Special gravel coverage

The Monday Roundup: Scooter laws, ‘War on Cars’ pod, transit subsidy and more

Posted by on October 15th, 2018 at 11:08 am

Here are the most notable stories we came across last week:

Silver bullet: You’ve probably heard that electeds and policymakers from Oregon and Washington are eager to replace the I-5 bridge; but did you know there are early-stage talks to build a bullet train between Portland and Vancouver, BC?

Transit subsidy: Seattle is the latest west coast city to pass a local mandate requiring certain companies to allow employees to use pre-tax wages to pay for transit. Why they heck doesn’t Portland do this?!

Climate warning: The new climate change report from the IPCC is very serious and should not be passed over. The question now is: How should we change our existing plans/projects/policies given the dire warnings contained in the report?

Safe streets are the answer: LA-based writer Alissa Walker says the climate report should make it much easier for “climate mayors” to get tough on auto overuse and commit to safe streets.

The ‘War on Cars’ has begun: I could not think of better people (Sarah Goodyear, Aaron Naparstek and Doug Gordon) or a better place (New York City) for the new War on Cars podcast to come from. Give it a listen and prepare to be inspired and informed.

Bicycling makes you a better driver: A UK-based insurance company found that, among policyholders, people who frequently ride bikes make far fewer claims than those who don’t.

Driving ban in London: Another city has proclaimed its intention to prohibit driving in sections of its downtown core and reduce speed limits to 15 mph. London planners believe the policy is needed to create a world-class street scene and “future-proof” the city.

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Scooters, legally-speaking: The Bike League shared a breakdown of key bicycle-related laws and surmised how they might – or might not – relate to scooters.

Corporate mobility hooks another big fish: Scott Kubly (Lime), Caroline Samponaro (Lyft), Nelle Pierson (Jump), Paul Steely White (Bird), and now former US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx (Lyft). The trend of major transportation advocates/leaders moving from non-profit/public service into the corporate realm continues.

5,000 bikes recovered: Bike Index celebrated a major stolen bike recovery milestone by interviewing a woman whose bike was taken from a rack after someone cut through her u-lock.

Why nobody bikes in LA: Noted writer and activist Peter Flax spread blame in many directions — including hostile drivers and toothless professional advocates — in an essay about why he believes Los Angeles is the worst city for biking in America.

Tech is not your bro: “Don’t let techno-utopianism become a pretext for doing nothing.” Glad to see more people beginning to understand that our transportation problems won’t be solved by high-tech solutions alone.

E-bike pros and cons: Lifehacker shared a great explainer about e-bikes that could help you decide if they’re right for you (spoiler: after the deep dive, the reporter said she’s now a believer!).

Video of the Week: Former Portlander (sniff, sniff) Russ Roca of Path Less Pedaled returned this weekend and posted an entertaining vlog full of shop visits and other bikey adventures around north Portland:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • 9watts October 15, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Bullet trains are a tantalizing piece of infrastructure, and trains that run regularly and on time are certainly a good thing and would be a big improvement on the sorry situation we have here, but we should be careful what we wish for. The Speed in High Speed is a Faustian Bargain. This would remove many of the current barriers to living even farther from where people work, leading to potentially much greater demand for longer distance travel.

    As so often it would be good to read Ivan Illich closely before putting our eggs into this basket.

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    • dan October 15, 2018 at 11:37 am

      As much as I would love to see this high speed rail line come to fruition, I don’t expect to ever ride a high speed train to Vancouver BC. The previous talks about this line came to nothing, and I don’ t believe we’ll ever find the money to build it, or the political will to appropriate the land we’d need for tracks (assuming we’d be building new tracks that aren’t shared with freight trains).

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      • Chris I October 15, 2018 at 12:20 pm

        It is unrealistic for this corridor, given our population and population densities. I think the states have the right approach, but we need more funding. They need to continue upgrading the existing line until we have 3-track all the way between PDX and SEA. The current equipment can do 125mph if the tracks and crossings are upgraded. That would get PDX-SEA to about 2:30, which would be very competitive with air travel, and a fraction of the cost of any true high speed proposals.

