Republican gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce says he’s hit on an idea for solving the problem of people sitting in traffic on freeways: more travel lanes.
“Our current governor and government has no solution to our current gridlock,” he says in a new ad. “When I am governor, I will make sure we have added freeway lanes on all our major freeways. I’ll ensure that we have a new Columbia River Crossing bridge with added lanes. … Vote for Bud Pierce for governor and end gridlock once and for all.”
On his website, Pierce alludes to a “gas tax increase that goes primarily to build roads and bridges to ease gridlock.”
Since the state’s Constitution forbids spending gas taxes on anything but roads, that’s basically a longer way of saying “a gas tax increase” while getting in a false implication that more than a negligible amount of gas taxes ever go to anything else.
That said, let’s consider Pierce’s plan on the merits.
What would it cost to add a new lane to “all our major freeways”? Just for the Portland area, let’s assume he’s talking about the four he mentions (Interstate 5 and 205, U.S. 26 and state Route 217) plus Interstate 84.
Using the Troutdale and Hillsboro city limits on the east and west, the Columbia River on the north and the I-5/205 interchange on the south, that comes out to about 86 miles of freeway.
The Victoria Transport Policy Institute puts the cost of “urban highway capacity expansion” at $8 million to $12 million per lane-mile including land, development and construction. It’s not clear how that handles difficult points like the $350 million one at the Rose Quarter, but let’s say $10 million per mile.
Let’s also assume that by “lanes” Pierce means “one new lane in each direction.” (Though expanding capacity in one direction only might actually be a novel approach to traffic control.) That brings the cost to $1.7 billion.
Pierce also mentions a new Columbia River Crossing. Let’s take the $2.75 billion projected cost of that project as of 2013 and assume that Washington’s legislature would pay for half of it even without light rail, as long as it also didn’t have tolls.
Let’s also assume that road construction costs won’t inflate at all between 2013 and whatever year of the Pierce administration that construction would begin.
That brings the new bridge’s cost to about $2 billion, of which Oregon would be on the hook for $1 billion.
Pierce doesn’t mention that adding lanes to I-5 and I-205 would require new Marquam and Glenn Jackson bridges. To keep the costs down, let’s assume those bridges become bottlenecks.
This gives us a very rough estimate of $2.7 billion to add one lane to every overland freeway in the Portland metro area, plus a new Columbia River bridge.
This isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. The four-cent statewide gas tax hike proposed last year would have brought in $103 million annually, and some of these freeway widenings could probably get federal matching grants.
What about maintaining all that new pavement? That’d increase the future annual cost of the project, but not by so much that it’d fall apart.
There are still a couple problems with this plan, though.
One is that it raises taxes on people everywhere in Oregon but only widens freeways in Portland. Do all 308 miles of I-5 count as a “major freeway,” or all 371 miles of I-84? That’d at least quadruple the cost of Pierce’s plan, so maybe not.
His ad mentions “rural airports and rail improvements,” so maybe the idea is to win the support of Oregon’s rural population by promising to spend more lottery revenue on those projects.
The final question is the one raised by the very end of the ad: how widening freeways will “end congestion once and for all.”
If Pierce has discovered a way to make sure the next freeway lane is the one that never fills up, governments and taxpayers around the world will be overjoyed to learn about it.
— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – email@example.com
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Correction 12:10 pm: An earlier version of this article used $8 million per lane-mile for some figures and $10 million for others. It’s now adjusted to use $10 million, the middle of the VTPI cost range, throughout.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.
If only the fantasy of “one more lane” would die.
tax and spend … republican?
promise the moon… republican.
He’s a doctor, apparently very skilled in what he does…but he’s not a politician. By his bio, he doesn’t seem to have any leadership experience in government, that of someone that shows the ability to be well appraised of the wide range of state and national issues a good governor has got to have. Being big on party affiliation, and having a smattering of knowledge of current issues, is far from enough to qualify a person to be an effective state political leader.
