Commuting to work: car, train or bus?

By Andy May

The United States Department of Transportation tells us in their online report “Public Transportation’s Role in responding to Climate Change” that we should use public transportation to reduce our greenhouse emissions. This claim is also made in Time’sGlobal Warming Survival Guide.” Even the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommended public transportation, in 2017, as “one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse emissions.” Public transportation does reduce congestion during peak traffic hours, but data from the National Transit Database suggests that cars are cheaper and use less fuel per passenger-mile traveled, so this claim is suspicious. Let’s examine it.

An APTA (American Public Transportation Association) report says:

“A single person, commuting alone by car, who switches a 20-mile round trip commute to existing public transportation, can reduce his or her annual CO2 emissions by 4,800 pounds per year, equal to a 10% reduction in all greenhouse gases produced by a typical two-adult, two-car household. By eliminating one car and taking public transportation instead of driving, a savings of up to 30% of carbon dioxide emissions can be realized.”

Even the Federal Transit Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, says something similar:

“If just one driver per household switched to taking public transportation for a daily commute of 10 miles each way, this would save 4,627 pounds of carbon dioxide per household per year—equivalent to an 8.1% reduction in the annual carbon footprint of a typical American household.”

These quotes are so misleading, I’m tempted to call them criminal. Pay particular attention to the wording, especially “single person” switching to “existing public transportation” or “eliminating one car.” Wow! They framed that precisely, didn’t they? It’s a classic strawman fallacy.

Let’s examine the thesis in a more honest, straightforward and clear way. The goal is to transport people from home to work and back again. Is public transportation (bus or train) cheaper and does it use less fuel than driving in a personal car? We can save emissions (both greenhouse gas and true pollutants) by switching to natural gas or by using less fuel. A few transit buses use natural gas, but most use diesel, most light rail systems use electricity. Electricity is not very efficient, since only 32% of the primary energy used to produce it is delivered to the customer as electricity according to the EIA. Further, 30% of the electricity in the U.S. comes from coal, the dirtiest fuel according to the EIA. So, we will focus on the quantity of fuel used by cars, buses and light rail and the cost of each per passenger-mile.

Full disclosure, although I’m currently retired, I commuted to work by bus from 2008 until I retired in 2016. The decision to take the bus was not because of cost, although that helped. My company would either pay for the bus pass or parking and since the park-and-ride was a six-mile commute from my house and parking there was free, the bus was clearly cheaper for me personally. But, the main reason was to avoid almost two hours of driving every day.

Jeff Foxworthy, the redneck comedian, once said (paraphrasing): If you’re going 80 mph on the highway and every other car on the road is passing you, you’re in Houston on the Hardy Toll Road. The joke is a little old, today you could be on any of the Houston Toll Roads and the joke would still be true. Riding the bus was a relief, it was quality time to read or nap on the way to work and decompress on the way home. I enjoyed the bus ride and saved money at the same time.

But what about the cost to the community and the economy? The web site “Portland Facts” provides us with the data used to construct Table 1, which shows the total cost of commuting by personal car, light rail train and bus in 2007, in 2016 dollars:

Table 1. The passenger-mile cost of commuting by car, transit bus and automobile in 2007, in 2016 dollars. Source: Portland facts, AAA and the National Transit database (NTD).

Table 2 uses more recent data from the National Transit Database to show the same costs in 2016. Over the 9 years between the tables, the Toyota Corolla fuel use and cost per passenger-mile has stayed the same, light rail is now cheaper, but uses more fuel per passenger-mile (31.6 MPG versus 35.9 MPG) and the transit bus is more expensive but uses less fuel per passenger-mile (38 MPG versus 30 MPG in 2007). Both tables are in 2016 dollars, none of the costs are corrected for the difference in fuel prices. For those interested, the dollars in 2007 are 86% cheaper than the dollars today, that is the 2007 costs are multiplied by 1.16 to get to 2016 dollars.

By way of comparison, gasoline was about $2.40 in 2016 and $2.90 in 2007, but this difference is not considered in the tables. The miles-per-gallon values are computed by converting the volume of fuel used by buses and trains to BTU equivalents and then converting the BTUs to gallons of regular unleaded with 10% ethanol (E10 gasoline). The buses and trains use a variety of fuels, compressed natural gas, electricity, diesel and gasoline depending upon the city, but these can all be converted to BTUs of energy.

Natural gas, diesel and gasoline are primary sources of energy and their BTU equivalents are taken from this table in Wikipedia. Electricity is a secondary source of energy, the energy is created using coal, natural gas, nuclear or some other primary source and then transmitted to the end user for use. Creating electricity and transporting it involves a lot of losses and, on average, only 32% of the primary energy is delivered to the end user as electricity according to the EIA (see here for a discussion). For this reason, we used 10,666 BTUs per kWh to convert the electricity used by some light rail trains to gallons of gasoline equivalent, rather than the 3,413 given in the Wikipedia table. This is so the comparison of electricity to diesel, etc. is valid. Using this conversion factor, we are comparing the primary energy used to create the electricity to the primary energy used in diesel, natural gas or gasoline powered trains and buses, i.e. primary energy to primary energy.

Table 2. The passenger-mile cost of commuting by car, transit bus and automobile in 2016. Source: AAA and the National Transit database (NTD).

The automobile costs are from AAA brochures Your Driving Costs for 2007 and 2016. The values for light rail and transit bus costs are averages for the top ten systems in the National Transit Database (NTD), by size, in the U.S. The top 10 transit bus systems are listed in Table 3, the data shown is 2016 data. The spreadsheets used to make the tables in this post can be downloaded using the link at the end of the post.

Table 3. Some of the critical data from the National Transit Database for the top 10 transit bus systems in the U.S. Source NTD.

The top 10 light rail systems are listed in Table 4 along with some statistics. All the light rail systems listed are powered by electricity. Light rail lost riders between 2007 and 2016, but it did become cheaper.

Table 4. Some of the critical data from the National Transit Database for the top 10 light rail systems in the U.S. in 2016. Source NTD.

Table 5 shows the same data for the top 10 transit bus systems. Most of the transit buses are powered with diesel, but some are powered by natural gas, gasoline or electricity. Unlike light rail, transit buses have become much more fuel efficient and they have not lost riders.