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        • 9watts October 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

          “The current equipment can do 125mph …would be very competitive with air travel”

          This is familiar but misguided. We should not be trying to compete with air travel, the mode that is the least compatible with a habitable planet. Let’s stick to basics and work from the bottom up, figure out how to make transportation work locally before reaching for the stars, pursuing vanity projects that will take funds from the much more pressing needs here at home.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty October 15, 2018 at 1:19 pm

            If we don’t compete with air travel, air travel will continue to be dominant for fast long distance travel.

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            • 9watts October 15, 2018 at 6:43 pm

              Ah, yes. Ever the pragmatist.

              In a stable situation with perfect information and sovereign consumers what you say might have salience, but in the corporatist, willfully myopic, profoundly unequal society we actually inhabit, looking at air travel as the independent variable is at best misguided.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty October 15, 2018 at 7:53 pm

                I’ll wave to you from the plane.

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          • GlowBoy October 16, 2018 at 11:39 am

            125mph is not a bullet train. Chris I’s point is that the current Amtrak Cascades equipment can already do this speed with track and crossing upgrades, without the ginormous expenditures of purchasing a new corridor as required for a bullet train.

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            • 9watts October 17, 2018 at 10:37 am

              I appreciate the differences in speeds; my point was that we will continue to lose by insisting on the airplane as the measure of transportational speeds.
              Faster is not only not always better; in this case it is also suicidal.
              Air travel is obsolete given what we know about climate change.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty October 17, 2018 at 11:29 am

                Actually, it’s not. If that’s the best answer we can come up with, then there’s no hope.

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              • 9watts October 17, 2018 at 12:22 pm

                That is an easy phrase to toss out: It’s not, but how about you trouble yourself to support your contention. Monbiot certainly took the trouble to explain his pint of view, which you are disagreeing with.

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        • David Hampsten October 15, 2018 at 6:48 pm

          Most of the competing corridors don’t have much higher densities. And the Bos-Wash corridor is so built up that it will be prohibitively expensive to build a bullet system. Here in the Piedmont we are looking at a similar system connecting Washington to Atlanta with a higher density, but we are highly divided politically and the ground isn’t so great for tracks. At least in the Cascades you have more rock ballast to build upon, easier mountains to tunnel through, and are more or less “liberal” in both states and BC. As for station locations, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Zurich all have their bullet stations outside of their central cities, usually at airports, to complement rather than compete with air travel.

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          • Chris I October 16, 2018 at 9:49 am

            And nearly all of the other cities in Europe have rail that service the city center, as it should. Airport stations are great, but that should never be the primary station for a city. The ideal situation is a line that has a stop in the city center, and another at the airport. In Seattle, a LINK extension could be built connecting Renton, Tukwilla, and Seatac, proving a 5-minute transfer time from Tukwilla to Seatac. In Portland, the high speed terminal could eventually be located on the east side of the Willamette, just north of the Steel Bridge. This would connect with the busy Rose Quarter transit center, with airport transfers in 25 minutes on the Red line. If existing local service and long-distance Amtrak trains keep using Union Station, a pedestrian bridge could be built over the river, giving riders a 1/2mi walk between the stations. It would also provide a better connection for cyclists and pedestrians from the Rose Quarter to the Pearl, when compared with the longer route via the lower deck of the Steel Bridge.

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            • 9watts October 16, 2018 at 1:53 pm

              Why should we do any of this?
              Why do rich people feel the need to travel such great distances and with so much tax-payer-funded convenience?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty October 16, 2018 at 2:12 pm

                Probably the same reasons everyone else does: visit friends/family, vacation, work, etc.

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              • GlowBoy October 17, 2018 at 2:46 pm

                I don’t think most people think of 200-300 miles as a vast distance to travel. If you and your family have managed to contain yourselves in Portland and feel little desire to leave town, wonderful. But many people have families scattered around the region, including many poor people. I don’t think class enters into it, as you claim.

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              • 9watts October 17, 2018 at 2:56 pm

                “I don’t think most people think of 200-300 miles as a vast distance to travel. If you and your family have managed to contain yourselves in Portland and feel little desire to leave town, wonderful.”