I’ve yet to watch his video at the top of this story. His ‘transportation’ page on his site doesn’t make a claim that he’ll “…make sure we have added freeway lanes on all our major freeways. …” as quoted in this bikeportland story. His page makes some related statements though, such as: “…We need to build roads and bridges for drivers to get from point A to point B in a timely manner. It’s that simple. …” . Lots of people wish it were that simple.
At least he didn’t claim he’d add lanes to all major highways. Hwy 217 in Washington County is one of those highways that drive people nuts every working day during rush hour, with its very heavy traffic congestion. Realistic chances of adding more lanes to that highway, are likely nil.
His mention of “…a system of North-South arterials in Washington County…”, is a fairly common refrain. What he goes on to claim it will deal with, is highly subject to debate. Roads identified for the arterial configuration, tend to wind up being like 185th in Washington County. All things considered, is that result really good for the community?
His transportation page says nothing about community planning as part of a range of possible means by which to address road congestion. Too many people have to drive to meet their daily travel needs. That’s a major contributor to the traffic congestion. What’s Dr. Pierce think about community planning that may let more people meet more of their daily travel needs without driving?
The quote about extra lanes on all major freeways comes directly from the video.
Perhaps WA and OR should trade the [potential] future governor for our current one…like a reality show?
Maybe Bud’s never heard of latent demand?
Or induced demand. There’s latent demand for good bike infrastructure, but adding more lane-miles just creates induced demand on the highways as cars expand to fill every available space.
hahahahahahaha. Adding a bike lane might do the trick, Bud. Maybe convert an existing lane to bus/carpool lane, implement variable speed limits, and teach drivers how a zipper works.
The shoulder of I5 from the South often looks like a good alternative to Corbett or Barbur as it is — straight, smooth, wide, riding next to 15mph traffic.
Perhaps someone should ask him to read this story about how adding lanes in Houston, Texas actually made travel times even worse.
“Turner pointed to the Katy Freeway in Houston, or Interstate 10. A few years ago it was expanded to 26 lanes in some segments at a cost of $2.8 billion—good enough to earn the title of the “world’s widest freeway.” Despite all that new road capacity, rush-hour travel times increased between 2011 and 2014; in 2015, Turner pointed out, one segment of the Katy was ranked among the most congested roads in Texas.”
Perhaps candidate Pierce should suggest using the annual Oregon income taxes paid by Clark County residents working in OR to bond this highway [and multimodal services] work?!
‘$350 million in Oregon personal income taxes (2011) were paid by those living outside of the state.’
It would be an interesting discussion.
Sounds like a Republican candidate that wants to cut spending on schools, eliminate minimum wage, fuel tax for trucks, and any health care.
Adding a lane to each freeway would actually add to the gridlock, because they’d fill up as soon as they opened. What about expanded transit options (light rail / streetcar)? What about creating a statewide bike route system? He mentions none of this in his ad. If he thinks the CRC can be built without a rail option,then it should have improved ped / bike access! And he mentions nothing about expanding freeways outside the PDX metroplex. And what about major non-freeway routes, like TV Highway? Give him credit for at least bringing up the subject.
Michael, I wish you’d spent a little more time on induced demand. Many of your readers understand it, but as long as people keep making Bud’s argument there needs to be education.
It’s also worth considering what this would *do* to the neighborhoods and businesses around the freeways. The monetary cost of condemning land to be used for a freeway does not capture nearly all of the social costs.
That’s fair – I added a link to the Vox explainer on this at the end.
The fact that a Republican candidate proposes to raise the gas tax is a decent starting point for conversations during the campaign.
Sounds like Mr. Pierce could use a lesson on induced demand. Or maybe he should simply look to Houston’s 23 lane Katy Freeway to learn what a folly highway widening is.
LOL, it’s completely wishful thinking, but I’m sure it will appeal to a certain type of voter.
When you get fat, it’s time to widen your pants!
or…aka “The Thanksgiving Strategy” of roadway planning.
Always something to chuckle at when someone comes out and claims they’re going to “solve” a completely unsolvable phenomenon.