Table 5. Some of the critical data from the National Transit Database for the top 10 transit bus systems in the U.S. in 2016. Source NTD.

The average number of passengers transported in a car trip is 1.59, as shown in Figure 1, this translates to about 40% of the passenger capacity of a Toyota Corolla. The Toyota gets about 36 MPG, so the per-passenger miles-per-gallon is about 57 MPG of regular unleaded E10 (Ethanol 10%) gasoline, as shown in Table 1.

Figure 1. Average occupancy of various passenger vehicles. Source: (Davis, Diegel and Boundy 2010). See page 8-10.

The NTD database supplies us with the amount of fuel used in the various light rail systems and transit bus systems. In Table 4 we see that the average light rail system gets 31.6 miles per gallon per passenger mile in 2016, this is 45% less than the miles per gallon obtained from a Toyota Corolla. The number of passengers per train is determined from dividing the passenger-miles from the NTD database by the vehicle revenue miles. By comparing this to the seating capacity in the train we see that, on average, these trains run at only 13% capacity. This is the reason for the poor mileage per passenger-mile.

In Table 5 we see the same figures for the top 10 transit bus systems in the U.S. Transit buses get even fewer passenger-miles-per-gallon than light rail systems in 2007, but much more in 2016. However, transit buses still only get 66% of the passenger miles-per-gallon of a Toyota Corolla. Again, the reason is low seat utilization.

Discussion and Conclusions

There is no question that transit buses and light rail systems reduce highway congestion. Just two passengers on a bus or train remove a car from the roads on average. Transit buses and light rail are most heavily utilized during rush hour, so when traffic is heaviest, they remove the most cars from the road. This is a big plus. Transit buses utilize existing roads, but light rail systems require the building of exclusive, new infrastructure. The data in Tables 1 and 2 clearly show that the problem with light rail is the large capital expenditure required, relative to cars and buses.

In 2007, the light rail systems discussed in this post cost 185 million dollars more than the transit bus systems. The light rail systems, in terms of capital costs, which are the tracks, depots, maintenance buildings and facilities, and trains basically, cost $0.98 per passenger-mile in 2007. By way of contrast, the transit bus systems only cost $0.18 per passenger-mile and the Toyota only cost $0.27. The transit bus systems only purchase the buses, land and buildings for the park-and-rides, they use existing roads. The light rail systems get 20% more miles-per-gallon per passenger-mile in 2007, but passenger cars do better on fuel than both public transportation systems. Transit bus fuel economy improved by 2016 and in that year, buses were more efficient that light rail. Further, the light rail systems run with fewer occupied seats, they are not as flexible in scheduling as transit buses. The data shows that the transit buses provide more flexibility, lower start up costs, and lower net traffic congestion than rail.

Transit buses typically have more stops, in more places than trains. Thus, passengers travel fewer miles to get to a bus stop than to a train stop. In some cases, passengers can walk or bike to a bus stop, but very few people live close enough to a train station to get there by walking or bicycle.

It is obvious from the NTD and AAA data, that personal passenger cars are the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to transport people to work. They use less fuel per passenger-mile and the costs are much lower than for transit buses and rail. But, cars cause more congestion than public transit. The NTD data shows clearly, that transit buses are a cheaper and more convenient (to the passenger) way to transport large numbers of workers during rush hour. Light rail might be useful in some circumstances, for example transporting passengers from one large population center to a downtown work area, but since American cities tend to be very spread out, it seems more likely that transit buses are the best option for most cities. The reason to use public transportation is to reduce congestion, not to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution.

The 2007 and 2016 NTD databases and some derivative datasets used to make the tables and illustrations in this post can be downloaded here.

Work Cited

Davis, Stacy, Susan Diegel, and Robert Boundy. 2010. “Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 29.” Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

271 thoughts on “Commuting to work: car, train or bus?

  1. My “theory” is that bicyclists who commute to work are the worst. Bicyclists clog up traffic and keep dozens, if not hundreds, of motor vehicles on the streets, during rush hour, spewing more deadly CO2 into the air than would have happened if the damned bicyclists just stayed on the designated bike paths and off the roads. /Rant mode off.

    • It’s difficult know how to respond to such an absurd comment, but I’ll try.

      1. Designated cycle paths are not always present on any given stretch of road. And in my country they’re not obligatory, i.e. even if present a cyclist is not obliged to use it.
      2. Bicycle plus rider takes up a lot less space than a car.
      3. Stuck in traffic? Turn your engine off . Modern cars do this automatically anyway.
      4. There are many places where even in the total absence of cycle paths, the many cyclists on the road are accommodated without issue. Take a trip around the European Alps for example. It’s a culture thing.

      I cycle to work, and started commuting thus aged 11. I’m now nearly 60, and slimmer and fitter than most of my colleagues half my age. Yes I own a car, and at times we’ve had two. I always try to be courteous to other road users, of whatever sort an whatever mode I’m in, and give greatest consideration to trucks and buses. We bought our current home so that we wouldn’t have to drive to work, as we see it as wasted time and money.

      After a very successful car rental this summer, I’m even considering plonking some cash on new-ish Jeep SUV, so I’m no religious anti-car tw*t.

      Cycling itself isn’t a problem, just as car driving isn’t.
      Problems most often occur in invidual attitudes and behaviour.

      • Taking up less space than a car is not the issue, and isn’t that significant when you consider the buffer you have to give bicyclists.

        The issue is taking up a lane of traffic and moving way, way slower than a car would.

        • Bingo. A bike moving at 10mph with a dozen cars forced to crawl along behind it when they could be moving at 40mph wastes far more fuel than an extra car would be burning.

          And I’ve seen three whole lanes of cars forced to a crawl when one idiot decided to cycle along a no cycling road.

          But muh environment!

          • roads are meant for passenger vehicles and automobiles capable of keeping speed. Road bicyclists are the absolute worst! Smug, arrogant, entitled and some of the most foul virtue signallers. They run red lights, do not obey any of the laws..I know. I live near and work in Denver.