                You and many others keep misunderstanding what I’m saying. You personalize this, turn it into some sort of virtue/shaming exercise. I fully understand our cultural and historical penchant for movement, for visiting relatives, and travel, etc. I have not questioned this here in any way. My point is rather that in seeking to turbocharge ground transport (in 2018), compete with air travel under the guise of environmental stewardship, we would do well to ask some tough questions, not about cultural habit, but about limits, constraints, prudence, priorities, and the tradeoffs that Ivan Illich figured out forty plus years ago.

                “But many people have families scattered around the region, including many poor people. I don’t think class enters into it, as you claim.”

                Poor people, by and large take Greyhound and put up with being treated like s4;t. I took Greyhound for fifteen years up and down the Coast: Portland to Oakland, Portland to Seattle, and as far South as LA and up to Bellingham. Then I switched to Amtrak. And let’s not forget the Green Tortoise, right up until they quit their commuter line in ~2002.
                We already have mediocre public transport that serves various constituencies. If we allowed that air travel was doomed, we could and perhaps should improve the ground transport we have, but, again, these conversations keep happening without any acknowledgment of the corners we’ve painted ourselves into, the limited options we can still hope to pursue at this late date.

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              • 9watts October 17, 2018 at 3:05 pm

                I meant to write ‘not only about cultural habit…’

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty October 17, 2018 at 3:34 pm

                What you consider constraints do not constrain most people. Therein lies the flaw in your argument.

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              • 9watts October 17, 2018 at 4:25 pm

                Oh, they constrain us alright. We are just in denial about it.
                You’ve heard of Cassandra?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty October 17, 2018 at 4:26 pm

                I totally agree. And that’s irrelevant to my argument.

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      • Todd Boulanger October 15, 2018 at 12:29 pm

        Dan – yes, I think I remember the BC Provincial government promising to do rail upgrades for the Cascades line in time for then future Olympics…I think we are still waiting…the last times I rode that section it seemed no better than 15 years ago. (Not that WSDoT [or ODoT] do not have their own problems…but at least WSDoT is working harder on making high(er*) speed track improvements to run 80/90mph.
        *Note: Though even the max speeds for the Talgo built Cascades trains (~120mph are still 1920s high speed rail…not even close to 1960s Japan).

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        • Chris I October 15, 2018 at 1:52 pm

          We took the train to Vancouver about 2 years ago. The section north of the border is absurdly slow and circuitous. If they are serious about adding trains between Seattle and Vancouver, they will need an entirely new ROW for this section. They could probably shave an hour off the current transit time.

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          • raktajino October 15, 2018 at 4:56 pm

            Amtrak’s whole advertising scheme around here seems to be “take the scenic route (with more leg room and no traffic).” I agree with you–it’s more circuitous than it needs to be! The scenery gets old.

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          • GlowBoy October 16, 2018 at 12:09 pm

            Also, although getting from Portland to Vancouver in 2 hours by rail sounds neato, I’m just thrilled that you can finally do it in less than a day. Until a couple years ago there was only one Vancouver-Seattle run per day, and it didn’t time well with the runs from Seattle down to Oregon.

            Unbelievably, until very recently if you wanted to take the Cascades from Portland to Vancouver, you had to spend the night in Seattle because of the train timing. Both directions. I’m just happy you can finally do it the same day.

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    • Matthew in PDX October 15, 2018 at 12:52 pm

      I agree, this smacks of the monorail episode of the Simpsons. I don’t think that there is enough travel between YVR-SEA-PDX to justify spending billions on a 200+ mph train, unless they make I-5 a toll road with tolls high enough that it is cheaper to take the train than to drive.

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty October 15, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    RE Tech is not your bro: The article misses some key points. First, it’s unlikely people will own their own robot cars (and even more unlikely they’ll just circle the block while you’re at work). Second, it seems likely that at least some vehicles will act as a hybrid bus-taxi service, ferrying multiple people to similar destinations, much the way shared rides on Lyft do now.

    Yes, the streets have finite capacity, but vehicles may get smaller, and their operation more efficient, so that will increase the number of vehicles getting around. And paying per ride will likely change the incentive structures in ways we don’t yet understand.

