Transportation Policy

Los Angeles, Seattle Want to Cut Down on Traffic by Cracking Down on Internal Combustion Engines

That is the definition of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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There is no eco-fix so costly and unworkable that it can't catch on with politicians somewhere. Take the movement to ban gas-powered cars, which has been gaining carbon-free steam around the globe.

France, Britain, Indian, and China have all at least theoretically committed in one way or another to phasing out internal combustion engines in the coming decades. Closer to home, California Gov. Jerry Brown has reportedly been pestering his staff to replace the Golden State's 35 million gas-powered vehicles with zero-emission vehicles.

This movement is now working its way down to the local level. On Monday, the mayors of Los Angeles and Seattle committed to buying only zero-emission buses by 2025, and to making "a major area" of their cities emission-free by 2030.

The pledge, titled "Our Commitment to Green and Healthy Streets," was signed by a total of 12 mayors from all around the world. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti jetted to the Paris to attend the signing ceremony personally.

"Our streets must be safe and accessible for everyone, and our air must be clean and free from harmful emissions," says the statement, which promises that an urban emissions ban will ease the time and money wasted in increasingly congested city traffic.

Banning gas-powered cars from cities could cut back on traffic, in same way a famine could reduce obesity-related illnesses, but the claim that such a move would make streets more accessible is farcical.

Let's start with some numbers.

The vast majority of Americans go to and from work in gas-powered automobiles. Los Angeles and Seattle are no exception. Among big American cities, they rank ninth and tenth, respectively, in population density per square mile. Despite that fact, mass transit makes up just 2 percent of the trips in Los Angeles's urban area, 3.3 percent in Seattle.

Even in Seattle's ultra-dense urban core, which is serviced by buses, light rail, and two streetcar lines, less than a fifth of commuters take public transit—and that includes diesel buses. Everyone else is getting around in gas-guzzling autos.

You generally don't improve the accessibility in your city by banning the thing that most people use to access it.

The commitment to exclusively purchase zero-emission buses is more doable, but it will come at a high price.

Electric buses, like electric cars, are far more expensive than their gas counterparts, costing on average $300,000 more per bus. That does not include all the extra charging stations and other infrastructure required.

King County, which contains Seattle, purchased 20 all-electric buses for $15.12 million in January of this year. When the costs of the necessary charging stations are factored in, the cost of these buses comes out to a little more than $1 million per bus. Compare that to Rochester, Minnesota, which just bought new diesel buses for $452,000 a vehicle.

Cities that commit to battery-powered bus purchases are committing to the huge upfront costs that come with those purchases. To the extent those costs are borne by riders through higher fares or fewer buses in service, the result will be less assessible, less mobile cities.

There is no doubt that Seattle and Los Angeles have mobility problems. According to TomTom's 2016 traffic index, Los Angeles is the most congested city in the United States; Seattle finishes fourth. But by embracing zero-emission fantasies, those cities are signing up for unworkable solutions instead of seriously addressing the issue.

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  1. The pledge, titled “Our Commitment to Green and Healthy Streets,” was signed by a total of 12 mayors from all around the world. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti jetted to the Paris to attend the signing ceremony personally.

    So it’s less of a major municipal movement and more of just some dudes scamming a free trip to Paris.

    1. JET TO THE PARIS!

    2. JET TO THE PARIS!

    3. JET TO THE PARIS!

        1. The squirrels are thirsty.

      1. HURRY TO PARIS!

    4. “There are 19,429 municipal governments in the United States.”
      http://www.citymayors.com/mayors/us-mayors.html

      If our mayor announced she was going to fly to Austin to sign a document, it would be, “Yo! Fax it in.”

  2. The vast majority of Americans go to and from work in gas-powered automobiles.

    Wasn’t everyone supposed to be telecommuting by now? Time to make that a reality. Physical office spaces are to be phased out by 2025. It is decreed, therefore it shall be.

    1. I telecommuted for a while, but the people in charge don’t like that. They demand face time. Even when no face time is necessary. It’s how executive think. They live on face time so they think everyone else lives on face time too. They they require you to be holed up in a cubicle where you don’t talk to anyone, and a rideshare memo on the bulletin board does the rest of the touchy feely progressive stuff.

      I can do 97.5% of my work job from my home office. The other one hour is a weekly meeting which I tend to sleep through.

      I have literally been flown out to a client at great expense (and carbon expenditure) just to sit in a borrowed cubicle talking to no one for a week.

      1. That is very true. Most management don’t like telecommuting, and some companies ban it outright. I could do my entire job from my living room, but my company won’t have any of it.

        1. Is your job handling customer complaints about their horse-drawn buggy whips?

          1. No, it’s managing a Global Network that has endpoints in China, dongguan, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Seattle, Manchester England, and of course last but not least Detroit Michigan.

            Since I can’t really be in any of those locations except the Seattle one, going into an office starts to feel kind of pointless. At least it does on paper. I’m actually not against the idea that my company has me come into the office. I would love to sit at home and do my job in my living room, but I’m the first to admit that my productivity would probably slip and I would find myself having lots of extended down times when I could be doing other things.

