Thursday, January 26, 2006


Post and discuss


christin m p in massachusetts said...

Are biodiesel cars affordable to the average person? And is it really as easy as just visiting your local diner or chinese restaurant to get the cooking oil to fuel them?

Marilynn M said...

I doubt it. There is only so much used cooking oil. Down the line maybe.

john Ashman said...

The new VWs are bio-diesel ready. $1000 extra, but 50mpg.

Judy B. said...

The problem is, where do you buy biodiesel fuel. Some service stations are beginning to have pumps, but the market isn't there yet to be economically feasible for most people.

john Ashman said...

Well, the good thing is that if you buy a bio-diesel ready car, you're, well, ready when/if it happens. In the mean time, burn the regular stuff. I want to buy a TDI, but it's got to be in the right vehicle.

Marilynn M said...

I like the hybrids for now. It's said that Willie Nelson's Bio Diesel truck smells like an order of fries.

Judy B. said...

The problem with buying a hybrid now is that they are not that available, and because of the demand, the cost is artifically high.
One of the reasons for the lack of production (I am told) is that there are not enough batteries, and the batteries are made overseas..
Why can't we produce our own batteries??

deb said...

FYI: Just released statistics on car safety.

Adobe format

BTW Marilynn midsized cars (accords, etc) are the safest except for minivans and full sized vans.

deb said...

I was just playing around with the statistics from the above link and did a little research.

Americans own 2 out of every 5 registered passenger cars worldwide.

There are 7 billion people on the planet and 300 million Americans right?

And we own 2 of every 5 cars...amazing.

Marilynn M said...

Deb, I'm trying to make my minivan last until the price and availability of the hybrids gets in line.

john Ashman said...

Deb, that statistic. Makes you realize we're not as "poor" as many would have us believe, doesn't it?

Judy B. said...

John, it really makes me realize how much the rich have...
And beyond that, how little we are doing to use our riches in energy efficient/environment friendly ways, such as mass transit and small vehicle corridors.

john Ashman said...

Very true. I like the small vehicle corridor idea, I put one of those up. I'd commute in a fancy go-kart!

Of course, we create a lot of the world's problems, but we also solve them. Net sum....

Judy B. said...

John, would you post your small vehicle corridor idea?

Judy B. said...

Probably the quickest way to get results in alternate technology is at the state/local level.. Here is an idea for youa all to propose to your state legislatures.

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington state's nascent oilseed industry would get an immediate $9 million boost under a package of emergency loans approved by the state House on Monday.

The money would fund four proposed crushing plants in Eastern Washington, where canola and other crops could be reduced to oil. The oil would later be blended with diesel fuel to create biodiesel.

Supporters believe the crushers will help Washington leap ahead in production of both oilseeds and biodiesel, which burns cleaner than conventional diesel.

"A hundred years from now, it won't be oil that runs our economy. It will be something else," said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish. "Change is required -- not by some hug-a-tree, granola kind of stuff, but by the simple realities of supply and demand."

The measure, part of a major movement to encourage biofuels production, passed the House on an 89-7 vote. It now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

Majority Democrats turned aside several proposed amendments before voting on the bill, including an attempt to strip prevailing wage requirements for the crushing plants.

Republicans also worried that the bill's four earmarked projects would get an advantage over private-sector attempts to build similar facilities. "We will cut the legs out from under those who are trying to do this in the private sector and do it in a market-driven manner," said Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Carrolls.

Under Dunshee's bill, the state would sell bonds to raise cash. Government subdivisions would get the money as low-interest loans, and private companies would have to match half the state subsidy to help pay startup costs.

The Spokane Conservation District, the Odessa Public Development Authority and the Port of Columbia County each would get $2.75 million under the proposal. The Port of Sunnyside would get $750,000.

Canola is seen as the leading candidate to supply the crushing plants, but Washington state farmers only grow about 4,000 acres of it, said Terry Morgan, a Rosalia farmer and vice chairman of the state Canola Commission.

That's a pittance compared to leading states such as North Dakota, which planted about 1 million acres last year. But good prices and steady demand in Washington could help change that, Morgan said.

"With winter canola, with some of the yields that are available, it will be very competitive or outperform wheat," he said. "It won't replace wheat by any means, but it can replace a portion of it in the rotation."

The Legislature also is considering mandates for biodiesel blends in the state, and multimillion-dollar plans to fund biodiesel refineries and other alternative energy projects.

Dunshee's bill has an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately after being signed into law. Dunshee's bill is HB2393.