    Personally, I think conventional transit (especially buses) is doomed.

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    • Tom October 15, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      There is no way the AV makers would limit there production to only microtransit vehicles. Their stockholders would sue them. They will be expected to recoup the many billions invested, by targeting every living person as an AV owner. So far, many attempts at microtransit, even higher tech ones, have shown to be miserable failures. Microtransit at this point is very unproven. The Federal government will not force this either, even with regime change, and the States will have no authority to limit private AV ownership.

      There is no reason to believe the vehicles will get any smaller either. This is all driven by costumer preference, which only seems to be for larger and larger vehicles. AVs take away the last barrier to even larger vehicles than exist now, but eliminate the difficulty of maneuvering and parking.

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      • 9watts October 15, 2018 at 1:15 pm

        “Costumer preference”?

        Hardly that simple.

        Is it just a coincidence that the most bloated vehicles are the most profitable?

        Don’t forget the role that our two-tiered system of fuel economy regs (CAFE) played in this either.

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  • John Liu October 15, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    “major transportation advocates/leaders moving from non-profit/public service into the corporate realm continues”

    This is just like all the other moves from high-ranking government positions to private industry, whether that be from the Pentagon to Lockheed Martin, Treasury to Goldman Sachs, etc. The government official parlays his or her influence on policy today for a fat payoff tomorrow.

    If you wonder why cities and other governments seem to favor certain companies and industries so much, this is one reason why.

    This sort of cashing-in should be prohibited by law. A higher-ranking government official should be prohibited from working for a company or industry that he or she was responsible for regulating, for some number of years after his departure from government service.

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  • B. Carfree October 15, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    I think it is a grave mistake to plan for Portland to be the end of the line for a high speed rail link to Seattle and B.C. We would be better served to join with our neighbor to the south and plan for high speed rail that serves the entire west coast, but only fund the initial stage from B.C. to Portland. Stage two would run to Eugene and then on to Medford/Ashland, after which the link to the planned high speed rail in California can be made.

    In that vein, the station in Portland really needs to be at the same location as where the current Amtrak trains stop. Otherwise, we’ll never get the rest of the state to use this link because so much time will be lost moving between stations on opposite sides of the river in the Portland urban center.

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    • Chris I October 15, 2018 at 2:03 pm

      You will never see true high speed rail down the valley. Eugene/Springfield have a metro population less than 250,000. Additionally, building a line south of Roseburg would be insanely expensive, due to the topography involved, and would be too long for even true HSR to be competitive with air travel.

      That said, I think we should have a 110mph line connecting Salem, Eugene, and potentially Roseburg. The Salem – Wilsonville – Portland segment would see regular commuter rail, and the entire corridor would be operated using lower-cost DMU trains every few hours. This would utilize the corridor west of the current UP corridor, and would be owned by the state and dedicated to passenger rail.

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  • Champs October 15, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    There are so many chances to ruin the Cascadia bullet train with disingenuous arguments that I fear it’s over before it begins. The overt opponents will note that flying is faster, while others will passive-aggressively argue for suburban stations that are cheaper to build with faster nominal travel time and more parking.

    Either way they’re willfully missing the point: getting to your seat from anywhere in TriMet’s service area to Union Station is faster than a cab from IKEA to your flight.

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    • X October 15, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      How can that be true?

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    • GlowBoy October 16, 2018 at 11:48 am

      I assume you’re saying this because of the 90-120 minute wait for security required for flights.

      It is already quicker to get from downtown Portland to downtown Seattle via Amtrak than via air, assuming the train timing works. Fortunately both airports are served by light rail, but in both cities the airport is at least a 1/2 hour ride from downtown. Add in the time overhead of getting through the airport itself, and Amtrak comes out ahead.

      Obviously the relative advantage will vary depending on your exact origin and destination, and without the train stations’ convenient (for many) downtown locations Amtrak would not have an advantage. Also, having only half a dozen trains per day also puts the train at a disadvantage, vs. 45 to 75 minute intervals for Horizon flights between the two airports.