            I just think the whole telecommuting things that cropped up in the late 90s, early 2000s turned out to be pretty much of a bust.

      2. You must be in the phone sex industry if any of what you said is true.

    2. We are supposed to have Zero-Energy Buildings (net energy usage to be 0 kW) by around then as the standard.

      1. Easy, we had zero energy buildings like two hundred years ago bro. Except maybe in the winter.

  3. Do they really think that if they ban gas-powered cars in cities the government’s mass-transit systems can handle the increased load? Fuck, in most cities the mass-transit systems can’t handle the load they’ve got now.

  4. “Los Angeles and Seattle committed to buying only zero-emission buses by 2025, and to making “a major area” of their cities emission-free by 2030.”

    No such animal exists to my knowledge.

    1. It’s 13 years away, so that’s some other mayor’s problem.

    2. Whenever I hear “there is no such animal,” I always counter with the pig.

      1. Is it because pigs are more equal than the other animals?

        1. Bacon…

  5. Seattle is sprinting to become the next Detroit. Making it difficult for people to leave is the logical next step.

  6. “counterparts, costing on average $300,000 more per bus. That does not include all the extra charging stations and other infrastructure required.”

    Seattle purchased hybrid buses about 10 or 15 years ago, and it turned out the hybrid buses used more gas than their non-hybrid counterparts. I’m guessing that whatever these electric buses do, will use just as much carbon on the charging as the gas-powered ones do and probably more.

    To be fair, the Puget Sound region gets a lot of its electricity from hydro, which environmentalists want removed.

    1. When you figure in the cost and maintenance of the extra equipment, hybrid vehicles make absolutely no sense.

      1. I suspect they’re flat out lying. Their ‘commitment’ will amount to a few buses in a central core which circle the block six times, then need the new battery pack installed at the little crane thingy. There’s no bus that’s going to drive out to east lake Sammamish from downtown full of commuters that’s going to make its whole run on a couple of lithium ions.

      2. To be fair, electric vehicles are superior to hybrids (with the latest batteries) and are rapidly approaching the value of a standard IC vehicle as a commuter vehicle.

        But the idea of an electric bus seems a bit of a stretch. Electric commuter vehicles work because they spend most of their day parked. It’s trivial to spend 2-4 hours recharging for a 40 mile a day commute. But buses need to be driving all day long. Even if you assume an average speed of 15 mph, that’s 240 miles during a 16 hour day.

        It might be feasible in 8 years, but it’s probably going to be expensive. The city will also have to install some expensive electrical transmission equipment at their bus lots to handle an entire fleet of buses all charging at roughly the same time. Perhaps they’ll be able to charge them off of Luna-cells.

        1. and are rapidly approaching the value of a standard IC vehicle as a commuter vehicle.

          No, they are not. The problem with a battery powered vehicle is that when the battery wears out, and it will, the vehicle is scrap metal. The useful life of an IC is exponentially longer than even the most advanced battery. So even if you can get the battery to last long enough to do a normal commute, the care is still a disposable lighter that will burn out in a few years and have no residual value.

          1. On top of that, how many people want a personal vehicle that only has utility for the daily commute and is of limited use for long distance and cargo?

            1. On top of that, how many people want a personal vehicle that only has utility for the daily commute and is of limited use for long distance and cargo?

              A while ago somebody used to have a meme or joke about ‘switching old technology for the new’. Like, if we had invented powerpoint first, and then cellophane slides and the overhead projector, people would’ve marveled at the useful expressiveness, compelling engagement, and free-form creativity of the overhead projector. Sufficiently shaming powerpoint.

              I feel the same way about electric vehicles except it’s not a joke. If we all had them and some revolutionary invented a special breed of vehicle that could travel 300+ mi. without charging, took between 5 and 10 min. per week to charge, maintained the travelling distance up to speeds of 90+ mph, and took up only 20% of the vehicle’s displacement (you can store an extra 300 mi. of ‘roaming batteries’ in the trunk for

              1. … less than $20!). All at the same cost or cheaper, we’d all be trading in our crappy conventional EVs tomorrow.

                1. An interesting thought experiment for sure.

                  It probably appears that way since electric vehicles are a thing that no one really wants in their current iteration and they only exist in their current form because by-and-large it’s not a product of the market it’s a product of central planning in an effort to divert the market into more politically approved of niches.

                  At a glance an electric vehicle is worse in virtually every respect over what we already have according to the values of most consumers. No sane vehicle manufacturer would have tried to branch the way we have, because it would fill an unprofitable market segment.

                  I think it’s very possible that a hybrid system would eventually evolve as gas prices go up, but a fully electric vehicle isn’t that practical even today with lithium ion batteries. Oh, and let us not forget that lithium ion batteries are great explosives and not terribly stable. Hooray, inevitable law suits?

          2. Well, in fairness you can be ‘rapidly approaching’ something and still be very, very far away from it. They are not mutually exclusive, it’s just a rhetorical trick.

            What is truly being ignored is that it’s a pointless exercise given that in either scenario you are using a fossil fuel to make the vehicle move you’re just changing the method of power distribution. That’s why if you see someone driving a Prius, you can make fun of them for driving a coal powered car; Because that’s what it is.