The only way to reduce congestion is to take cars off the road. Period.
Honestly “bad” traffic is a GOOD thing for the NW. It might get people to quit driving!
Reality check, traffic will only get worse, there is no way to make it better so long as people keep moving here with their cars.
And I’m going to keep laughing at those suckers trapped in traffic while I joyfully ride my bike right by them.
And, ironically, by riding your bike joyfully you ease congestion for the suckers stuck in traffic.
Not that anyone will appreciate it.
not if i wasn’t driving in the first place!
You and me both!! See ya out there! 🙂
“If you vote for me and all your wildest dreams will come true.” Pedro
Part of the GOP fantasy world. The world where new freeway lanes are added, paid for with tax cuts, and the wealth trickles ever downwards.
I think the cost estimates are very low.
According to WSDOT (http://www.vtpi.org/WSDOT_HighwayCosts_2004.pdf), urban freeway costs can easily be between $10 million to $188 million per mile. I’d say $20 – $25 million would be a safer, more conservative estimate.
“$20 – $25 million would be a safer, more conservative estimate.”
I guess that would depend on what sort of conservative we’re talking about… 🙂
The website aaroads.com has a great photoset showing the monstrosity that is I-10 going thru Houston. The 26 total lanes include an HOV “diamond” lane in each direction. Follow the westbound photoset and see just how freeway (and tollway) crazy Texas has become.
And now that we’re a couple of years past completion of I-10 widening in Houston, traffic is actually WORSE on the world’s widest freeway!
Also see the westbound photoset for US 59 thru downtown Houston. The thing that struck me looking at these pix is that there is no sign of public transit along these freeways…no buses in the HOV lane and no rail transit in sight.
Finally, someone who is ready to end traffic congestion once and for all!
What if all unlicensed & uninsured drivers were removed from our roads?
What if all the empty seats in a car were filled?
What if the size of cars were reduced?
What if I lived walking distance from a grocery store and my job?
Someone should mail this guy a copy of Power Broker by Robert Caro. Silly plan overall. That said, a few quibbles: Your caption under the first picture states: “The reason Interstate 5 goes down to two lanes at the Rose Quarter is that widening it would cost an estimated $350 million as of 2013.” That’s a reason why it hasn’t been widened not why it was built that way. Why was it built that way? Road widening is generally a really bad idea but that particular spot is a constant bottleneck.
Hm…, I think there is a math error in the article. If the 2013 projected costs of the Columbia river cross is $2.75 billion, why is Oregon’s share only $1.0 billion. Wouldn’t it be more like $1.375 billion, bringing the total Portland costs in at around $2.5 billion?
Even so, I wonder how much bicycle infrastructure 2.1 billion dollars would provide? That’s a lot of scratch.
I assumed light rail (and the associated parking garages) wouldn’t be in Pierce’s revised plan, since he went out of his way to stress that he is only worried about car commutes. That would cut $800 million or so from the cost.
That said, there was a math error in the article. I started out assuming $8 million per lane-mile (the bottom of the VTPI range) but decided to make it $10 million (the middle of the VTPI range) partway through and forgot to update my numbers. I’ve now done so.
He’s trolling, and landed a big fish!
Pff. Only one? Let’s get like 3 or 4 or 5 new lanes! How awesome would THAT be to drive on for, you know, like one year?
In my lifetime Republican talking points have rarely overlapped with anything approaching sound reasoning, showing your math, or common sense. Instead we get mouthfuls of wishful nonsense. The fact that people (apparently) pay attention to this sort of garbage is the really troubling part. What exactly do 34 cents* of every property tax dollar I pay in Multnomah County get us?
*that is the share that goes to secondary education.
Had to search pretty hard to see where on the site it mentions his political party. goes to show how slapping the word Republican to your name in Oregon makes you unelectable. He finally mentions it at the bottom of his about section, no mention of Regan just how the party was founded by Abraham lincoln
A chicken in every pot! A lane on every freeway!