      But ramp Amtrak up to at least 2 hour intervals and knock an hour off the travel time, and it’s a slam dunk. And that’s what is needed to make it competitive with driving. As I said above, I don’t think a bullet train is the right solution here: just upgrade the crossings and tracks so the Cascades can do the 120-130 mph it is designed for.

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  • B. Carfree October 15, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Amazing! In the same round-up that lauds New York City, we see the dissing of Los Angeles. Do know that L.A. has had pretty much the same bike modal share as NYC for most of this decade. (There was a small drop-off in 2017 in L.A., but most years it’s been either the same as NYC or slightly ahead.)

    Could it be that L.A. doesn’t have someone doing big press releases about putting cyclists on glorified sidewalks, so it can’t possibly be doing as well as someplace that is? Sad to say, this is similar to right-wing folks who simply cannot believe that tax increases can go along with economic growth and that tax cuts often lead to a worsening of the economy. They’ve decided how the world must work and facts no longer matter.

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    • B. Carfree October 15, 2018 at 6:38 pm

      Also, the article opens with a deft bit of deception. It notes the significant number or cyclist deaths in the Los Angeles metro area (180 in five years, or 36/yr) and notes how large this is compared to other places. However, if one looks at the enormous population of the L.A. metro area (18.8 million), and divides that by the US population (325.7 million) and then multiplies by the number of cyclists slaughtered annually in the US, one gets either 48 or 44 for L.A.’s “fair share” of these deaths (depending on if one uses the higher 2016 death number or averages the five most recent years that have data available).

      Now I’m just an old biochemist and far from a math wiz, but I believe 36 is less than 44 by a significant amount, so L.A. cyclists are actually safer than average for this nation. Also, the rate of bicycle commuting in L.A. is more than twice the national rate and I strongly suspect that L.A.’s per capita recreational mileage dwarfs about any locale outside of Boulder, and maybe even that considering there is no snow season. So even with a MUCH higher exposure than other locales, cyclists in L.A. are being killed at a much lower rate than is “normal”.

      Unfortunately, these “scary, scary to ride a bike here” stories are very likely to convince people to either not start riding or to stop riding if they have even one attention-getting encounter, in spite of the fact that having near-death experiences in cars deters exactly no one from driving.

      Getting up in the morning is risky. Riding a bike is risky, but on a par with other forms of transportation. Riding a bike is also known to extend the lives, on average, of those who do so. Scaring people back into cars is bad public health policy, and certainly bad cycling advocacy.

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    • B. Carfree October 15, 2018 at 6:40 pm

      And I’ll add that you all have no idea how painful it is for a native NorCal person to defend L.A. in any way, shape or form. I think we’re taught from an early age to dislike all things SoCal, but I dislike propaganda and unfair treatment of a region even more, especially when it might reduce the number of people riding bikes.

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  • John Lascurettes October 15, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    From the end of the cyclists are better drivers article:

    Cyclists (and motorcyclists) have a wry acronym for the inattention of motorists. “Sorry, mate I didn’t see you” – or SMIDSY – is said to be a typical excuse from motorists who have crashed into two-wheelers. For the same phenomenon, UK government incident reporting uses the phrase “looked but failed to see.”

    I sure would like to see that subtle difference in language of “looked but failed to see” phrase used more in American police reports. That is, it is not as forgiving as just repeating the driver with “he came out of nowhere” or “I didn’t see them.”

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  • Doug G. October 15, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for the shout-out, Jonathan! We’re really excited for the podcast and hope people will check it out.

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  • soren October 15, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    How should we change our existing plans/projects/policies given the dire warnings contained in the report?

    We have not even begun to address our climate crisis. In fact, global carbon emissions have gone up ~7% since the 2010 baseline used for the IPCC special report.

