Transportation headlines, Friday, June 19

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Pope Francis calls for swift action on climate change (New York Times)


The vision that Francis outlined in a 184-page papal encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He describes relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment and says apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness are to blame.

The most vulnerable victims, he declares, are the world’s poorest people, who are being dislocated and disregarded.

In a follow-up article, the NYT looks at the long tradition of Papal involvement in environmental and other issues which may at first seem outside the realm of the church. Excerpt:

Among those presenting the encyclical at a Vatican news conference on Thursday was an Eastern Orthodox theologian, Metropolitan John Zizioulas, who said, “The ecological crisis is essentially a spiritual problem.”

“The proper relationship between humanity and earth has been broken by the fall, both outwardly and within us. This rupture constitutes what we call sin.

He said, “The church must introduce in its teaching the sin against the environment. The ecological sin.”

Vatican City may be a country (albeit a tiny one) but the issue here is obvious: although the Pope may be the spiritual leader to millions of people across the globe, the Vatican has zero authority over the kind of environmental regulations that could curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

Perhaps that doesn’t matter. Oftentimes in history, people have proven ahead of their leaders. We all have choices, to some extent, about the resources that we use and consume and it seems to me that the Pope’s appeal is more to everyday people than the governments who will almost certainly ignore him. As Elizabeth Kolbert wrote on the New Yorker’s website:

Whether the Pope’s message will have any influence—on the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, on the delegations currently trying to devise an international climate agreement, or on anyone else—remains to be seen. Up to now, the sowers of discord have done a good job blocking action on climate change, and, if the leak of the encyclical is any guide, they are still hard at work. Meanwhile, as@Pontifex tweeted to his 6.3 million followers Thursday, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

Quasi-related: taking transit, even occasionally, instead of driving (especially alone) is generally speaking one way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Hardly related: Pope Francis’ Twitter stream has 6.36 million followers — check it out to see some of what he was tweeting about his climate change announcement. Miley Cyrus has 20 million followers.

Mapping 7 million gallons of oil spills (High Country News) 

In the wake of the recent spill near Santa Barbara, here is a good Google Map of roughly 1,000 pipeline spills or ruptures over the past five years. Surprising fact: lightning has been a factor in some big spills.

What that car really costs to own (Consumer Reports)

Source: Consumer Reports.

Source: Consumer Reports.

Metro held a Dump the Pump event on Thursday with the agency saying the switching from driving everyday to transit can save consumers nearly $13,000 a year. That’s a number that comes from the American Public Transportation Assn (APTA).

There’s no doubt that transit is less costly than driving, but the APTA number doesn’t necessarily reflect the wide range of cost of different type of cars. The Consumer Reports article — from 2012 — has a list of the five-year cost of different models and, as you would expect, it’s all over the place. At the time the article was published the average cost of owning a car for the first five years of ownership was $9,100. (There are a number of cost articles/calculators online).

There are also some interesting charts that show what many of you already know: one way to reduce the costs of a car is to keep it. The average cost of cars after year six of ownership is shown at about $6,000. I have a 2007 Subaru that I own outright and that number is a bit higher than what I pay — but I also don’t drive as much as I used to. And I’ve definitely extended the life of my car by using transit, my bike and my feet when possible.

That’s not as sexy a message as saying “dump your car” but I do think it’s a message that could have the most impact on the most people. One of the big challenges, I think, for transit agencies across the country is coming up with the kind of fare products that will appeal to the discretionary riders and provide a bigger incentive to occasionally leave the car at home or the transit station.

Some day I’ll get around to going back to Denmark (Zocalo Public Square)

Anne Nelson. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Anne Nelson. Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

The latest in Zocalo’s ongoing series of Metro rider profiles.


Because it’s Friday….Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl playing “Walk” shortly after breaking his leg during a show in Sweden.





8 replies

  1. “He describes relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment and says apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness are to blame.”