            In Boulder, they ride in packs along the route to Lyons and they will stop traffic to cross the highway. Yea. I had to slam on the breaks more than once and that is not exaggeration.

            I despise them and I think any time I see a cross for a bicyclist on the roads in the mountains. Oh well. Less arrogant dummies in the gene pool. They have absolutely no business being on the road. Period.

            Danger to themselves and all parties involved, especially around our tight, blind winding mountain roads. Until one encounters these folk on a consisent basis it is difficult to understand. Share the road? nonsense. My tax dollars and everyone else’s have went to install some of the greatest expanse of metro/mountain exclusive bike paths. Use them and get off the roads!

          • honest liberty

            Not to mention, uninsured, unlicensed, and largely unregulated.

            What really pisses me off in the UK is that they cycle across pedestrian crossings (Zebra crossings especially) imagining impunity should they be involved in a crash.

            Pedestrian crossings are for pedestrians, not cyclist’s, they should dismount before crossing and push their bikes across.

            There’s a section in the Highway code devoted to them, as there is every other road user including pedestrians and horse riders, but are they ever tested on the subject before taking to the road?

            Not a chance.

            Spitting mad doesn’t begin to describe my attitude at their arrogance.

          • HS,
            Some, for sure, are like that – and maybe eat babies . . .
            Others are more reasonable.

            But – the lead author seems a bit liberal in her/his tables.
            Why do buses etc. need their Capital Cost estimated – but not Toyotas?
            Were I an angler, I would say, ‘It’s fishy.’
            [I didn’t read the article in any detail because of that]

            Happy Fast-approaching weekend to All.

          • Ragnaar

            So do I. I’m a Police trained driver (Pursuit, Surveillance and Protection) a former DSA (Driving Standards Agency) ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) and a qualified RoSPA (Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents) car driver and motorcyclist. I cycled extensively in my youth and am well aware of the hazards cyclist face. I have been hit by a lorry (fortunately he was more capable as a driver than I was as a cyclist) which was my own fault, and, thanks to his driving skills, I was uninjured.

            My driving qualifications place me, roughly, in the top 1% of drivers in the UK.

            So, you were about to tell me how I should drive. I am agog.

          • In Los Angeles, the current mayor champions a plan called ‘Road Diets’ that sought to encourage more bike to work by reconfiguring a major arterial road near LAX to remove one automobile lane in each direction and convert it to bicycles only. In effect, a traffic artery comprising 2-3 lanes in each direction (depending on location) was turned into a single traffic lane on each side. The change was made surreptitiously on a weekend night on a stretch from LAX all the way to Manhattan Beach, being sprung on the commuters on a Monday morning. The resulting traffic chaos effectively reduced business revenue for the small firms and shops by over 60% because no one could get to them, and their own deliveries were tangled in 3-4 hours of extra traffic. The experiment ended when a citywide uproar threatened to recall the local councilman and possibly the mayor. But the 3 months of chaos didn’t convince the mayor to abandon the plans, he is still trying to find other streets in LA to do it again.

          • “…roads are meant for passenger vehicles and automobiles capable of keeping speed.”

            You don’t get to decide that. A city council might, but not you.

          • It is that way with any two lane road. You could have 5 Lamborghinis capable of traveling at 90 mph around curvy roads but they are still limited to the speed of the slowest mover ahead be it a ’29 Model T or Ford Pinto or Bicycle

          • And just because the Bicycle is capable of traveling in traffic doesn’t mead the Peddler is

          • Auto

            Very few in the UK because the Highway Code advises drivers to drive to the speed limit where safe to do so in order not to frustrate following drivers. (I paraphrase).

            The next time you follow an old dear driving at 30 MPH on a national speed limit road, you are perfectly entitled to flash your lights to make her aware of your presence. Also paraphrased, and also in the Highway Code.

          • Cater to the frustrated. They may go all road rage. I think we can see the problem. And the answer is not blaming the weak.

          • Ragnaar

            If one is weak, don’t cycle on the roads.

            Roads are designed to encourage progress, not to restrict it. Car use encouraged the proliferation of tarmacadam (another invention of a Scot), not bicycles.

            Why do you imagine bicycles are banned from Motorways in the UK. I’ll tell you, because they are a danger to themselves and they impede progress.

            Why is most business travel conducted in cars rather than bicycles? Because progress is necessary to encourage speedy business transactions.

            What are bicycles the product of?

            Speedy business transactions.

            Put away your sneering condescension. Bicycles are either a leisure pursuit these days, or a demonstration of misplaced virtue.

            The damn things are even delivered by lorries.

          • HotScot:

            Pedestrian crossings in the U.K. No clue. It’s probably as bad as in the United States where both car traffic and pedestrian traffic cannot smoothly exist if their paths cross. I do know if a bicyclist behaves as a law abiding pedestrian on their bike at a pedestrian crossing, that should be sufficient.

            My approach, unqualified, is one of keeping people safe and non-confrontation. The goal is to get from point A to B. I am on guard for bicyclists, disabled people confined to their scooters, horses, farm machinery, pedestrians, slowed 18 wheelers, children on scooters, all kinds of things. If someone breaks a traffic law but I am unharmed, I’ll let Karma deal with that. I have other things to do in life.

          • Washington Avenue Bridge, U of MN main campus:


            I did that on skinny tires. It was a way to get through college with lesser costs. I imagine in the 1980s there also was frustration for car drivers in the U of M area. The function of roads is the domain of governments and not individual drivers. It’s not virtue signaling when University Avenue has crappy shoulders, narrow lanes and speeds of 40 mph if the the drivers can get away with it.

            My point was some pick on the weak. That’s a decision we make.

        • I bicycle commuted for a number of years, in heavy city traffic. I never had any problem keeping out of the way although there were NO bicycle lanes. Any inconvenience to car traffic was infrequent and always very brief.

          But, I have observed bicyclists who seem to relish restricting traffic. I think it is deliberate just like people who have dogs that bark long and loud, day and night, and who are exceedingly obnoxious to anyone who complains — because that is their way of being anti-social and aggressive. They would rather spit, curse, and throw things at passerbys but aren’t brave enough for direct confrontations.