    To mitigate ~3ºF in warming we would need to immediately committ to spending trillions of dollars on pervasive decarbonization. This would have to be a global project that emphasizes speed over cost (e.g. any feasible expense should be considered over delay-associated savings). In addition to decarbonization of energy, lifestyle changes are essential. Some of these would include immediate limits on driving, flying, deforestation, and consumption of meat and dairy. Even with these unprecedented interventions we would still need to rely on nuclear energy and untested carbon capture technology to prevent overshoot of ~3ºF.

    if you think I exaggerate then please read what Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences (GISS) on whether we can avoid overshooting ~3ºF:

    “IPCC has to use a few circumlocutions to avoid giving a direct answer to this question (for reasonable and understandable reasons). I’m not quite so constrained…

    There are many issues related to the feasibility question of which physical climate-related issues are only one. The basic issue is that the effort to reduce emissions sufficiently to never get past 1.5ºC would require a global effort to decarbonize starting immediately that would dwarf current efforts or pledges. This seems unlikely (IMO).”

    So my answer is… no.

    I get that there is reluctance to say this publically – it sounds as if one is complicit in the impacts that will occur above 1.5ºC (~3ºF), but it seems to me that tractable challenges are more motivating than impossible (or extremely unfeasible) ones – I would be happy to be proven wrong on this though.”

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty October 15, 2018 at 4:32 pm

      >>> Some of these would include immediate limits on driving, flying, deforestation, and consumption of meat and dairy. <<<

      All of these would be covered by a carbon tax.

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      • B. Carfree October 15, 2018 at 6:08 pm

        The current estimate of the necessary carbon tax works out to about $300/gal of gasoline. I think Americans would be quicker to accept limits on driving and flying than having a fill up cost as much as a semester of college. Sadly, I’m far from optimistic that American values would allow us to curtail our fossil-foolish play just to allow future generations to live.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty October 15, 2018 at 7:47 pm

          Got a reference for that? That’s hugely bigger than any number I’ve heard before.

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          • X October 17, 2018 at 10:21 am

            Maybe because it’s wrong by about two orders of magnitude? A tax on carbon dioxide is a good idea. A 10,000 % tax on gasoline would put the whole country on the barricades. Literal barricades with paving stones and tires and sandbags. From the context it’s not a case of a missing decimal point, either.

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        • X October 16, 2018 at 10:29 am

          Very quick and dirty: Some headline says it would cost $4 trillion to “save” the world, or sorta hold the line on temperature increase. (Two Iraq wars, more or less!) The US burned 140 billion gallons of gas in 2015. If the total cost of carbon reduction were on US motor fuel ALONE that would be $28.00 per gallon. Seems like that would also change our behavior a fair amount, and I could fill my tank for merely the cost of a hotel room!

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          • GlowBoy October 16, 2018 at 12:01 pm

            Also, you’re not using comparable time units. You’re looking at our energy consumption per year, and then dividing it into the $4T remediation cost, which would be spread over many years. Even if we had 4 trillion sitting in the bank ready to spend, there’s no way we could spend it on the needed changes within a year, or even five.

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            • X October 16, 2018 at 3:45 pm

              OK right, $4 trillion is somebody’s estimate of the total cost of carbon reduction (over a period of time but hopefully soon) while 140 billion gallons was annual consumption in the recent past. I was doing a back-of-envelope check on $300.00 per gallon gas tax as the equivalent cost of a sufficient tax on carbon. Agreed, we should tax motor fuel on a true cost basis. I personally support a tax that is actually somewhat punitive because there are externalities, like abominable land use decisions, that go with private automobile use. The revenue will come handy to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But $300/gallon can’t be right.

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        • X October 16, 2018 at 10:47 am

          I saw another estimate that it would cost about 2.5 % of world GDP to, again, “save” the world, meaning perhaps that not quite all the coral dies off?? That’s sort of like curing cancer with your coffee money. Clearly less developed countries are less able to pay, but they are also home to a smaller slice of GDP so there’s not that much slack for us to pick up in the US and similar places. So, goods news: we can fix things. Bad news: no more lattes.

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          • soren October 16, 2018 at 2:38 pm

            Closer to 2%. This is still considered impossible because individual rights dominate our political and socioeconomic systems.

            Individual rights Trump our collective future.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty October 16, 2018 at 3:06 pm

              Individual rights can be respected while taking collective action to solve societal problems. The only people who see an unresolvable contradiction are the extremists and absolutists.

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            • X October 16, 2018 at 3:48 pm

              Thanks. It was a small number in any case. And they say it’s impossible? It’s like somebody on the bridge of the Titanic actually saw the iceberg but turning the wheel was such a heavy lift. Deck chairs, deck chairs.