And a fool for every office!
I-5 certainly qualifies as a major freeway. Do we need another lane crossing the California border?
So, if it is easily demonstrated that he doesn’t mean what he says….
Lots of things are easily demonstrated here….
This candidate is living in fantasy land. After $1.1 Billion, the 405 widening though Sepulveda Pass was a complete bust. http://www.laweekly.com/news/11-billion-and-five-years-later-the-405-congestion-relief-project-is-a-fail-5415772
Lane widening simply doesn’t work to relieve congestion without other mitigating measures.
This is why I wish Bike Protland comments allowed images.
Then I could give this guy the Picard facepalm he deserves.
I sent Mr. Pierce the following email:
Hello Mr. Pierce,
You may want to look into induced demand in transportation. It’s not intuitive, but adding lanes doesn’t actually reduce gridlock!
Here’s are a few places you can find out more about induced demand:
Oregon Resident since 1978
Mr. Pierce replied within a few hours to my email:
Induced demand can increase congestion, but when increases in road capacity are in response to increased demand, growth in congestion is lessened. This appears to be our current situation. Thanks for your great comments!
“Mr. Pierce replied within a few hours to my email:”
Who knows, perhaps this bikeportland piece is the most exposure his candidacy has yet received?
Why is reduction in demand never considered as an alternative to increase in supply? It has the same end result, no?
That’s “social engineering” which is a swear word in the GOP. Even when they are doing it in other situations.
But increasing lanes is also ‘social engineering’.
What change to the current system is not ‘social engineering’?
That’s right, Bud. The idea will work as long as you add enough lanes to outstrip induced demand. The metro has about 2.6 million people. So, 20 lanes in each direction on each highway outta do the trick. And you could probably build it for a measly few trillion dollars.
I think we need to have enough space to drive like the commercials show. So that’s at least one lane per person.
I like his first name, that’s about it…
I don’t think this is a good plan but sadly the Democrats who control the state houses and the governorship have done nothing with regards to transportation. Instead of increasing the gas tax which could fund transportation and making driving cars more expensive they passed the useless “green fuels bill” which led to the transportation bill to die. Right now I feel like our choice in state government is dumb or dumber.
What a Poser! A real republican would turn all the highways to toll roads and crank up the rate to keep the poor folk off and make traffic flow smooth and easy for the rich.
This is the age of Trump. Obviously the bar for truth no longer even exists. Just say anything….
What we need is a candidate who will double-down on Pierce’s proposal and build at least two lanes in each direction. If one is good, two would be better.
Unfortunately the adding-lanes trap doesn’t also include the number of interchanges which have to be entirely redesigned to handle increased traffic. I recently moved back to PDX from the DC metro area, where “add-a-lane has been happening to the Beltway for decades. Expanding just one interchange (the I-95/495 interchange affectionately known as the Mixing Bowl) was a 10+ year, $670 million project. Widening the beltway in Virginia from 8 lanes to 12 lanes, and adding HOT (high occupancy or toll) lanes was a $1.3 BILLION project.
And STILL the beltway is as jam-packed as ever.
I’m not opposed to the /idea/ of finally widening some portions of our highway infrastructure. I-84, 205 and 5 are all the same size they were when the Portland CSA was less than half the population it is today. However, lots of effective, workable transit options is the more viable long-term solution, not lanes.
This is true. We haven’t done a major freeway project in Portland for many years and several ODOT standards have changed since then. I would use $35M per lane mile, especially when waterway crossings or interchanges exist.
Recent studies have shown it would cost $1 billion to add a third lane for highway 217. On the other hand, imagine that money being used to build bike and pedestrian bridges over the numerous ODOT highways and freeways.
Nevermind, that at this point in the trajectory of oil and energy resources these extra lanes would be completed just in time for a drastic decline in the age of the private motorcar. Leave it to Republicans to impose solutions from the past on the problems of the present and future
“would be completed just in time for a drastic decline in the age of the private motorcar. ”
Or, more likely, just after. A textbook example of a stranded asset.
not really stranded. your conclusion is based on freeway lanes only be forever used for cars.
apart from electric cars taking the place of ICE cars, that 12 inches of freeway concrete would be an excellent place to attach rails to, not to mention last forever under the wheels of bikes.