          • So you were not brave being in heavy traffic as I used to do. But if someone like the hooligan rider was brave it would make a difference? How do we get to direct confrontations? Because driving is some kind of boxing match. The problem is not bicycles. It’s bigger than that.

      • Not an absurd comment at all. I am not anti bike, but David’s comment was about how cyclists impede the movement of the faster moving traffic, including public transport in designated bus lanes. I commute by bus, and the frustration of cyclists blocking our progress, when there is also a designated cycle track, is really annoying. Often I sit on a bus jammed to capacity, with people in a hurry to reach their destination/appointments etc. only to sit behind a cyclist barely moving at a snail’s pace.
        I think a lot of your comment, most could agree with, but pt.3 stop/start engines is not a very efficient way of driving and also, like pt4. it’s not relevant to David’s comment. Lucky you, that you can buy a house near work. Lucky you, that not everyone else can too, or I suspect you would be moving to less congested accommodation.
        Other than that, I wish you continued good health, enjoy the cycling and the motoring.

      • I don’t know what your country is, but in the UK there is a problem of cyclists using foot paths which are not designated for cycles, without apparently being aware of the fact that it is illegal. Pedestrians should not have to be constantly checking whether there is a cyclist coming from behind, in order to avoid a “collision”.
        The problem is so many paths have been given to cyclists that nobody seems to know any more which are cycle paths and which aren’t.

      • For me, the main problem is the ever-present danger that a cyclist will break the law and cause an accident, in which I’ll be blamed. Recently, a cyclist in Canberra sued a motorist reversing out of his driveway, because he was injured while traveling at unsafe speeds on the footpath. He got $7 m.

        There isn’t a single rule of the road, no matter how obviously intended to protect people, that I haven’t seen cyclists breaking. Whether it’s going through red lights, turning without indicating, or even cycling on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic, I’ve seen it all.

    • When I ride my bike to work I’m mostly on trails and side streets. I usually don’t see many cars and hardly any other bikers.

      I would encourage drivers to look both ways when turning and to look out for pedestrians, bikers and motorcyclists but most of all, don’t text and drive.

    • Hey, bikes are fine for commuting, as long as it doesn’t rain, get hot or cold, you need to take a client to lunch or your kids to school, or carry some unwieldy piece of kit home from Ikea or even groceries for the week.

      The answer is intuitively obvious: build elevated bikeways. Bikes and riders weigh almost nothing compared to a 4000 pound SUV, so these elevated bikeways would be cheap to build. Bikers could truck around with trailers for their kids and groceries. One could revive five-rider “commuter” bikes, like they used to pace bike races before cars arrived.

      Going a step further, single passenger bikes are an aerodynamic efficiency nightmare. Instead, how about 20 passenger rowed busses – a low slung chassis, fairing on the front and they might hit 60mph with enthusiastic commuters.

      The answers are awaiting if we just imagine… 🙂

      • My experience is that cyclists can wear winter clothes in the winter, summer clothes in the summer, and rainwear when it rains. And cyclists keeping cars from moving at an average speed of 40 MPH are the exception, not the rule. Same for commuting cyclists only riding at 10 MPH.

    • That may be the worst logic I’ve ever read. If all the cyclists were in cars instead of on bikes, there would be monumentally more traffic congestion.

      • If the small number of cyclists were in cars, the increase in the number of cars wouldn’t even be noticeable.

        • And they’d be driving closer to the speed limit.

          At least once or twice a week, I encounter 1 or 2 bicyclists slowing the right lane down to 10 mph from 30-45 mph. Motor vehicles are forced into the left lane to pass the idiot bicyclist. The most infuriating thing is that when the bicyclist comes to a red light, he almost never waits in line. They almost always squeeze between the right lane and curb or hop on to the sidewalk and cut to the front of the line (very illegal), often running the red light (even more illegal). This forces all of the cars to get back in the left lane and pass the schisthead again.

          It only takes one schisthead on a bike, in traffic, during rush hour to cause this much traffic disruption.

      • Better for everyone to ride a cycle – a motorcycle, that is! The ability to keep up with traffic at posted speeds, AND the density of bicycles. In the space of 1 car, you can easily fit 3 or 4 motorcycles…

    • David, that is just nonsense. For example average traffic speeds in London are currently about 8 miles per hour. Cyclists are faster than that and can slip between cars and so actually if anything it is the cars holding up the cyclists rather than the opposite. There is no evidence that cyclists clog up traffic and all studies show that getting more people cycling improves traffic congestion.

      • Slipping between cars is illegal and most of my commute in either Dallas or Houston is at 30-45 mph on 4 lane roads. One bicyclist slows the right lane down to 10 mph, forcing all of the motor vehicles into the left lane, if 10 mph doesn’t cut it.

        • I am going to guess where you live, they have roads without wide shoulders where bicyclists would for the most part ride.

      • That’s right. Slip between the cars, cause accidents and run off without taking responsibility for their actions. I know two people that were injured by cyclists and neither cyclist stayed to help, let alone exchange insurance details.

        • I don’t believe that cyclists are required to carry insurance to be able to ride. Perhaps they should be if they travel in the road outside of a bike lane

        • And I have stories of cars following dangerously close to me on my bicycle and motorcycle. The bicycle is armed with a less than 50 pounds of metal and rarely has a speed of more than 20 mph. You get to drive something fast with mass, you need to be responsible and not some frustrated vigilante.

    • While bicyclists are very annoying and London traffic has no relevance anywhere in Texas… I would think the sarcastic nature of my comment would have been obvious…

      Bicyclists clog up traffic and keep dozens, if not hundreds, of motor vehicles on the streets, during rush hour, spewing more deadly CO2 into the air than would have happened if the damned bicyclists just stayed on the designated bike paths and off the roads.

      • as a cyclist I”m quite bored of all this stupid comments and accusations for free to the point that sarcasm is not anymore acceptable. They insult us even when we die on the road, so please next time avoid this kind of behaviour and be an intelligent person. I’m sure if you were a cyclist you would have more blood pumping in your brain and you would avoid this useless sarcasm.

        • If had $1 for every time I’ve nearly run over a bicyclist who just ran a red light, stop sign or cut me off, I’d be Bill Gates.