Richard Yarnell said...

The original SSB submission dealt with recovering long-haul railroad rights of way and then establishing RUF systems as the destinations of high-speed, long-haul, passenger rail. The following is taken from a letter I've already discussed with Earl Blumenauer, 3rd District, OR. It elaborates on the SSB submission.

I’d like to describe to you a new transit system that provides all these benefits:

· *Improves traffic flow at lower public cost than conventional systems
· *Eliminates routing and scheduling problems
· *Eliminates need to acquire new rights of way (ROW)
· *Reduces transit related emissions to zero**
· *Allows incremental expansion of routes
· *Provides infinite scheduling flexibility
· *Permits mixed public and private or fleet owned and leased rolling stock
· *Enhances safety on the public system due to computer control
· *Provides the base for an efficient, high speed, regional system
· *Gives American auto manufacturers a new product with which to revitalized and rebuild their businesses

As someone who has dealt with transportation issues, you know that long ago, we provided generous subsidies to establish nationwide rail rights-of-way (ROW). After the Interstate Highway system was established, we began to abandon those ROW. AMTRAK has been legislated into a poor cousin of long-haul rail freight companies. The U.S. alone among the great nations has no national passenger rail system. As the automobile became our primary mode of transport, limited access highways and the Interstate system lured workers farther and farther from the cities until commuting turned highways into parking lots. Not smart!

At the same time, because of this over-reliance on privately owned automobiles, we still have not come up with an efficient mass transit system that people will use. With some notable exceptions, which were built almost a century ago, even our very concentrated and largest cities cannot attract enough riders to make mass transit truly successful. Even in the Portland Metro area, with one of the better systems in the country (at least that's what we're told), mass transit is under-utilized and its expansion resisted at every turn. Yet we’re poised to add another expensive light rail line which can serve only a very few commuters.

As I understand it, in order to persuade commuters to give up private transport and use conventional public transit instead, routes must be within 2-4 blocks of each user's residence - a very dense grid. Not only that, mass transit must run frequently enough to reduce travel plus waiting time to approximately driving time. Further, transportation to secondary and tertiary destinations must be similarly sited and scheduled. Planning routes for mass transit requires a crystal ball and must rely on growth projections that may or may not come to pass. At the very least, those transit system choices bind future planners to sometimes decades' old decisions.

Light Rail certainly doesn't meet any of those criteria. While bus transit is flexible, it has so many disagreeable aspects that reliance on it for anything other than emergencies is an almost 19th century artifact. There is another choice.

Some years ago I became aware of a system that, while still in development, offers a solution to almost all of the toughest mass transit problems. The time is near that this system will be ready for a full-scale deployment. It appears that all the technology required for it to operate already is available. I'd like to see it installed first here in the Portland area before we become fixed in cement like Seattle and LA. I will even commit to buying the first privately owned system vehicle myself.

The system is called RUF. It is an invention of a Dane, Palle R. Jensen ( Even though his website ( displays route diagrams for Seattle and LA, he's had to look for financing (so far restricted to a demo system in India) from Indian banking interests. We have the need; we have the resources: we should talk to the man, persuade Portland, Metro, the State, and perhaps the Department of Transportation, to invest in finishing the design process, including making RUF vehicles robust enough to meet US safety requirements, and in exchange receive some royalties and the right to install the first public system. I believe that RUF will become widely used. It would be appropriate for you to lead the way.

Here's how it works:

The operating authority installs the “track” on its own or an existing public ROW. In the Portland area, a two way, "T" shaped route*, would be sufficient to capture 80% of commuters provided it terminates somewhere near Oregon City and well north of Vancouver, WA (say Battle Ground), and in Hillsboro and Gresham but following a more southerly route than the already established Max line, say along Highway 26. Later, additional tracks could be installed in order to provide terminal destinations such as the airport and other high traffic attractions, and to shorten the surface drive for potential commuters living beyond five (5) miles, more or less, from the primary routes N/S-E/W tracks. It should be noted that RUF lines are well suited to being installed on elevated track. Surface traffic does not have to be changed except during construction.