I promise to solve poverty forever by printing more money.
One word: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
Vote for me and I’ll add TWO lanes to every highway. There! I’ll win!!
“Vote Bud Pierce and end gridlock once and for all!”
Wow, it’s true! Now that pot’s legal, virtually everyone is getting high!
Can I also add, that is a pretty horrible commercial. It is rushed, the edits are very apparent, the jump cuts don’t need to be there since they should be using footage to paste over them. Aesthetically, and all…. I’ll give this a D+.
Doctor of what? Dr. Bud.
Turns out oncology and I say stick to that.
He’s obviously not economics. Because if a doctor of economics saw that gridlock; the first question he might ask is why do most of the cars only have one occupant?
Who was the last republican governor in Oregon anyhow? Vic Atiyeh left office in 1987. That’s 30 years and yet they offer up some doctor with no elected experience.
You tried Doctor Monica Wehby against Merkley in the senate race with some really truly amusing results. Turns out the brain she needed to work on was her own.
No ex NBA players available, he’s not qualified for the governors office, but he’s strong in the post and hits open shots within 8 feet.
I’d say the democrat is safe, no matter who the republicans or democrats nominate.
86 miles of freeway lane, using the absolute minimum numbers to minimize the impact:
86 miles * 12 feet wide / 5000 sqft per lot = 1089 less homes in the area.
Obviously the impact would be much more, as there’d be shoulder widening, land condemned for construction, dense urban areas destroyed….. Gosh, that sounds great!
I happen to have a house that would, literally, be paved over. But don’t worry about us, Bud, I will gladly sacrifice everything, and pay for it, so dude in Wilsonville can get to downtown with 5 minutes less delay, temporarily.
What a terrible idea being presented by this guy. However, it’s hardly an idea that is being proposed by
Sorry, mobile went crazy…
This isba bad idea, but it’s hardly a generic Republican idea, so Im not sure why criticizing this guy’s proposal requires bashing Republicans generally. That’s very disappointing to see here and I would hope the moderators would discourage it.
Oh, I don’t know, it seems to tie into the anti-bike sentiment expressed by many “conservatives”. Maybe being anti-bike is something both parties agree on?
Who are these “phantom” conservatives who are supposedly anti-bike?
It is awfully convenient for many here at bikeportland.org to label anyone they disagree with as “anti-bike”. Of course, that doesn’t make it true.
I know I have been unfairly labelled as “anti-bike” here because I oppose the gas tax. I am not sure where the connection is because, well, you can certainly be pro-bike and also be opposed to the gas tax (heck, many here are opposed to the gas tax in Portland as currently proposed because it’s presumably regressive, but notice they’re not called anti-bike – oh the many ironies).
Heck, one can also be opposed to additional spending on bike infrastructure and still be an advocate for cycling. It’s fairly simple really. I’m in that boat now. Until the PBOT can clean up it’s incompetence regarding the prioritization and allocation of it’s current revenues, it should not be wasting even more money on bike infrastructure that is not part of a comprehensive, fully visioned bike infrastructure network.
So…again, can we lay off the silly name-calling and personally attacks and focus on what someone is saying rather then feeling compelled to play the guilt by association name-calling game??
“Heck, one can also be opposed to additional spending on bike infrastructure and still be an advocate for cycling. It’s fairly simple really. I’m in that boat now. Until the PBOT can clean up it’s incompetence regarding the prioritization and allocation of it’s current revenues, it should not be wasting even more money on bike infrastructure that is not part of a comprehensive, fully visioned bike infrastructure network.”
I’d like to understand this point. Is there something PBOT has done to offend your sensibilities, aside from hiring an Equity & Inclusion Manager?