          If I had $1 for every time I’ve wanted to run over a bicyclist who was violating just about every traffic law and clogging up traffic during rush hour, I’d be Jeff Bezos.

          • Yes, scofflaw cyclists hazard only themselves. Do you complain so of scofflaw motorists?

            I have found that going armed in motor traffic makes me very responsible. The first element of common law self defense is BE INNOCENT OF INSTIGATION.

          • “Yes, scofflaw cyclists hazard only themselves.”

            No, they don’t. The car that swerves to avoid them crashes. The motorist who runs them over when the pull out in front of her car has to live with the sight of their body splattered across the road for the rest of her life. The pedestrian who’s walking across a pedestrian crossing when the cyclist smashes into them is crippled for life.

            “Do you complain so of scofflaw motorists? ”

            Yes, we do, because we don’t want to share the road with idiots.

            Seriously, cyclists have been making this silly argument for decades and being swatted down by its obvious stupidity. You’d think you lot would have learned by now.

          • There was the case in Edinburgh where a cyclist caused a bus to crash into a tram. The cyclist shot into the road from the sidewalk, and the bus driver had to make a snap decision as to whether to pull into the path of the tram and hope it could stop, or kill him. The tram could not stop, and some very expensive damage was done.

            Then again, the lack of joined-up thinking by the Greens is illustrated by the discovery, after three quarters of a billion spent on just one tram route, that tram rails are deadly to cyclists.

          • “There was the case in Edinburgh…”

            If a car had pulled out? I’d say don’t change lanes with hope. Change lanes with a good enough path.

          • I rarely see motorists pull up onto the sidewalk to illegally pass a line of cars at a red light, for the purpose of curting to the front of the line, running the red light, and then proceeding at 10 mph on the other side of the intersection.

          • “Yes, scofflaw cyclists hazard only themselves”

            Couple years back we had a bicyclist bombing down the sidewalk and run down an older lady. Bicyclist jumped back on his bike and disappeared, the older lady died of her injuries. They never found the bicyclist and never will unless they turn themselves in. Plenty of witnesses but without a license plate it was “just some guy on a bike”. We have plenty of non life threatening injuries every year due to the same problem, cyclists scofflaws that hurt more than just themselves.

            We also have very militant bicyclist. Piss one off and they are likely to break off your mirror and kick in your door panel. Of course some are smart enough to realize they can injure their own foot so they’ve taken to carrying bats with them. They also purposely clog up the roads, in one such case a patient in an ambulance nearly died because cyclist would not get out it’s way.

            In talking to these guys, most either don’t know or wont admit to knowing that they have to follow the rules of the road just the same as a motorist. I do know back when I took drivers ed in high school that nothing was taught at all about cyclist. That’s no excuse though, it is in the drivers manual one is suppose to study to get ones drivers license.

          • You sound like the sort of driver who is a danger to himself and all those around him and your comments here would likely aid the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit. Seriously. If we are talking millions of incidents where you “nearly run over a bicyclist” you would have to be driving a truck at high speed through the middle of a peloton of the Tour of France.

            Have you considered surrendering your keys to an alcoholic driver? Would likely be safer than what you admit to here.

          • And not only in a car. I almost always nearly get tumbled by a cyclist even on a pedestrian walkway with lights in my favour. I am waiting for the day when one of them makes contact.

          • Guys, for everything there is a place and time. I think we are all on the same page, sort of. There are places and times that cycling is faster, cheaper and more fun than motor vehicles. There are also places and times that pose a danger to both and cyclists should be responsible enough not to assume right-of way automatically because they don’t want to lose momentum.

            Working as a college campus facility manager, If I brought my bike to work and used it on campus it was more convenient than driving a university vehicle to check out a trouble call as bikes can maneuver through class change pedestrian traffic much easier than trucks or vans. (we called it the herd moving). Saved me money on motor pool mileage charges that I could buy tools, etc with.

            I still have my 1978 Motobecane Nomade Sport-Touring ten-speed with 27″ Ambrosio rims.

          • “If I had $1 for every time I’ve wanted to run over a bicyclist…”

            Maybe the mods will help? I don’t know what other people think. I commuted around the U of M in Minneapolis on my bicycle, in winter as well, for about 5 years with trips into downtown Minneapolis. I assumed a sense of entitlement by some drivers. I used lane control when I thought it was needed and pulled to the side when the road conditions allowed. We are stubborn people to get out into traffic. I have the advantage of parking just about anywhere while others had to use ramps and then walk some more, after screwing around with traffic. I’ll suggest some drivers think as quoted above. How is that any kind of Zen? There’s no upside to thinking that.

        • If we have to explain sarcasm the effect is lost – its like trying to explain a joke to a 4 yr old – it ain’t funny any more.

      • “Bicyclists clog up traffic and keep dozens…”
        That is the failure of the government to provide roads that handle the traffic that is there. Ban them or adapt. Being frustrated is no solution. There is the commons, and you seem unhappy.

      • Only twice as long? It used to be four times as long when I took the bus here.

        Buses could be great if you have a bus stop outside your door and another bus stop outside where you work, and the bus goes directly from one to the other. But in most cases, you end up having to walk to a bus stop, wait for the bus, take that bus to a bus terminal, wait for another bus, then take that bus to where you’re going. Which not only takes much longer but ends up traveling far more miles on the road.

        • In Canberra, the toxic Greens decided that everybody should be able to cycle to the bus stop. Hence, they put mobile cycle holders on every bus. In five years of operation, I have seen exactly one cycle in front of a bus.

          When that didn’t work, they build great big cycle sheds on major routes. They have never had more than a few cycles in them.

          The basic philosophy of Green. When your idea doesn’t work, don’t think maybe you’re a fool. Double down on it & force people to work harder. After all, it worked so well for Stalin.

          • I’ve read that you could hire a personal car and driver for every disabled person for less than the amount of money mass transit systems have had to spend modifying every single bus so that they could handle wheelchairs.
            (Not to mention the fact that it takes 20 minutes to load or unload a wheel chair, all the while blocking the buses behind.)

      • In Canberra, it’s about 30 minutes to work by car, compared to 90 minutes by bus.

