Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 | Author: matk62

Last week, I was sad to read in my local paper that an airport shuttle service was closing down after 35 years in the business.  In the Asbury Park Press, you can read the story entitled “Olympic Airporter succumbs to sour economy”.

They will stop operating this Friday (June 19, 2009).  It is a real shame to learn that this inexpensive alternative to taxis or parking at the airport will no longer be available.  Look at some of the many benefits of their service:

  • Convenience
  • Save gasoline
  • Reduce traffic
  • Provide good employment
  • Help local economy

They currently run 19 trips per day utilizing a fleet of 90 vehicles to service about 16,500 passengers a month.  That is over 500 people a day or almost 200,000 a year.

Sunset over Newark airportNow what are their clients options?  They can try other limo companies, but will probably pay more.  They can drive themselves, adding to traffic and paying almost $20 a day to park at the airport.  Or they could share rides.  If all the people that utilized this service got together on a ride sharing web site, they could help each other.  At least something good could come out of this bad situation.

Finally, my heart goes out to the 128 full and part-time employees at Olympic Airporter.  I wish them the best in finding new employment with these difficult economic conditions.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Joi

Category: Mass Transit, Red  | Tags: , , ,  | One Comment
Monday, June 08th, 2009 | Author: matk62

Have you heard of Playing For Change?  Their goal is bring peace to the world through music.  Below is one example of the powerful message they are sending out by uniting artist all over the world to create a cohesive whole from many distinct parts.

As you watch one of the videos, you can see and hear each individual’s contribution to the song.  It is very interesting to listen to how the musicians play off of each other even though they are entire continents away.

We all need to unite to solve many of the problems facing us today.  I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did and find encouragement in the message.

 

One Love, One Heart
Let’s get together and feel all right
Hear the children crying (One Love)
Hear the children crying (One Heart)
Sayin’ give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Sayin’ let’s get together and feel all right

Thursday, June 04th, 2009 | Author: matk62

If you have a few minutes, I urge you to take a look at this Streetsblog video of the McDonald’s Cycle Center in Chicago’s Millennium Park.  This is a great option for people who work in the area that want to bike to their job on a regular basis.

They currently have over 500 members and a waiting list of commuters who want to be able to park their bikes.  The facility makes it very easy to:

  • Ride to the garage
  • Park your bike in a double-tier rack
  • Shower
  • Use locker rooms to dress
  • Go to work

Yay! Bicycles can park in Steveson, oh boy! - 051020096163The bike parking garage cost just over $3 million to build and is proving to be extremely popular.  The roof features solar panels that power the building.  There is also a bike repair shop on site to provide a tune-up while you are at work or emergency repair by their staff mechanics.

Commuters share the facility with the 400 plus members of the lakefront police bike patrol.  This is great base for the police and really provides an extra level of security for bike riders.  The facility also has bikes for rent and guided tours of different parts of the city.

I hope the success of this operation provides inspiration for other cities.  This addresses many of the major concerns of bike commuters including parking, locker room access and security.  Maybe this will become a growing trend and provide commuters everywhere with a very workable option for bike commuting.

Creative Commons License photo credit: roland

Friday, May 29th, 2009 | Author: matk62

Sometimes you see an idea that just seems so obvious; you have to wonder why nobody thought of it sooner.  Treehugger has a story on a project called Wind-It.  If you take the time to read this story, I guarantee you will never look at an electrical tower the same way again.

Electrical TowerThe genius of this idea is their use of these existing structures.  By placing a wind turbine inside the empty space of an electrical tower, they solve 2 of the biggest problems facing wind towers.  One, where to locate wind towers.  Two, transferring the generated power into the grid.

According to the story, there are more than 157,000 miles of high voltage power lines in the U.S.  Incorporating wind power into this infrastructure would make even better use of the land already occupied by the towers and save lots of money by not having to build new structures.

I think this idea appeals to me so much because it capitalizes on a wasted resource.  They fill all that empty space of an electrical tower with a productive wind turbine.  There is a strong similarity here to Passenger Energy since we are trying to fill the empty seats in automobiles with energy saving passengers who can leave their cars at home.

Creative Commons License photo credit: the_toe_stubber

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 | Author: matk62

Here are seven web sites that are currently offering online registration for ride sharing:

1. http://www.erideshare.com/ - Carpool and ridesharing website

2. http://www.gishigo.com/ - Ride Share Network

3. http://www.goloco.org/ - An easy way to share trips with your friends

4. http://www.nuride.com/ - Save money and earn rewards

5. http://www.pickuppal.com/ - Connect drivers and passengers

6. http://www.ridester.com/ - Life is a Journey. Share it.