The operating authority or the municipality also develops parking at on/off nodes (spaced at approximately three mile intervals). It would acquire a fleet of vehicles comprised of individual (two seat) electric, street worthy cars (RUF Vehicles), and 16-passenger RUF "Jitneys," both designed specifically to operate on the unique system track. The public transit authority operates the latter. The former initially would provide transport for employees and would be available for lease to businesses and individuals trying out the system. As the system proves itself and is adopted by the public, and as construction is completed, individuals would begin to acquire their own RUF Vehicles that run on the public track under computer control or independently on the street. The RUF Jitneys would continue to provide "on-call" transport for non-drivers. User fees, billed on a schedule convenient to the operating authority, would support the system. Public vehicles would have their own fare structure similar to existing bus and light rail lines.

One, early, advantage of the RUF system is the ability to mix publicly owned vehicles (the RUF jitney's and leased individual RUF vehicles) with privately owned vehicles so that the system can carry passengers even before the public invests in private RUF vehicles. I suspect that rental fleets will ramp up before private ownership of RUF vehicles becomes popular. As the system matures, public and private RUF vehicles share the same publicly owned track.

But the chief advantage to the RUF system is that the commuter gets himself to the more widely separated transit routes (projected range of the vehicles is 20-30 miles each way - vehicles are recharged while running on the system and in the garage). The RUF vehicle, which is electronically tested before each entry onto the public track, is placed under system control. Average speed on the system is projected to be nearly 65mph with top speeds of 95mph. At an off-ramp near the driver’s destination, the RUF vehicle exits, either to park or to proceed under the driver's control.

RUF Jitney's operate on a demand basis with calls being fed to drivers as they are logged. The computer constructs a dynamic pick-up and drop-off route for each Jitney run. A transit authority operator would drive the surface route(s). I expect there will be an opportunity for either municipal or private rental outlets throughout the life of the system. Visitors to Portland arriving at the airport would have Public RUF or rental RUF vehicles to choose from.

On top of this, Mr. Jensen assures me that the vehicles will be robust enough to maintain their maximum speeds over long distances. If that is true, a route along the I-5 corridor from Eugene to Vancouver, BC eventually could provide a fast regional transport system. Larger cities (Salem, Eugene, and Corvallis to the south and North to Vancouver, WA, Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle and Vancouver BC) could install their own local track to cut down on surface driving distances as they see fit. The only reason Amtrak has not thrived along the same corridor is the sparse schedule of trains. (I would use the Oregon City AMTRAK stop if only there were more trains to and from Portland.) Since the customer/driver dictates the schedule, I can't imagine anyone whose destination was within 15 miles of a RUF route would chose any other mode of transport. Furthermore, cities with RUF networks and established rental or public RUF vehicles, will make ideal destinations for long-haul, high-speed, inter-regional rail service.

As you will see when you explore the RUF site (, RUF "track" can be installed on or over almost any existing public ROW. There is no expenditure required to acquire new ROW. I don't know how realistic or up to date other cost projections are, but elimination of this one expense suggests to me that the system will be cheaper than any competing one. On top of that, since it is electrically powered, pollution in the metropolitan area should drop significantly.

I urge you to explore the RUF web site. (I believe the route map for Seattle was developed at the University there. A single, two-way line serves essentially the entire region, from Edmonds to the Kitsap Peninsula.) Mr. Jensen is prompt in replying to inquiries. With ample hydroelectric capacity nearby, there is an opportunity to install and operate a modern, flexible, and clean local transportation system with the potential for it to anchor an efficient regional transportation system

* I’ll admit that the river, bisecting the city, is a challenge. It may be that an “H” shaped route, with two north/south tracks, one on either side of the Willamette would be a better choice in the long run.

** We are fortunate to have an abundance of hydroelectric power in this region. I have, this date, delivered to you a separate proposal to enhance production of electric power along the Columbia River while mitigating the water and fisheries management problems we now face. It is project that can be started at any time and that can become the focus of a new (for Oregon) manufacturing industry and the jobs that would bring to Oregon and southern Washington.

Judy B. said...

Debbie, have you seen today's New York Times atricle about vehicle safety...

February 3, 2006
Gains Seen in Redesign of S.U.V.'s
DETROIT, Feb. 2 — Design changes that automakers initially resisted and then reluctantly adopted have sharply reduced the number of deaths among drivers of cars struck by a sport utility vehicle or pickup, according to results from the first study of the standards.

The study, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, using data from the auto industry and the federal government, found that in side-impact collisions the number of deaths fell by nearly half when automakers lowered S.U.V.'s by as little as half an inch or equipped them with hollow impact-absorbing bars below the front and rear bumpers.

The changes are intended to reduce the frequency of S.U.V.'s and pickups' sliding over cars' doorsills and bumpers and piercing deep into cars' passenger compartments.