“Comprehensive, fully visioned ” sounds like a convenient excuse to do nothing to help cycling in the short-term, and what support would there be for such a plan if there are no cyclists left in the long term, because there was so little support for them? This IS the rhetoric used by people who are opposed to bike infrastructure, which, if you’re actually not, you wouldn’t use. It’s no secret that PBOT and ODOT aren’t very good at planning to include bikes into infrastructure, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water here.
“This isba bad idea.”
I couldn’t agree more.
What if the new lanes were protected exclusively for fully electric buses. Install a park and ride north of the I-5 bridge in downtown Vancouver and I-205 east Vancouver. Have frequent service buses. You’ve seen that image of the max passing traffic on I-84. Could be the same with fully dedicated bus lanes.
Just think, you could ride your bike to downtown Vancouver, hop on the bus and be at OHSU in 20 minutes w/o traffic!
We could do that now by taking a lane away from cars.
You mean away from cars, delivery trucks, long haul buses, public safety vehicles, etc., right?
This is not taking a lane from a car. It is taking it from a user.
I guess there’s no solution. People are going to have to be okay sitting in traffic three hours a day. This is what your day will be composed of: seven hours of sleep, hour and half of traffic, eight and half hours of work, more traffic, and five and half hours for family and any other personal development. Yah for a quality of life in Portland Oregon!!! Wait, you have the weekends to sit in traffic as well when visiting the fabulous Oregon outdoors.
People who ride in buses are also “users” and you can fit quite a bit more of them in a bus vs. a car.
I wish we would as a city. Might be a great way to get people on bikes. Multimodal! I used to ride two miles to PCC Cascade and then I’d throw my bike on the bus to be shuttled to another campus. Our current bus system is nice, but you’re still sitting in traffic. And it appears that traffic is still increasing from the previous year, possibly because of immigration from other states. So even if you’re filling the buses with people, it doesn’t seem to be alleviating congestion.
Federal law prohibits the taking away of lanes from general purpose use. that is why HOT and HOV lanes are added to existing freeways.
The general public from the whole country paid for that lane, so it’s a bit like a contract they made with us.
Is that just for Interstate Highways, or all state-funded roads?
Traffic would still exist and congestion would be even worse.
No matter how many ways you try to punish drivers (gas taxes, removing lanes, slandering them), the majority of American people are going to choose their personal vehicle. This is especially true here in Portland given the Max situation.
And I am one who was predisposed to bike commuting and riding mass transit when I moved to Portland from Detroit where I did the park, bus, ride the bike routine.
I was one of very, very few people who bike commuted in the metro Detroit area. You guys think you have it bad…I had to use the little 3-foot wide shoulder space as my bike line and that was on road with 4-lanes in each direction (separated by a boulevard) and the posted speed limit was 55mph. And I did it in an area with very little familiarity with bikes on the road.
You’d think Detroit’s buses were bad…I hate the Max and that’s with even getting a free annual pass from work. Given my experience riding mass transit in Detroit, I am quite tolerant of lots of behaviors on buses whether it’s merely rudeness, physical bullying, etc. But, at least those buses were clean. I’m not going to ride Trimet buses anymore…they always smell of urine, they’re always dirty. I refuse to ride the Max (again, despite having a free annual pass) given the aggressive panhandling, garbage strewn about, warnings of transients and homeless stealing bikes and iphones, etc.
We do not live in a megopolis like Toyko or isolated cities as there are in Europe. We also, for good reasons, don’t have relatively cheap, convenient hi-speed rail services. We are America. We are not, despite Obama’s continuing efforts, and despite the on-going efforts of progressive radicals, just a larger version of Europe. Pushing people into buses and trains is not the answer here.
I am still waiting for several folks here to explain how, after they’ve successfully either taken our cars away or made it so prohibitively expensive to own and operate a private vehicle that only the rich have them, ordinary people get to visit the beach, camp in the mountains, etc.
“I am still waiting for several folks here to explain how, after they’ve successfully either taken our cars away or made it so prohibitively expensive to own and operate a private vehicle that only the rich have them, ordinary people get to visit the beach, camp in the mountains, etc.”