        And for our sins, we are wasting $1B on a “light” rail system that will only service one suburb (Gungahlin to Civic). I put “light” in quotes, because it is running on dedicated infrastructure, is it’s as costly as normal rail, while being unable to move the numbers of people. Worst of all, it still needs a feeder system of regular buses to get people to the stations, so there will be long waiting at cold stations to transfer from bus to rail & back in Civic.

        All because the Labor (leftist) government needed to buy the votes of the (even further left) Greens.

    • John Forester’s Bicycle Transportation: A Handbook for Cycling Transportation Engineers (MIT, 1994) Chapter 8 The Effect of Cyclists on Traffic makes rigorously clear that cyclists delay motor traffic only on already substandard highways. The chapter concludes, “Although cyclist-caused delay, when and where it occurs, is proportional to the number of cyclists, it is far more sensitive to the number of motorists, and with even more motorists it is extinguished by the delays motorists impose on each other.”

      • And that is precisely the kind of nonsense you’d expect a ‘city planner’ to spout. It’s very obvious to drivers when we’re stuck doing 10mph behind someone who decided to cycle along a road where there’s no space to pass them safely.

        • I had a California Highway Patrolman pull me over one time for holding up traffic, even though I was going the speed limit at the time.

          He pulled me over and told me it was against the law to hold up more than five cars (I was driving on a two-lane highway). I didn’t argue with him but wondered to myself as to where I was supposed to go if I got five cars behind me.

          I don’t know, he may have just been putting me on, because if that is a law in California, it’s a stupid law.

          But I guess he didn’t have any ulterior motives because he noted I was from out-of-state and let me go with a warning.

          I also got pulled over on that trip in Arizona because the police thought I had stolen the car I was driving.

          They were on the lookout for the kind of vehicle I was driving and I noticed a Highway Patrolman parked on the side of the highway up ahead and he really cranked his head around and stared at me as I drove past, and I thought that was a little odd, and then the next town I entered a Sheriff’s car pulled in behind me and put the lights on me.

          The car wasn’t stolen. It was a case of mistaken identity and they let me go on my way fairly quickly. They were really pretty nice about the whole thing once they figured out I wasn’t the fugitive they were looking for.

          That was one heck of a trip. 🙂

          • The first cop must have been having you on, I actually WISH there were a law about holding up 5 cars…

      • “Although cyclist-caused delay, when and where it occurs, is proportional to the number of cyclists, it is far more sensitive to the number of motorists, and with even more motorists it is extinguished by the delays motorists impose on each other.”

        You drivers are playing a game with other drivers instead to aiming for efficient traffic flow, your goal is probably some need of your own. You may identify the problem as bicyclists when it is in fact other drivers. And after you effed up traffic, the bicycle becomes more your equal being better able to match speeds. The bicycles are easy to pick on sporting less than 50 pounds of metal. Being unable to control much in such a situation, there is something you can do to a defenseless bicycle. You can honk your horn. You can drama by hitting your steering wheel. You can close to within 5 feet of them. This is your life? Explain it to your young children. When you’re mad at someone, they have won.

    • I feel your pain. That is why I commute on bicycle at 0500-0530 in the AM and take my chances on the PM return trip. I do call “BS” on the “clog up traffic”. Perhaps on certain semi-rural routes that have narrow, winding, tree-lined streets, but for the most part the lanes are wide enough for cars to safely pass, with or without those wretched bicycle lanes.

      In my part of the world, the shoulders are fairly wide and suitable for bicycling while cars whizz by at speeds approaching 15 mph (remember, its rush hour when there is more stop than go traffic). The people who have been the most hate-filled towards bicyclists “clogging up traffic” usually are those illegally driving down the shoulder.

      If we are tossing around theories. If the goal was to reduce emissions and traffic, then there would be an increased effort for tele-commuting. 1.6 employees working at home removes one car from the street. 14 can remove a whole bus.

      • Spot on.

        I retired to bicycle heaven. Twenty-five square miles of impoverished rural Island isolated from the world by a ferryman’s gatekeeper tariff.

        We also suffer one tiny microwave link to the World Wide Web. My 1.5 Mbps is adequate.

      • AWG,

        Many older roads don’t have the extra room to put in bike lanes so there is no whizzing by the bikes. There’s also the roads that have room but there is either no money in the budget to add a bike lane or the planners just haven’t got around to putting it on the schedule yet. Then there’s also “bike routes” that have been put in which is basically taken a two way road, making it one way and donating a lane to bikes. Problem there is many bicyclist don’t like the route so stick to the route without a lane.

        Then there’s a personal favorite of mine, the biker who has a bike lane but rides the white paint line, ignoring the 5-6 feet of pavement they are suppose to ride in. I’ve been told they do this because either the lane isn’t clean enough for them or because there’s less rolling resistance on the pain vs. asphalt.

        • My favorite is the ones here who, with an entire SEPARATE bike path running along the road, are on the street.

          Then, of course, there are the “events” that completely close off my only road out of the house for three hours (cul-de-sac). They had better hope that none of my nearest and dearest need to get to the ER while they are occupying the roadway – their lives are far less valuable to me than those of my family.

          • I see that all the time between 0500 and 0600 on Memorial Drive in Houston. It runs through Memorial Park, where a bike path runs parallel to the road. There’s almost always at least one bicyclist riding 10-20 mph in the right lane in the dark, rather than on the bike path.

          • Separated bike paths are usually Mickey Mouse affairs and more dangerous than being in traffic. Many places allow ignoring separated bikepaths. Anyone still paying attention should realize, we are stubborn enough to ride in traffic. We don’t think you’ll hit us.

      • “That is why I commute on bicycle at 0500-0530 in the AM”

        Is there an 0500 in the PM?

      • AGW:
        Roads cost. The ones that work have about 9 feet of paved breakdown lane. But as little as 4 feet work. No if you Republicans could raise the gas tax at the state level, we could pay for some better roads and it may reduce your chances of having a stroke.

    • I wouldn’t know about that but aggressive sidewalk cycling certainly decides a good few who would have walked to work to take the car instead. If one sidewalk cyclist forces ten pedestrians to drive then it’s doing the environment no good.