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        • GlowBoy October 16, 2018 at 11:55 am

          $300/gal *might* be what you get if you divide the cost of remediation by the number of gallons currently consumed, but that does not mean it is the “necessary carbon tax.”

          That would only be if your goal was to make energy consumers pay for 100% of the remediation. And it would fail to accomplish that, because a large carbon tax will depress demand so much you’d never collect that much. Like it or not, it will take across-the-board funding sources including federal and state general funds to come up with the cash. We will all have to pay. Not to say that the thirstiest energy consumers shouldn’t pay more, but you’ll never get them to pay the whole price.

          A realistic goal is to suppress demand sufficiently to give us enough breathing room to accomplish the remediation. A far lower carbon tax – say $10/gallon gasoline equivalent – would knock the level of energy demand to a fraction of its current level.

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  • David Hampsten October 15, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    “Under the federal tax code, businesses are allowed to have workers allocate up to $260 per month from their paychecks to pay for commutes via transit, including bus, light rail, ferry, water taxi and van pool.” This has been around for decades. City of Portland employees have been benefiting from it for years, as well as other downtown and Lloyd District employers. This is old news.

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    • Chris I October 16, 2018 at 9:41 am

      You can only use it if your business participates.

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  • Harald October 16, 2018 at 5:29 am

    David Hampsten
    As for station locations, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Zurich all have their bullet stations outside of their central cities, usually at airports, to complement rather than compete with air travel.Recommended 0

    Frankfurt, Zurich, and Brussels all have high-speed trains stop at their city centers. You are correct that Frankfurt has an additional high-speed train station at the airport; Zurich and Brussels do not.

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  • Ed October 16, 2018 at 7:06 am

    Re: Bicycling makes you a better driver, it’s not just in safety. When gasoline prices spiked in 2008, a lot of the tips that were being offered for saving fuel when driving were things that become second nature to bicyclists–like accelerating near the bottom of a hill before reaching the low point and beginning the climb up the next one, accelerating slowly from a full stop, etc.. I don’t recall all of them now, but I do recall suggesting that people who needed to drive should get some feet-on riding experience to improve their awareness of energy use in movement.

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  • was carless October 16, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Unfortunately, Canada is even less serious about train travel than the United States. The only place where they have upgraded passenger rail is to provide commuter rail service in major cities such as Toronto. They have garbage long distance trains.

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    • GlowBoy October 16, 2018 at 11:58 am

      I rode VIA Rail (Canada’s national system) from Vancouver, BC to Jasper, AB a few years ago. It was not garbage. I’ve also traveled Amtrak’s Empire Builder between Seattle/Portland and Minneapolis dozens of times over the years (including a short run from Seattle to Wenatchee a couple months ago) and the services are comparable.

      Which is not to say they’re wonderful (although the vast legroom puts even first-class air travel – or travel in any passenger automobile – to shame). But “garbage” is a vast overstatement.

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  • Rebecca October 16, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Re: Seattle transit subsidy: Portland employers have the option to do this right now: https://trimet.org/employers/taxbreaks.htm

    I’m not sure if any companies are *required* to offer it, but it’s there.

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  • Kevin G October 16, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    high-speed rail is totally off-the-shelf technology. There are no technical challenges. Just fiscal and political. European or Japanese manufacturers will happily sell their expertise and their best kit. But you’d need a new track right-of-way. That’s the big one. You can’t run high-speed rail on freight railroad-owned tracks designed and maintained for moderate speed. Arguably you can’t ever run regular passenger rail. If you’ve ever taken Amtrak anywhere you will doubtless have experienced sitting on a siding somewhere to let a lumbering freight train go by.

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    • 9watts October 16, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      I can think of a hundred or even a thousand actual problems that demand our attention, ingenuity, funds. High speed rail, though cool to imagine, doesn’t make the list.

      What is the problem that high speed rail is purporting to solve?

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      • Chris I October 16, 2018 at 3:27 pm

        The massive amounts of CO2 being dumped into the atmosphere every year due to air travel between cities within 500 miles of each other.