No, you just don’t appear to be interested in my previous answers.
And there’s no ‘take our cars away’. The way the cars are most likely to go away is not through some Soviet car-zapping authority but physics.
“Most of the time, public policy is a series of trade-offs: higher taxes or fewer services, more regulation or more freedom of action. We attempt to balance our preferences: for having a beer after work, and for sober drivers. We meet somewhere in the middle, compromise, trade off. We tend to think we’re doing it right when everyone’s a little unhappy.
But when it comes to climate change, the essential problem is not one group’s preferences against another’s. It’s not—at bottom—industry versus environmentalists or Republicans against Democrats. It’s people against physics, which means that compromise and trade-off don’t work. Lobbying physics is useless; it just keeps on doing what it does.”
History would tell us that the private car may diminish, but is unlikely to disappear.
Walking, riding a horse, biking, wagons, trains, cars, airplanes, buses, light rail.
wind, steam from wood, coal, oil; electricity, gasoline, diesel, electricity from wood, coal, oil, natural gas, fission; wind again, solar.
when one form of energy/transportation becomes expensive enough that another competes with it, and that other form is something people perceive to be a better choice, they switch, often gradually, over to the new form.
Should fusion get figured out, electric generation costs might plummet.
IMO, the likelihood of fusion getting figured out soon is about the same as personal automobiles disappearing in 50 years.
“History would tell us that the private car may diminish, but is unlikely to disappear.
Walking, riding a horse, biking, wagons, trains, cars, airplanes, buses, light rail.”
Except that you are eliding the fact that much of this trajectory to date has been from low to increasingly high density energy carriers. Fossil fuels are a single-use bonanza. Entropy is hard to argue with.
“wind, steam from wood, coal, oil; electricity, gasoline, diesel, electricity from wood, coal, oil, natural gas, fission; wind again, solar.”
This list, if you look at it closely, reflects this. You can only put solar energy in your tank with some fairly heroic technological and infrastructural hijinks, and those hijinks are not scalable the way we have found it possible to scale the fossil fuels with their erstwhile much greater energy density.
“when one form of energy/transportation becomes expensive enough that another competes with it, and that other form is something people perceive to be a better choice, they switch, often gradually, over to the new form.”
Nice theory but we’re no longer in a place where preferences are what dictates these shifts. Constraints and declining energy density are making these calls for us.
“Should fusion get figured out, electric generation costs might plummet.”
We’ve heard that before. Nuclear was going to make ‘electricity too cheap to meter.’
“IMO, the likelihood of fusion getting figured out soon is about the same as personal automobiles disappearing in 50 years.”
The two aren’t even remotely related.
Fusion is a pipe dream, a Cold War mirage.
The continued viability of the automobile as the dominant transport system is entirely dependent on the unprecedented and one-time energy density of fossil fuels, without even mentioning the climate implications of digging them up and burning them in our engines.
What exactly is the “MAX situation”? I ride MAX (and buses) every day and find the trains very clean and reliable. Sure, there is the occasional hiccup (nearly always caused by a driver, ironically) but for the most part, our public transport system is very good. There is the occasional switch problem, but the only thing that consistently degrades service are cars. People crash their cars into the trains, and buses get stuck in traffic.
I see the argument “we’re not Europe” a lot. It’s not founded in any rational reasoning. Americans certainly aren’t much different from their European counterparts and many of us either ride public transport regularly or would ride it more if it was more convenient. This is why we need to look to examples of excellent public transport and city planning – like Europe and Japan – for inspiration on how to improve our own networks. The main difference is how our cities were planned for cars instead of for people, and it has proven to be a disastrous mistake that we are working to erase.
I agree that personal attacks are below the standards of this website and should be avoided ( with the exception of bike thieves and dangerous drivers) but there is one party that does draw well deserved ridicule for its stands on global warming, pollution, endless war, regressive taxation and medieval transportation policy.