The changes also reduced by a fifth the risk that an S.U.V. would kill a belted car driver in a frontal collision. The same changes in pickups produced smaller but still significant safety gains. Not since the air bag has a safety standard been so effective in saving lives, experts say.

"To cut somebody's risk of death in half, that's huge," said Ricardo Martinez, the top auto safety regulator during the Clinton administration. "That's almost as good as seat belts. You're lucky if a new regulation gets you a 5 or 10 percent reduction in the death rate."

When federal vehicle fatality statistics are applied to the findings, they suggest that the safety standards could save 600 to 800 lives each year when fully in place in the United States, and save many lives overseas as well. Many S.U.V.'s and pickups have already been redesigned and the study compared how these did in crashes compared with those that had not been redesigned.

Regulators and auto makers began paying attention to S.U.V. collisions with cars in response to a 1997 series in The New York Times. Before then, regulators had done more than 2000 tests without ever crashing an S.U.V. into a car, while automakers said that they did not look at compatibility in crashes when designing vehicles.

Sales of S.U.V.'s and pickups were booming, but automakers soon faced pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which threatened to impose mandatory regulations if the industry did not act.

In a landmark agreement in 2003, 15 automakers from four nations agreed that by late 2009, all S.U.V.'s and pickups would either be lower to the ground or built with an energy-absorbing beam that fits under the front and rear bumpers.

"They never needed to be that high off the ground; that was all the macho look that people wanted, or that the automakers thought people wanted," said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "What we are seeing now is the automakers are bringing them back down."

Lowering S.U.V.'s and pickups and adding energy-absorbing beams were two of the three ways automakers agreed to make light trucks less of a threat to cars.

To protect car occupants from side-impact collisions with S.U.V.'s and pickups, the auto companies also agreed to either install side air bags or offer better head and neck protection for occupants.

Because some automakers did not begin designing vehicles with the improved safety standards until 2003, tens of millions of S.U.V.'s and pickups that do not meet the standards will remain on the road. This could spotlight the issue of whether automakers should be required to make older S.U.V.'s and pickups less dangerous to cars.

The study compared the death rate of car drivers struck by trucks and S.U.V.'s that meet the new safety standards with trucks and S.U.V.'s that do not. Researchers looked at two types of collisions: front to front, when the vehicles collided head on, and front to side, when the S.U.V. or pickup struck the side of a car.

The study found the risk of death for a car driver when struck from the side by an S.U.V. declined 47 to 48 percent when the S.U.V. was lowered or had an impact-absorbing bar underneath the bumper. In front-end collisions between an S.U.V. and a car, the study found that car drivers were 18 to 21 percent less likely to die when the S.U.V. complied with the standards and the driver was wearing a seat belt.

When the driver was not wearing a seat belt in a front-end crash, the risk of death declined only 2 to 3 percent, suggesting that a seat belt was the critical element in front-end crashes.

The study found that drivers of cars struck in the side by pickups were up to 9 percent less likely to die when the pickup was designed according to the new standards. When a pickup and a car were in a head-on collision, the number of deaths fell by as much as 19 percent for belted car drivers.

Automakers are not likely to take steps anytime soon that would address the tens of millions of S.U.V.'s and trucks now on the road that do not meet the safety standards.

"There's really nothing that can be done on old architectures that were not engineered to these requirements," said Bob Lange, General Motors' top safety official. "They will phase out of use over time."

Priya Prasad, Ford's top safety researcher, said the insurance institute's results were largely in line with what Ford has found through its own testing. "We are going in the right direction, that's what this study is showing," Mr. Prasad said.

A report last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that S.U.V.'s also had the highest death rate for their own occupants of any broad class of vehicles, mainly because of high rollover rates. Vans had the lowest death rate for occupants, followed by cars, then pickups and then S.U.V.'s, with the larger models in each category also providing more protection than smaller models.

Judy B. said...

Go vote and then come back..

Judy B. said...

The following is part of an article found at: there for more info

Bicycles provide affordable transportation for billions of people. The infrastructure for bicycles—such as roads and parking facilities—is less expensive to build and less land-intensive than that for cars. Moreover, bicycles do not contribute to air or noise pollution, and they reduce traffic congestion. They also offer a chance for people to improve their physical fitness at a time when obesity is at record levels.

