable aircraft now called the Milner AirCar. According to March 2008 issue (Starting on page 80 of this 132 page pdf) of Aerospace Testing International, that same craft is being readied for NHTSA crash testing and James Milner believes that the roadable section already exceeds Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) crashworthiness requirements and Federal Aviation Regulation requirements. The craft will carry 4 people and fly at 200 mph and reach an altitude of 25,000 feet. The aircraft engine should have 320bhp and the roading motor will be 40bhp and allow it to get up to 85 mph on the highway. The AirCar is expected to sell for around $450,000. The company will also be building a nonflying electric car of the same design.

A different approach to the flying car idea is Paul Moller's Skycar. Whereas the Milner craft will need to be driven to the airport for take-off, the Moller Skycar, being a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)craft, will need no runway, and is not drivable as a conventional car at all. The Skycar is expected to have a top airspeed of 375 mph, reach 36,000 feet, and get you from location to location entirely by air. If you want one of the first 100 units, it will cost you around a million dollars. Moller has been working on developing a commercial VTOL craft for around forty years.

Images courtesy Milner Motors

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Most and Least Fuel Efficient Cars

With the price of regular gas in the U.S. typically over $4.50/gallon many people are looking for more fuel efficient cars. Fortunately, the Department of Energy and the EPA have compiled a list of fuel efficiency ratings at

Toyota Prius Hybrid, $29K ; 48 mpg city, 45 highway
Honda Civic Hybrid, $24K ; 40 mpg city, 45 highway
Smart ForTwo, $14K ; 33 mpg city, 41 highway
Toyota Yaris, $17K ; 29 mpg city, 36 highway
Mini Cooper manual, $19K ; 28 mpg city, 37 highway
Toyota Corrola, $23K ; 28 mpg city, 37 highway
Honda Fit, $19K ; 28 mpg city, 34 highway

Among the least fuel efficient vehicles you'll find:

Mercedes-Benz G 55 AMG 4WD, $112K ; 11 mpg city, 13 highway

Toyota Sienna 4WD, $42K ; 16 mpg city, 21 highway

Small pickup truck
Ford Ranger 4WD, $26K ; 14 mpg city, 17 highway

2 Seater
Lamborghini Murcielago, $500K ; 8 mpg city, 13 highway

Prices based on common configurations found in the San Francisco Bay Area from

Find the cheapest gas in your area (within the U.S.) through AAA's website. After you've entered your zip code, click on AAA Gas Price Finder.

Bloomberg Takes It to the Streets!

Photo courtesy of

The New York Times is reporting on a new experiment in New York City to have a "car-free zone" for three Saturdays in August. The article reports that
“If it works, we’ll certainly consider doing it again,” Mr. Bloomberg said, at a news conference in the East Village on Lafayette Street, which will be included in the route. “If not, we won’t. But we have never been afraid to try new ideas, especially the ones that have the potential to improve the quality of life
The area affected will be contained to Manhattan, from the hours of 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Some detractors worry about the impact on business, while others speculate that increased foot traffic will compensate. Cyclists were, however, uniformly positive in their reactions.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Head Injuries on the Rise in Pennsylvania

In 2003, Pennsylvania repealed its universal helmet law. If you're over 21 and you have more than two years' riding experience, you can now ride without a helmet in Pennsylvania. The authors of a paper to be published in the August 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health found a 32% increase in head injury deaths and a 42% increase in head injury-related hospitalizations in the two years after the helmet law was repealed -- and that's after taking into account the increase in motorcycle registrations. A University of Pittsburgh press release summarizes the finding of the report, "Changes in Motorcycle-Related Head Injury Deaths, Hospitalizations,and Hospital Charges Following Repeal of Pennsylvania’s Mandatory Motorcycle Helmet Law," was co-authored by Kristen J. Mertz and Harold B. Weiss of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh.

According to an article in Hanover, PA's Evening Sun, 20 states have laws requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets, while 27 states have laws that require minors or passengers to wear head protection. Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire have no helmet laws.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hypermiling - Green alternative or just Cheap?

Photo courtesy of Simply Marvelous.

There are many different responses to rising fuel prices- driving less, complaining more, using more fuel efficient vehicles, or making your current vehicle more fuel efficient. One group has taken common tips to for fuel efficiency to the extreme- Hypermiling.

Hypermilers have six core techniques:
  1. First (and most important) step: Start recording your gas mileage. Easiest way? Use your trip odometer.

  2. Do you drive aggressively and not know it?

  3. How long are you sitting still at red lights?

  4. Keeping moving in traffic congestion

  5. Slowly accelerate after stops

  6. Your cruise control saves gas

Both NPR and CNN have profiled Hypermilers recently, and it's clear that it's attractive to people as both a way to save money and to help cut down on emissions.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Record wingsuit flight over Galway Bay

Image courtesy of Galway Advertiser.

Swiss wingsuit master Ueli Gegenschatz has broken the record for such flights. Jumping from a skydiving craft 14,760 feet over the Aran Islands in Galway Bay he flew unaided to the mainland, a distance of almost 11 miles. Aided by a tailwind he achieved a speed of 155 miles an hour, taking just 5 mins 45 sec to reach Connemara Regional Airport before parachuting to the ground.

(Another stunning picture of Gegenschatz directly over Inis Mór, Aran's largest island, can be seen on the BBC's report.)