7. http://zimride.com/ - Social rideshare and carpool matching

These seem to be the leaders in this emerging market, but I am sure there are many others.  I applaud each of their efforts to increase ride sharing by building online communities.  Take a look at one or more of the sites to see the many benefits of carpooling and how they address our fear of strangers.

So what is missing?  Convenience.

WE HAVE INTERNETWhile they each help facilitate ride sharing, there is a lot of planning involved.  Most of the shared trips are either normal daily carpools to work or one time trips to another city.  I think as these communities grow, we can move toward more on-demand ride sharing. 

My dream is that we could harness much of the unused capacity of passenger vehicles on the road today.  If more people continue to get involved in ride sharing, then there will be more available rides and passengers to fill them.  I know it will take time, but online ride sharing communities are a big step in the right direction.

Cell phones with internet access will make shared transportation even easier.

Creative Commons License photo credit: believekevin

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 | Author: matk62

Is it possible that we are actually changing our driving habits?  In a recent Esquire story, Nate Silver makes a convincing argument for “The End of Car Culture”.  A bad economy and high gas prices are not the only factors fueling this change.

Ampelmannchen 'Crosswalk Guy'According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans have driven less for 15 consecutive months.  Now, I can understand the decline in driving when gas prices spiked last summer, but the trend has continued even after the gas prices fell.  This is a dramatic adjustment from our past behavior.

The bad economy and high unemployment can also be credited with a decline in driving, but there seems to be more at work here.  We seem to be trying to wean ourselves from our car dependency.  For further evidence, just look at the decline in auto sales over the last 18 months.

One other trend to follow is housing prices.  In the last 4 years, cities equipped with superior alternate modes of transportation have seen large gains in the price of housing while cities that are highly dependant on cars have seen sharp declines.

I have been reading a book by Chris Balish entitled “How To Live Well Without Owning A Car”.  Click on this link to read the book through Google books.  It is a good read and he raises some excellent points:

Save money, breathe easier, and get more mileage out of life.

You may be surprised at the actual monthly cost of owning a car and how much you could save without one.  Maybe you are a multiple car family and could get by with one less car?

Well, I hope this trend continues.  Reducing the miles driven has so many positive effects on our daily lives.  Are you driving less than a year ago?  Do you have plans to reduce your driving in the coming months?  I hope so, let me know.

Creative Commons License photo credit: jtriefen

Sunday, May 10th, 2009 | Author: matk62

We’ve had a lot of rain in the Northeast this spring, but now it looks like we are getting some good weather this week.  All this wetness will quickly be followed by the blooming of trees and flowers which brought this Talking Heads song to mind.

The lyrics are very open to interpretation.  I like to think David Byrne is happy to see our modern society disappear and the earth returned to nature.  Although if you listen closely to the song, you could make the argument that he misses all of the “advances” and is disappointed with a simpler scenic world.  Listen to the last line “Don’t leave me stranded here, I can’t get used to this lifestyle”.

Either way it is a fun song.  I choose to focus on the positive message and would welcome some undevelopment of our urban lifestyle. What do you think of when you hear this song?

 

Here we stand
Like an Adam and an Eve
Waterfalls
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
Are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it’s nothing but flowers

There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers
you got it, you got it

We caught a rattlesnake
Now we got something for dinner
we got it, we got it

There was a shopping mall
Now it’s all covered with flowers
you’ve got it, you’ve got it

If this is paradise
I wish I had a lawnmower
you’ve got it, you’ve got it

Years ago
I was an angry young man
I’d pretend
That I was a billboard
Standing tall
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it’s only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it’s nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we’d start over
But I guess I was wrong

Once there were parking lots
Now it’s a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it

This was a Pizza Hut
Now it’s all covered with daisies
you got it, you got it

I miss the honky tonks,
Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens
you got it, you got it

And as things fell apart
Nobody paid much attention
you got it, you got it

I dream of cherry pies,
Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies
you got it, you got it

We used to microwave
Now we just eat nuts and berries
you got it, you got it

This was a discount store,
Now it’s turned into a cornfield
you got it, you got it

Don’t leave me stranded here
I can’t get used to this lifestyle

Category: Going Green, Green  | Tags: , ,  | Leave a Comment
Monday, May 04th, 2009 | Author: matk62

Instead of junking our gas guzzlers, wouldn’t it be better to convert them into gas sipping dual-mode vehicles?  Here is a story from AltEnergyStocks entitled “The Time is Right for Gas-guzzler to Dual-mode EV Conversions”.  The conversion idea makes more sense to me, but the price is too high right now.  Maybe they could bring down the cost through economies of scale and/or government subsidies.