Europe is the world leader in bicycle use. In Amsterdam, 33 percent of all trips are made by bicycle. In Copenhagen, one third of all commuters bike to work. Europe’s many bicycle-friendly cities have developed expansive networks of support services, often including bike lanes and separate bikeways, secure bicycle parking, and end-of-trip facilities such as showers and locker rooms. Safety initiatives implemented over the past 25 years in Germany—such as better cycling routes, “traffic calming,” more education, and stronger enforcement of traffic laws—have improved cycling safety while doubling the number of bike trips taken. (

Richard Yarnell said...

Judy B:

As much as I believe bikes have a place in our transportation mix, there's a lot of redesign of our cities that has to take place first to make them practical.

1) We need to do a better job of mixing housing with the places people are employed;

2) We need to do a better job mixing commercial space with housing;

3) It's essential that we segregate bikes from automobile and truck traffic unless we're bent on a policy of random population reduction;

4) We need to have a friendlier attitude toward those who do use bikes to commute.

I commuted in clement weather from my apartment on 105th and West End to my job in Times Square on my bike. I have scars to prove it and I was a conservative rider. 15 years ago, despite the hills involved, I commuted to my job in Portland, a matter of 20 blocks, more or less. I even continued commuting after I moved farther out to share a house - it was 45 minutes each way provided I did not make the trip during the rush hour.

Shopping, except for incidentals, really wasn't practical after the move.

But then, whether we're doing it to encourage bike use, walking, or for some other reason, we should be planning our cities and even our suburban developments to reduce the commute and shopping distances.

Judy B. said...

Richard, my idea was to develop SVC's (small vehicle corridors)in cities, not strictly for bikes, but for other "vehicles" AS WELL.

I like your RUF concept. It is visionary; it is an ideal people mover system. It is futuristic.

The SVC concept is revenue neutral, and could be implemented now, for the compact/subcompact cars, for bikes/scooters and other two wheelers, and for misc vehicles, golf carts, handicapped wheelchairs and three wheelers, SEQUE's, even riding lawn-mowers...

All that is needed is for cities to stripe their roadways differently... the main thing is planning; painting the stripes is a continuing maintence project anyway...

Would also probably need to adopt more one-way streets..

All that cities need is a hammer to make it happen...

I propose using a portion (10%) of the gas tax that is returned to the counties/cities/towns be earmarked for the design plans. then every year require that 10% of the city have the plan implemented. If not they looose their 10% of the money...

In ten years the country would have a brand new transportation system that would be safer, decrease traffic congestion, reduce pollution, save energy, reduce stress...and give a whole new meaning to freedom to people who can't afford cars...

My idea that i entered in the contest was:

Judy B. said...

Here is a story that ran in our local paper. I think maybe this is the go-to man on transportations issues.

Federal watchdog ends career as champion of accountability

WASHINGTON -- Kenneth M. Mead has spent his career as a government watchdog, telling lawmakers and bureaucrats what they don't want to hear.

He is, in the words of one man who has written a book on inspectors general, among the top 10 in a profession that is little known outside Washington but someone to whom taxpayers, airline passengers and Amtrak riders owe a debt of gratitude.

For more of this story, type the URL below:

If this story is lost in the archives and you want to know more, let me know as I copied it in email form...

Judy B. said...

Transportation Costs Threaten Opportunity Economy
The New York Times reported 7/18/04 in its article

“Hourly Pay in U.S. Not Keeping Pace with Price Rises” that workers are not earning enough money to keep up with inflation, primarily due to tremendous slack in the labor market.

“In June, production workers took home $525.84 a week, on average. After accounting for inflation, this is $8 less than they were pocketing last January. And it is the lowest level of weekly pay since October 2001.”

Where is the inflationary pressure coming from? Transportation costs.

For example, in the same New York Times article, one person was quoted as saying that their monthly bus passes went up $10 from $35/month to $45/month, a 28.5% increase. Separately, the Wall Street Journal reported July 12, 2004 (“For Many Low-Income Workers, High Gasoline Prices Take a Toll”) that the toll of rising gasoline prices is “…particularly heavy among low-income workers, for whom higher gas prices amount to a palpable pay cut.” It continues by explaining that “…individuals with annual incomes of less than $8000 spent nearly 10% of their incomes commuting in 1999. Those with incomes of $45,000 or more spent just 2%.” And these numbers don’t reflect the cost of the car or insurance premiums.

Opportunity economics includes an understanding that a low-inflationary and low-interest environment is great for economic growth AND economic opportunity; and though we still have relatively low interest rates, we’re seeing the introduction of inflation through the increase of transportation costs.

Judy B. said...

Here is another transportation innovation: