Electric car fueling

GreenTech Media has reported that the federal government, via the Department of Energy, has granted $300 million for cities to work with industrial partners to buy alternative-fuel vehicles and set up refueling stations.  The list of city winners, under the Clean Cities Program, includes New Haven, San Bernandino and Chicago.  Some of the highlighted projects include natural gas garbage trucks in New Jersey, using landfill natural gas in Atlanta and Texas incorporating propane-fueled buses.  The DOE estimates that these 25 projects will offset the usage of 39 million gallons of petroleum annually.  That is nothing to laugh at for both environmental and foreign policy concerns.

In an unrelated story, Government Technology reported that city government in Washington, D.C. has adopted ZipCar technology to manage its communal fleet of vehicles.  In the process, the city has been able to better organize its fleet and reduce its size.  Here are some of the notes on the FastFleet program.

The city ultimately eliminated 360 vehicles from its fleet, bringing the total to approximately 1,200 (not including law enforcement vehicles, which aren’t eligible for the program).

At press time, DC Fleet Share used 58 passenger sedans — 56 of which are hybrids and two of which are powered by alternative fuel. Burns said the district’s vehicles are parked at several large office complexes that are home to city government. Between 10 and 25 Fleet Share cars are parked at each site.

Both of these programs are great news.  Think about how many vehicles every city owns, from cars used for everyday puposes to police cars, firetrucks, ambulances, street cleaners, garbage trucks, school buses, delivery vans, postal service vehicles, maintenance vehicles and much more.  Many towns and cities furthermore have their own refueling station for this vehicles.  Transferring a percentage of these cars and trucks to alternative fuels and beginning the process of building the infrastructure to refuel them has enormous benefits to both the environment and the communities.

One of the greatest challenge of alternative fuel vehicles is there are few places to get the right fuel and frequently there is no standardized fueling method.  When government begins the process in tandem with industry standards are easier to set and the foundation is laid for private car-owners to follow.  Such progress is even more reassuring when fewer vehicles need to be owned, as in DC.  Clearly this is a savings for the taxpayer, but is also a savings for congestion and fuel usage as well.  Lower congestion and better fuel usage are two pillars of cleaner, more efficient transportation.  Public transportation represents a large part of the solution, but certain vehicles will never be eliminated.  Making those vehicles better is a step forward.

Dutch_ICE

My friend Greg Moran alerted me to this article in the Wall Street Journal concerning state grant applications for part of the federal high speed rail funding from the Federal Railroad Administration.  While reading this I couldn’t help but wonder about how much planned high speed rail tickets in various parts of the country may cost.  Will rail be competitive with the cost of airplane tickets?  Will tickets be subsidized?  If so, by how much?  Will high speed rail be cheap enough to be bought by students, blue collar workers or white collar business travelers only?  Will high speed rail connect business communities only or schools, think tanks, families and contractors as well?

Picking a random day, a month from now September 25th, Amtrak tickets on the Northeast Corridor traveling from South Station Boston to Washington DC start at $65 and $149 for the Acela.  This is rather incredible given that you can fly the same route on weekdays for $120 according to bing.com.  Moreover, the flight is only 80 minutes, compared to 6 hours and 46 minutes on the acela.  Clearly Acela is a faulty example, because it is not really high speed rail, just higher speed rail.  One last comparison, AAA estimates that it will cost $82.60 (plus tolls) to drive that distance.

My point is that as states apply for funding to build high speed rail or improve their rail lines I want to know where future subsidies are coming from to keep the cost of travel on rail down.  In order for high speed rail to be competitive it must not only be fast and comfortable, it must be relatively cheap.  I wish the best of luck to all those who have applied for funding and are in the planning and construction phases.  I sincerely hope that rail is an option for all Americans, not merely those traveling on corporate accounts.

Transport Politic

As of now my blogroll has been kept intentionally small.  Links of government transit agencies at the federal, state and local level can be found on the links in the upper right hand corner.

I would like to introduce the Transit Pass readers to The Transport Politic, a blog about the role of the political process in building new transportation as well as thoughts on the economy and efficacy of proposed transportation ideas, whether those ideas originate in government or elsewhere.

One of my favorite features of the website are his pages on projects under construction and proposed projects.  For example, how cool is Honolulu Rail Transit or a K Street Rapid Bus link in Washington DC (think of all the awesome potential nicknames, like the “lobbyist express” or the “pork roller”).

All-in-all I am excited to have the Transport Politic on my blog roll and occasionally tipping my hat to its fabulous posts, including this one on the relationship of the transportation lobby to the roads lobby and how the transport lobby depends on the road lobby (via a blackmail-esque relationship) for its livelihood.

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