The concept is simple – add electric power trains and battery packs to America’s least fuel-efficient vehicles and give them 50 miles of plug-in EV range coupled with unlimited internal combustion range. The potential benefits to the economy are enormous because the U.S. could slash gasoline consumption by a billion gallons per year for every 1% of the gas-guzzler fleet that’s converted to dual-mode. It’s also a solution that could be immediately implemented using domestic products and create untold thousands of new cleantech jobs.

bus bar on batteries.The story goes on to detail the current cost at over $10,000 and the breakeven point based on different gas prices.  This does not hold up well with today’s current $2.00 per gallon, but we know this will not last. So this could be a very viable option for our future.

The beauty of this idea is that the electric components would allow you to drive up to 50 miles a charge.  This would cover most daily commutes while the dual-mode could easily switch to gasoline for longer trips.  We get the best of both technologies.

This way many families could continue driving vans, trucks and sport utility vehicles to accommodate children and other needs.  While a Prius is a great vehicle for the single driver, it doesn’t fit in many other situations.  A conversion of our exiting fleet of vehicles would be a huge step towards energy independence.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Audin

Friday, April 24th, 2009 | Author: matk62

There has been a lot of debate lately over several proposed bills in Congress.  These bills, known as “Cash for Clunkers” aim to stimulate new car sales while retiring older vehicles.  The basic idea behind these bills sounds good, get older cars off the road and replace them with more fuel efficient vehicles.

2008-11-18_0271

This seems logical and makes sense on the surface, but let’s dig deeper.  First, I have been arguing for fewer cars on the roads.  This plan will not reduce traffic in any way and will encourage more car sales instead of increased alternative transportation.

Second, it rewards drivers of gas guzzlers.  This does not offer anything to the drivers who have already made the right decision and bought a more fuel efficient car.  So everyone that already cares about the planet, you’re out of luck.

Third, what about the waste from junking all of these “clunkers”?  They will try to set up a program to strip and salvage many of the parts from these retired vehicles, but it still seems like this will create a large amount of waste.

Fourth, more fuel efficient cars will encourage more driving.  So, many drivers that will now be “saving” gas will have even less incentive to reduce the miles they travel.

Fifth, there is a stipulation to buy American to qualify for the cash.  Does this violate free trade agreements?  I’m sure foreign auto makers will be angry and potentially retaliate by not importing American goods.

Sixth, this seems to benefit the auto makers more than the public.  Is this just another way for the government to give aid to the failing auto industry?

We desperately need to move away from our current car model and reduce traffic, not buy more cars while building additional roads.  That’s what we have been doing for the last 50 years and look where it has gotten us.

To me, this is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titantic.  The ship is still sinking and we need to make much bigger changes than just trading in one car for another.

Creative Commons License photo credit: mtneer_man

Category: Cars, Red  | Tags: , ,  | One Comment
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 | Author: matk62

earthday2005Earth Day was started almost 40 years ago as a wake up call to our environmental problems.  There is an interesting story on Newsweek entitled “Every Day is Earth Day?” that argues it is time to give up the one-day-a-year celebration:

The first Earth Day was like the sounding of a bullhorn for the people to unite and get moving, which worked. But this year, 39 years later, the original intent has long eroded. The one-day demonstration that started a movement lost most of its luster decades ago. Yet we still have it—and that has alarming implications for our environmental progress. What was originally intended as a sounding alarm has been reproduced each year in the exact same way. The problem is, it’s hard to be motivated by a screeching alarm when you’ve been hitting the snooze button for the last four decades.

The last line of this quote makes me crazy; we’ve been hitting the snooze button since 1970!  When will we wake up to the reality that we can not continue to consume the earth resources like we are at an all you can eat buffet? 

I agree that people need to make this a priority every day, not just a once a year celebration.  We also observed Earth Hour last month to increase awareness of our energy consumption.  One day, one hour is just not enough.  We all need to do our part each and every day before it is too late.

Creative Commons License photo credit: MissFancyPants

Category: Human Energy, Yellow  | Tags: , ,  | 5 Comments