          3. There is some sort of fast battery swap technology that is being rolled out which makes that untrue.

            /personally I would drive a car that ran on masturbatory thoughts if it performed like an IC vehicle

          4. From what I understand, the vehicle technically isn’t scrap metal–replacement batteries can be gotten. Financially speaking, though? It’s probably better to sell the car as scrap and buy a new(er) one anyway, and you’re probably never going to get much thought being given to the fact that most batteries are environmentally nasty things to make.

  7. “Cities that commit to battery-powered bus purchases are committing to the huge upfront costs that come with those purchases.”

    Come now. Left wingers spending tax payer money like it’s an endless supply is certainly a dog bites man story.

    1. And when all of those batteries wear out and end up in a giant toxic waste dump, it will just be bad luck. They didn’t mean to poison half of the Southwest. They meant well and with those God damned Republican wreckers always causing problems things just got a little out of hand.

  8. Stupid is as stupid does

  9. You generally don’t improve the accessibility in your city by banning the thing that most people use to access it.

    Christian, you obviously don’t understand the progressive concept of “accessible”.

  10. Do we not understand by now this is and was never about clean air or accessibility. This has always been about the progressives desire to return us to the pedestrian and urban lifestyle. They still have this sick fetish with Dense Urban Pedestrian lifestyle. Progressives had it going their way in the 30’s and into the 40’s. It was all going good their central planning goals were on schedule. Why cause they ran the cities and their political machines had all the power. But then something drastic happened to them. The middle class fled the cities cause the cars they now could afford allowed them to get away from the cities and create the suburb. To the progs cause this was the worst thing that could happen. They have been trying to get us back into the big cities ever since.

  11. Albuquerque just purchased 20 electrical buses for $20 million. The City insisted on a boondoggle named to A.R.T. (ABQ Rapid Transit), not to be confused with the already existent Rapid Ride.

    Comes with the ugliest bus stops, at a cost of $120 million. It was supposed to ‘only’ cost $79 million, courtesy of the Federal Transit Authority but quickly ballooned.

    The A.R.T bus stops are twice as expensive as the Rapid Ride bus stops, which were already twice as much as a regular bus stop.

    It took the City about a month and 14 phone calls to turn a small dumpster 180 degrees so I do not trust them with $79 or $120 million dollars. For a 20 bus project with zero emissions (which is a misnomer)!

  12. Even in Seattle’s ultra-dense urban core, which is serviced by buses, light rail, and two streetcar lines, less than a fifth of commuters take public transit?and that includes diesel buses.

    Well, the buses don’t run to many places in Issaquah, unless I want to drive to the bus station. And it costs about 25% more to live next to work, so fuck off.

  13. If I strictly want to commute to downtown Chicago from where I live, and then have to take a bus or Uber or walk far, it turns into 2 hours each way. I often need to do errands on the way home (I work not far from home) but if you take a bus you can’t do that. In lousy weather you are out in the weather a lot walking to the bus and waiting for it. Let’s say I have 2 kids and a stroller and I want to go grocery shopping–have you tried that on a bus? You can only buy a few things! The only time I have been someplace where the bus was convenient was downtown Vancouver Canada–but I was in a hotel and not trying to get out to suburbs.
    Public transit is inconvenient. The war on cars is going to make some cities unliveable before the pols figure this out.

    1. No no just listen to the progs they will tell you how great life will be. No more will you buy a week or more groceries in advance that is like sooooo American. European life style is like so much better to just buy todays dinner. No BS that is the idiocy they will spout when you say that to them.

      1. Most of them, it should be noted, aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck and thus facing such things as a possible need to buy food for several days simply to be certain of having food…and I doubt many of them have actually used public transit anywhere & certainly not attempted to use their local system for everything.

        Me? I’ve gotten to use one of the best systems in the world and could easily enough do a week’s food shopping ahead of time while using it. I’ve also tried to use American public transit systems…and I refuse to even attempt to use it to get home anything that needs to be kept refrigerated.

  14. All these so called progressive cities are doing their best to enact policies that are going to devastate their poor minority communities.

  15. I doubt these mayors flew zero emissions airplanes to Paris. I doubt they even ride the electric bus to city hall every day.

  16. I doubt these mayors flew zero emissions airplanes to Paris. I doubt they even ride the electric bus to city hall every day.

  17. The real solution is cheap electricity made by molten salt Thorium reactors used to manufacture liquid fuels like dimethly ether from electrolisized hydrogen and atmospheric carbon making them carbon neutral when burned. You’re welcome.

    1. Stop making sense. Solar is the future dammit. Even if it isn’t.

  18. Ugh. They need to slow down here. Do you want people from California moving to Texas? Because this is how you get Californians moving to Texas.

  19. Electric vehicles for local government and some commercial uses where they can complete their daily use without a recharge make sense. This would include buses, post office vehicles, local package delivery vehicles, etc.

    This does NOT include private vehicles that sometimes make trips beyond the charging range.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  20. The starry-eyed do-gooders continue to set higher bars for “appearing to be really doing something without doing anything real”. No matter, their addle-pated stargazing supporters love them anyway

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