      That, and we’ve seen an upsurge in redlighting drivers. Had a near miss with one the other week. Redlighting used to be rare until the cyclists started doing it. Them some motorists, seeing the example set by the holiest and most sacrosanct of all road users, started to follow suit.

    • Ranting at bicyclists. Bicyclists almost without exception are allowed on the roads with the exception of things like freeways. The road are not yours. They are administered by the government. One could consider their commuting situation and accept things that are unlikely to change and then go from there. Taking situations such as we see in freeway traffic at high speeds that lack any bicycles in that mix, we see the problems with drivers in general. One could argue that there is a problem with drivers that have a much greater destructive potential with the combination of higher speeds and greater vehicle mass. So the problem is a subset of drivers that are on the more dangerous side of the psychotic spectrum. We see whole countries where the drivers are better adjusted and more co-operative in regards to bicyclists. It is true. They are coming for you with their light rail, bicycle lanes and scooters. Many downtowns and urban freeways are seething masses of idling frustration because of cars. No amount of mitigation will save you. They will not get off your lawn because it’s not your lawn. You may want to adapt.

      • So you have no problem with cyclists who flout the law and who create dangerous situations for others?
        It’s always the other guys fault for you.

        • We should get along on the roads. There are psychotic bicyclists and drivers. There should be cops on bicycles handing out tickets.

      • It’s about 10 miles each way from my apartment in Houston to my office. Assuming I survived the bicycle rides at 5 AM and 6 PM without getting run over by an automobile, it’s about 1 hour bike ride each way. It’s 20-25 minutes each way in my Jeep, because it’s 45 mph most of the way. Houston summers are hot and humid with frequent thunderstorms. Biking would double my commute time and I’d have to spend time in the morning showering and putting on dress clothes in my office… Except, my office doesn’t have a fracking shower.

        I already work ~12 hour days. Adding another 1-2 hours to my commute each day is one of the most idiotic ideas on the planet.

        Oh… And I have a weekly commute from Dallas to Houston, because I actually live in Dallas… That’s a 21 hour bike ride.

        There is nothing in Europe that has any relevance anywhere in Texas.

    • I live in Boulder Colorado, one of the most uber bike-friendly communities in the country. It snows here 8 months of the year, and yet the bike paths are cleared by the city before the roadways.

      Nevertheless, more than 90% of the bikers I observe on the roadways are engaged in recreational cycling (some claim this is training for some athletic event – meh). That is, they ARE NOT getting from A to B in order to accomplish something they would otherwise do in an automobile. They are not reducing their carbon (dioxide) footprint one iota. They are merely commandeering the public roadways for their personal use for aerobic exercise, which I maintain offers absolutely zero public benefit. After all, they exhale a LOT of CO2 in the process (heh-heh).

      I actually use my bike to do errands and small shopping trips. Doesn’t make me a superior human being. The videos included in posts below showcase the arrogance and sense of entitlement among “elite” cyclists that infuriates us “deplorables” who work and pay taxes to build and maintain these roadways and bikepaths – and plow the snow.

      A pox on these cyclo-jerks!

      • Our freeways are clogged on Labor day and Memorial day. And those people are just going to their cabins.

    • It’s ironic that the more people drive bicyclists off of the roads, the more cars there are on those same roads as the bicyclists give up and start driving cars again. And then they can’t be pushed around so much by the unstable. So the traffic situation becomes worse since the unstable were trying to solve the problem one bicyclist at a time. You end up with the unstable and worse traffic.

    • Cars have destroyed downtowns. Where the pedestrians don’t feel safe, or the only activity on the sidewalks with any value beside walking, is watching gridlocked traffic. And frustrated drivers. That’s why they take away parts of downtowns from cars. Because they ruin them. And then you have parking ramp after parking ramp. As density increases, the cars kill themselves as they are useless and make some of their owners crazy. And yet they keep repeating the same behavior.

    • One peeve that I have (north of Boston) is the state police responding to an accident. Multiple cars show up blocking one or two lanes (even if the accident is off the road), likely just to show how good a job they’re doing.

      I once called the state police office to complain and was threatened by the dispatcher.

  2. I guess it will take a lot more death stats of bicycle commuters before it sinks in that the advice and advocacy was wrong. By comparison it took gross life expectancy data findings to dawn on some researchers that opioids were a danger before the alarm bells went off.

    • What death stats? The latest research shows that cycling to work reduces your chances of dying from all causes by 41%! See

      So in reality the best form of commuting is cycling – it is better for you, the environment, reduce traffic congestion and saves you money. It might not be practical if you leave too far away but otherwise you are better off cycling than not. And urban planners should start properly designing cities for humans rather than cars.

      • So humans don’t own cars?
        We need to redesign cities for the 1% of self indulgent cyclists rather than continue to design them for the convenience of the other 99%?

        • Mark – there is no downside to getting more people cycling. It will save lives, reduce health care costs dramatically improve air quality etc. And while humans do own cars a lot of people don’t (children, the poor, elderly etc). and making cities friendly for everyone is much better than focusingly solely on a single mode of transport.

          • Other than slowing down the people who actually have places they need to go, and don’t have the time to waste virtue-signalling about how lovely they are.

            Commuting to work on a bike would take me two hours a day, vs half an hour by car. And would be pretty much impossible if I had to stop to pick up shopping on the way.

          • Since the children and elderly probably don’t have real jobs, they could drive pedicabs

          • There is plenty of downside.
            For one, there’s lots of wasted time.
            Besides that, it makes sense to cater to the vast majority and not the whiny minority.

        • seriously!? There’s a lot of people out there scared to use a bike because of a mentality like yours. Have you ever seen a city with poor car traffic? It is far more livable and enjoyable. Get outside the tuna can you live in.

      • Too many accidents in our city where the biker got killed. So now the city is expanding bike lanes. Even with separate bike lines I consider it too dangerous to be on a bike in traffic where people are texting while driving.

        • The best that can be said about bicyclists in traffic, is that they improve the life expectancy of motorcyclists… [rim shot]

          • Don’t get me started on motorcycles. Apparently, putting a large, vibrating machine between your legs turns you into a selfish prick.