    Good points, but couldn’t the ever increasing exploitation of natural resources be driven by ………………………………………………………. HUMAN OVERPOPULATION? Nah, wouldn’t want to aggressively encourage practical Family Planning especially in developing nations …

    Pardon me, have to reset my P.C. warning klaxon.

    To Metro, a pretty roundabout way to encourage use of public transit. And thank you for responding to my note to the South Bay Service Council about some glaring issues with existing bus service, we’ll see what happens.

    M.T., F.C. Mike


      Yes, that is the biggest problem and taboo to talk about. It gets too close to people’s private parts and “personal choice”, etc. Water shortages? Many of them have problems of too many people in the wrong places. Halve the number of people, the demand for power and water drops by ~1/2. Imagine LA traffic with half the number of people. Keep the density in the greater DTLA area high and pull people from the AV down to the SFV, IE toward the SGV and OC.

      One of the major issues with overpopulation is that most retirement systems and many economic systems look for growth caused by population growth. Japan has been weathering this issue now.

      • “Yes, that is the biggest problem and taboo to talk about. It gets too close to people’s private parts and “personal choice”, etc.”

        Because it is a private part and personal choice. How many children a loving couple decides to have is none of anyone’s business, let alone should not be a government policy just as much as what two loving couples (same sex or not) conducts in their own bedroom.

        “Halve the number of people, the demand for power and water drops by ~1/2.”

        Or technological advances such as LEDs or more energy efficient appliances reduces electricity usages despite population growth:

        LA County 2006 electricity usage: 70662.032511 million kwh
        LA County 2013 electricity usage: 68110.325803 million kwh

        If everyone changes their 100W light bulb to a 100W equivalent LED light bulb that only consumes 18W, we’ll be able to reduce electricity for light bulbs by 82%.

        Same goes with water. Low flow toilets, better water use, now watering the lawn after rain, etc. all helps in the end. Besides, water consumption by the population isn’t really the biggest problem; the largest water consumer in CA is our agriculture.

      • ” Besides, water consumption by the population isn’t really the biggest problem; the largest water consumer in CA is our agriculture.”

        And the purpose of agriculture is…… to feed people. More people = more agriculture.

        Efficiency will not be the way to beat the problem of over-population.

      • Sure, agriculture is to feed people. But you can’t get rid of agriculture in CA either. Agriculture plays an important role in CA’s economy; they’re a $42.6 billion dollar industry here which in itself also generates $100 billion dollars in related industry. And CA agriculture doesn’t just feed CAnians, they’re exported throughout the world.

  2. The CR article left out one huge expense: parking! Most notably free parking. If you read Donald Shoup’s work you’ll start to think about the prices that we all pay to provide free parking to those of us who own cars. If you think about it you’ll realize that approximately 10 percent of housing costs are used to provide “free” parking. When you add in the costs of other parking – at office buildings, stores, entertainment sites and on-street – you will begin to realize the enormity of the cost. I haven’t done all of the math yet, but I would guess that the average cost per vehicle for parking in the LA basin is between $3,000 and $6,000 per year, so this is probably the largest cost of owning a vehicle. If you factor in this cost you may think twice about your choice to own a car, or a second car.
    Unfortunately we don’t feel these costs because they’re hidden. My condo comes with two parking spaces, but I don’t have a choice of whether I pay for them, even if I don’t own two cars. Building regulations require that parking be provided, so even people who don’t own cars are required to subsidize the free parking of auto owners.
    We need to change the system so that we realize what we’re spending on parking, and allow us to “opt out” if we choose not to own a car.

  3. Has APTA ever considered a comparative analysis of cost of owning a motorcycle vs public transit, rather than just cars?

    It’s pretty common knowledge that a motorized two wheel vehicle is a lot cheaper (some scooters are less than $1000) than a car, much more fuel efficient (some mopeds can get upwards of 100 MPG or more), and low insurance even at full coverage (avg. $100/year with AAA).