        Europeans have significantly lower carbon footprints than Americans, and a big part of that is because their modes of travel are more efficient.

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        • 9watts October 16, 2018 at 3:30 pm

          I think it has more to do with the fact that their density and land use patterns allow them to take care of business without covering so much distance. Efficiency is overrated.

          We would do well to focus on *accessibility* rather than overcoming distance. We could organize our lives and space such that we had everything close at hand and didn’t need to go anywhere a bicycle or our feet could take us. I could get behind that, and so would Ivan Illich.

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          • 9watts October 16, 2018 at 3:33 pm

            _couldn’t_ take us

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty October 16, 2018 at 3:33 pm

            For most things, access and overcoming distance are the same thing. Unless everyone I know moves to Portland, I’ll still have cause to travel to Seattle on occasion, which is a bit further than I would choose to cycle or walk.

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            • 9watts October 16, 2018 at 3:43 pm

              “For most things, access and overcoming distance are the same thing.”

              Only if you take a static view of how we have arranged things.
              If I can get food and conversation and employment close by then maybe I don’t need much of any travel. I am well aware that we haven’t seen fit to organize things that way, but we could (and soon enough will be forced to).

              “Unless everyone I know moves to Portland, I’ll still have cause to travel to Seattle on occasion, which is a bit further than I would choose to cycle or walk.”

              That is hardly a good reason to spend billions on high speed rail. For the occasional trip to Seattle you can already get there for almost nothing (Bolt bus), or in comfort (Amtrak). To shave off an hour or whatever for that infrequent pleasure outing is hardly a good reason to spend billions of taxpayer dollars.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty October 16, 2018 at 3:53 pm

                On the timescales we’re talking, how “things are arranged” is pretty static.

                For the record, I’m ambivalent about high-speed rail between Portland and Seattle; I’d like to start with more dependable regular rail. But I won’t deny that making the trip in 2 hours instead of 4 would be really great.

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              • 9watts October 16, 2018 at 4:18 pm

                “would be really great”

                I don’t know anyone disagreeing with that (for the one holding the ticket).
                The point though is that pursuing, much less accomplishing, this would (a) be extremely expensive, (b) take money from much more deserving projects that would benefit far more strata of society, (c) end up generating countless countervailing effects (c.f. Ivan Illich).

                “More energy fed into the transportation system means that more people move faster over a greater range in the course of every day. Everybody’s daily radius expands at the expense of being able to drop in on an acquaintance or walk through the park on the way to work. Extremes of privilege are created at the cost of universal enslavement. The few mount their magic carpets to travel between distant points that their ephemeral presence renders both scarce and seductive, while the many are compelled to trip farther and faster and to spend more time preparing for and recovering from their trips.”

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          • X October 16, 2018 at 4:23 pm

            Everyone must get prizes, it’s both. But see:


            It looks like surface travel produces only 10 to 25 % of the CO2 of planes, which also emit into the upper atmosphere where the pollution is more damaging.

            Accurate carbon pricing would make trains a much better bargain, so they would be full, producing more revenue. Increased demand would also make acquisition of new right-of-ways more politically palatable.

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            • Chris I October 17, 2018 at 11:07 am


              Basically, we’re all saying: “Hey, I think it’s a good idea to offer lower-carbon alternatives between the two largest cities in the NW.”

              9watts comes in here and tells everyone “Stop this talk, you shouldn’t be traveling at all”.

              I don’t think that is constructive.

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              • 9watts October 17, 2018 at 11:15 am

                “9watts comes in here and tells everyone ‘Stop this talk, you shouldn’t be traveling at all'”

                I never said anything of the sort.
                I am problematizing the urge, the need, the self-evident fact that we should all travel faster over greater distances, given the constraints our fossil fuel profligacy have saddled us with.

                We can look at this in a variety of different ways.

                (1) we must find ways to travel as fast as airplanes fly but with (slightly) lower GHG emissions (many people in this conversation)

                (2) how much travel and at what speeds can we afford given how far along we are toward climate catastrophe? (9watts, George Monbiot)

                (3) what are the social, economic, equity tradeoffs from pursuing greater speed? (Ivan Illich)

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