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Americans adapt creatively to long commutes

Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor
Drivers spend an average of 38 hours a year in rush-hour delays, according to a new report.

…For all the concerns about road rage, environmental costs, and up to $78 billion in lost productivity, it’s becoming evident that the American commute — growing ever longer and more extreme according to a new report — is a sophisticated personal, even philosophical, journey as well as a testament to the lengths that Americans will go to chase their dreams.

“There’s the philosophy that people buy houses on Sunday and discover on Monday that it’s a tough commute,” says

Alan Pisarski, a travel behavior consultant in Lake Barcroft, Va. Yet “it’s really astonishing to me how much people are willing to give up for the perceived benefits that obviously are very real to them.”

It’s a thickening jungle out there in sprawl city, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s “2007 Urban Mobility Report,” released Tuesday. The ranks of Americans with steel coffee cups, photo IDs, and backpacks packed as if on a hike to Mount Katahdin are increasing, while the nation’s asphalt rivers sag under the weight of the killer commute.

Despite high gas prices – $2.66 in Atlanta on Tuesday – 9 of 10 Americans still drive to work each day, the vast majority of them alone, according to census figures released in June. What’s more, the average commute in America has lengthened by a minute a year since 2000, now topping out at 38 minutes, according to the report.

“The big picture is we see congestion increasing in cities of all sizes,” says Tim Lomax, an author of the study.

It’s not just cars that have wear and tear, experts say. Robert Putnam, a political scientist at Harvard University, found that every 10 minutes added to a person’s commute decreases by 10 percent the time that person dedicates to their family and community.
(19 September 2007)
California seen as model for traffic relief in U.S. (SJ Mercury News)
Traffic wastes billions of hours (AP)
Several paths urged to ease USA’s congestion (USA Today)

Investment in cycling could save £520m, government told

Dan Milmo, The Guardian
Encouraging more cyclists on to Britain’s roads could save the taxpayer more than £520m and fight climate change, according to a government-backed cycling group.

Cycling England says a 20% increase in bicycle journeys would lower healthcare costs and reduce congestion. It adds that by making a £70m annual investment in cycling initiatives the government could cut up to 54m car journeys a year by 2012 and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 35,000 tonnes.

The report says that an adult who swaps a car for a bicycle on a return journey of 2.5 miles – the average cycle trip – will generate annual savings of £137.28 through reduced congestion. A regular cyclist saves the NHS £28.30 a year.

“There are very few activities that tackle so many of the things that the government is concerned about, from health and obesity to government and pollution,” said Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England. “An investment of £70m is small in terms of government spending, and this study shows that it will work.”
(17 September 2007)

‘Ban cars in London’ to cut CO2

London must become car-free if it is to substantially cut carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new report.

Researchers claim the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) target to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2025 is unlikely to succeed without drastic measures.

The report says emissions could be cut by 72% by 2030 if cars were banned from the city.

The study was compiled the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Oxford University.
(13 September 2007)

China to hold first-ever ‘no car day’ on Saturday

China will initiate its first-ever nationwide “no car day” this weekend in an effort to promote environmental health and alleviate increasingly gridlocked urban roads, state press said Monday.

Residents in 108 cities will be urged to take public transport, ride bikes or walk on the nation’s first “no car day” on Saturday, the China Daily reported.

“The move is an attempt to raise residents’ awareness on energy saving and environmental protection because the country’s cities are plagued by traffic congestion and pollution,” the paper said.
(17 September 2007)
Adam Browning at Gristmill says:
China, once famed as a bicycling nation, tries to put the genie back in the bottle.

China steel mills may face freight slug

John Garnaut, The Age
AUSTRALIA’S iron ore giants are considering charging Chinese steel makers a premium to take account of differences in shipping costs, on top of huge expected price increases, as the annual contractual “mating dance” begins.

The bargaining positions of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton have dramatically strengthened this year because of soaring Chinese demand.

Iron ore prices have surged 50 per cent on the Chinese spot market since the beginning of July and nearly 100 per cent since the start of the year.

The shipping premium would be on top of ordinary price increases – which analysts predict will be as large as 30 per cent.
(18 September 2007)

Zimbabwe: Minister Says Walk to Save Fuel

Pindai Dube, Zimbabwe Independent (Harare) via All Africa
THE Minister of Energy and Power Development Mike Nyambuya said motorists should get used to being pedestrians to save the scarce drops of fuel available in the country.

Speaking at the official opening of the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) service station in Matshobana on Wednesday, Nyambuya said motorists should adjust to being pedestrians as the supply of fuel was not improving.

“The country is facing critical fuel shortages and as government, we encourage all Zimbabweans to reduce the number of cars on the country’s roads and walk to save the scarce fuel we have,” Nyambuya said.

Analysts said Nyambuya’s statement was an admission that government was failing to find a lasting solution to the country’s fuel problems which started in 1999.

…Zimbabwe consumes 3,5 million litres of diesel, three million litres of petrol and five million litres of Jet A1 daily. It needs about US$130 million a month to import fuel.
(14 September 2007)
A refrain that we’ll be hearing again and again over the years in many countries. -BA

Entrepreneur Hopes to Charge Electric-Car Market

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR (text and audio)
Miles Rubin is nearly 80, but he delayed retirement to take the biggest challenge of his professional life: building low-polluting, electric vehicles.

Rubin is already selling a low-speed all-electric car, and he plans to start selling a highway speed sedan by early 2009. Rubin said the cars – which are built in China- are his way of trying to fight climate change.

…Rubin is a mega-millionaire who made his money trading Chinese silks and medical devices. In the ’90s, he ran Ralph Lauren’s Polo Jeans. Now he’s putting money into his new company, Miles Automotive.

“Electric motors have great initial torque so as you start the car you’re moving right from the outset almost at full torque,” Rubin said.

A four-door hatchback Rubin called the ZX40 is peppy on flat ground, but it barely crawls up a steep hill.

It won’t replace the family minivan, but Rubin hopes it will help him finally jump start the electric car market. It costs about $15,000.

Rubin has sold about 300 of them during the last few months. It’s best suited for college campuses, military bases and corporate parks with low speed limits. NASA, the Navy and several universities have purchased the cars.

…Rubin’s passion for the environment dates back to the 1970s, when he worked with actor Paul Newman to get Congress to promote new sources of energy. But when the oil crisis lifted, interest waned. Rubin hopes this time around, the threat of global warming will keep people focused.

Rubin said he has spent $35 million of his own money, and he expects he will need to double that figure to get his new highway speed car to market.
(19 September 2007)