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Travel - Aug 22

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Where the car is not king
(video, audio, text)
Sayeeda Warsi, BBC
In the second of Newsnight's series on finding the best public services in the world, Conservative Party Vice Chair Sayeeda Warsi reports on efforts to overhaul public transport in one US city.
If you thought political cross-dressing was a recent British phenomenon, you obviously haven't been to Portland.

In Oregon they were 'cross dressing' as far back as the 1970's when the Republican Governor, Tom McCall, took radical steps to prioritise public transport over roads, using the freeways levy to invest in the foundations of what is undoubtedly one of the most integrated and dynamic public transport provisions anywhere in the world.

Today, the city still invests its share of federal tax dollars into multiple modes of transport, and its long-term vision has paid off.

Over the last 10 years, public transport use has gone up by 65% and they have managed to avoid a predicted 40% increase in congestion.

And, incredibly for a city in the world's most car dependent nation, they're eradicating over 62 million car trips a year, which means car use is growing at the slowest rate anywhere in the United States.
(15 Aug 2006)
The segment on Portland begins at about 70% of the way into the video. A Conservative politician from Britain complains at the lack of public transport in the UK and points to Portland as a city that's getting it right. -BA

Airlines tremble at prospect of $100-a-barrel oil

Dan Reed, USA Today
Beleaguered U.S. airlines seem to have slowly staggered to their feet since the terrorism and recession of earlier this decade. But credit agency Standard & Poor's has come up with a worrisome scenario that could knock them back down: $100-a-barrel oil.

Last month, S&P issued a provocative report saying the steady rise in prices in the past three years and the fear of potential supply disruptions "has created an environment where a triple-digit oil price in the near term is not unimaginable." The world's tight refining capacity, coupled with political unrest or violent storms, could cause the price, $71.14 at the market close on Friday, to climb to triple digits.

No one, not even S&P, has crawled out on a limb to predict that prices will go that high. And prices have been moderating for more than a week. Still, there are enough potential sources of disruption in the flow of oil and refined fuels that some on Wall Street and in corporate suites are contemplating what would happen to the domestic airline industry if the market price does reach $100 a barrel. The speculation comes just as the industry is coming off its best quarter in six years: a collective $1.4 billion profit after setting aside one-time bankruptcy reorganization costs at Northwest and Delta.

What S&P sees at the $100-a-barrel level isn't pretty: Northwest and Delta airlines could be forced to liquidate; others could be pushed into Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection.
(21 Aug 2006)

Scotland motorists clock up 150m fewer miles in their cars

Louise Gray and Jason Cumming, Scotsman
SCOTLAND'S love affair with the motor car is waning, with Scots increasingly leaving their vehicle in the garage and taking public transport or walking instead, new statistics have revealed.

The Scottish Executive's transport survey shows that Scots drove 150 million fewer miles on major roads last year than in 2004, down by 1 per cent and only the second drop since the oil crisis of the 1970s. In contrast, rail and bus journeys were up and walking and cycling were more popular.

Experts said huge rises in fuel costs, increasing congestion on the roads, coupled with increasing investment in public transport and growing awareness of the environment was behind the change. But with car drivers still running more than 14 billion vehicle miles on A-roads and motorways last year, environmentalists warned that much still needed to be done.

George Hazel, a professor of transport policy at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said increasing Executive and local authority investment in public transport, coupled with an increased public awareness about climate change, has led to more people abandoning cars.
(16 Aug 2006)

California's SUV Ban

Andy Bowers, PUB
The Golden State has outlawed big SUVs on many of its roads but doesn't seem to know it.

Unless you drive one of the largest SUVs, such as the Chevy Suburban, the Cadillac Escalade, or the Ford Excursion, I'll bet you've watched them thundering down quiet residential lanes and wondered to yourself: Why is that monster allowed on this little street?

Well, here's a surprising piece of news. It may not be. Cities throughout California—the nation's largest car market—prohibit the heaviest SUVs on many of their residential roads. The problem is, they don't seem to know they've done it.
(4 Aug 2006)

The future of travel: where do we go from here?

Simon Calder, The Independent
Catching a plane has become a part of everyday life. But as oil prices take off, environmental concerns rise and security levels soar, how long can it be before casual travel is consigned to history? Will August 2006 be remembered as the point of no return? Simon Calder takes a trip into the future

The new Airbus A380 "superjumbo" will allow airlines to provide unparallelled levels of customer care, at least for those in first and business class. But Stelios suggests that our appetite for long-haul luxury may be attenuated by our consciences. "I hope that in the next 10 years people will figure out that being economical with your money when travelling pretty much equates with being responsible towards the environment."

Flying economy is greener than flying first class, which in turn is greener than flying on a private jet. So will son of Concorde ever be born? Not according to the easyJet founder. "I do not expect an increase in the cruising speed of aircraft, as history has shown that people will not pay for it," he says.
(15 Aug 2006)

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