      • Percy,

        it is an easily provable fact that 100% of cycling fatalities involve cyclists. Ergo if we got these death traps off the streets a lot less cyclists would be killed every year.

        /sarc… sorta…

        That aside many cyclists are very well behaved and it is only the other 90% that give them a bad name. Many display a sense of entitlement that all accidents are the fault of the car driver and hence it is now solely the driver’s responsibility to maintain situation awareness. In your other post you actually admit that cyclists slip between cars. Are you suggesting that this tactic is 100% safe 100% of the time, because I certainly are not.

        Mutual safety requires mutual responsibility and cyclists need to take more responsibility for their actions. Being allowed on the road is a privilege, not a right and at the very least they should be paying compulsory third party the same as vehicle operators.

        • Santo Fumo! “[A] privilege, not a right,”. America is still great and greater than that.

          Generally American state vehicle codes and the Universal Vehicle Code endow cyclists with all of the rights and responsibilities of motorists except those which by their nature are inapplicable. (I evaluated state vehicle codes for cycling advocacy groups.)

          • Yes. And driving a car on the road is a privilege and not a right. Driving on the road requires a license granted by the state after the driver proves that he can do it safely; at least while in the presence of the DMV tester.

      • Actually your chances of dying from all causes is 100% for everyone. I’ll buy that cycling may improve the timing somewhat.

      • Any engineer worth his degree will be happy to explain the laws of physics that show that putting objects in motion in the same space at the same time which have significant differences in mass will always have negative effects on the objects with the smaller mass.
        Do NOT put a Geo Metro on the same road as a bus or truck, and don’t put a bicyclist on the same road as anything with larger kinetic energy.

        • This truck driver is here to tell you that there are one hell of a lot of people that don’t have the sense that God gave a chicken, let alone comprehend just how much damage 40 tons of rolling potential death can do.

          I learned that very early in my trucking career. About my 2nd day of driving a big ring. Milwaukee, WI. I- 43 south bound. Car pulls out of a slow, almost stopped line of traffic in front of my rig while I was passing by at about 45 mph. I came very close to rear ending her. When I looked down in the back window of the car there were two little girls on their knees looking backward at me. The woman driving, I presume their mother, came close to causing a tragedy. A lesson I will never forget.

      • “The latest research shows that cycling to work reduces your chances of dying from all causes by 41%!”

        It may simply show that bicyclists live longer because they are healthier to begin with: they have more vitality, stamina, etc.—which is why they became bicyclists in the first place. IOW, there’s a confounding factor at work.

      • Cycle commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD, cancer, and all cause mortality.

        So the paper you quoted does NOT say cycling to work reduces you chances of dying from all causes by 41%. It expresses the fact that cyclists are healthier than people who are not healthy and do not cycle.

        If you studied cyclists _who commute to work_ more, you’d probably find out the following:
        – Cyclists eat healthier food
        – Cyclists are rarely severely obese
        – Cyclists are always employed (gosh)
        – Cyclists have more probably a family
        – Cyclists have smaller probability of a family crisis
        – Cyclists have healthier children
        – Cyclists have married a healthier spouse
        – Cyclists have a working place which is not too far
        – Cyclists live near their working place

        What an amazing chance! I’ll start cycling today, soon I will have all these! Oh wait, could there be other explaining factors that explain why extremely obese people working in another town are not cycling to work?

      • From all causes except road accidents.
        Cycling suits some people and I’m not against that, but don’t make the arrogant assumption that cycling is even a possibility for everyone. I think the main issue with cyclists, is behaviour. Inconsiderate lane blocking, openly flouting road traffic laws causing a dangerous situation for themselves as well as other road users. The rules of the road are there for everyone. It seems in cycling culture, they feel they are exempt.

        • Cars and motorcycles lane block. The car driving road warrors back down for motorcyclists for the most part. They’ll pick on the weak though.

  3. When in Europe, I use public transportation. In the US I don’t – there is no usable public transportation. I would use a bus if the intervals were under 10 minutes – then it is at my service. With 30 minutes intervals I am a slave of the “public transportation”.

    Similarly, a crazy California “high speed train” is being grown in vacuum. Why should I take a train from San Francisco to Los Angeles only to be forced to rent a car at the destination? Are there any reliable predictions of a number of passengers, or of ticket prices?

    • Bingo George; it depends on where you live.

      I doubt “Public Transportation’s Role in responding to Climate Change” report really took that into account. Have they even seen how passengers are crammed onto trains in Japan?

      Besides, public transport is one of the best ways to transmit viruses because some people/cultures don’t wash their hands. Although I’m not a germophobe, I’d prefer to avoid getting crammed into a stinky box that under a black light (or not) looks like a Jackson Pollock painting.

    • If there is a bus serving 6 times an hour, you are living in a decent-sized city along its central roads. The chances are, the road in congested and the bus stops on every effing busstop. Chances are that the ticket does not cost a lot, especially if you live there, or are a student, pensioner, etc. But it is probable that the total cost of the traffic is huge, because in order to get people into the bus, you need massive subsidies, and massive regulation, not limited to taxing car use, but also structurally by building a city that simply does not have room for cars.

      It’s a hell with high-cost parking combined with predatory parking violator hunting and subsidies to parking for special groups, like town government officials, disabled, local inhabitants, etc.

      In order to have such a city, you need a large population, large area, and most of the people at the distant corners will take a lot of time commuting to the center, where the employers are. And most of the people will not have the 6 times an hour bus commuting possibility. There will never be enough commuters for the system to work outside the center of economy, which is supported by surplus people doing shopping and working in there.

      In short. Public transportation is a trade-off where tax money and everybodys time is traded for a European looking, ‘small’ town center in a decent-sized city.

      • “If there is a bus serving 6 times an hour, you are living in a decent-sized city along its central roads. ”

        Well not necessarily and it doesn’t mean it’s useful

        I used to live in a village in Bedfordshire that had the good fortune to be on the routes for Bedford to Cambridge, Oxford to Cambridge and London to Peterborough. Between them 6 services an hour. I worked in the next town along at a distance of 7 mile, which when I was feeling fit and keen I could tab in just over an hour… Not one of those six stops an hour would deliver me to work for the official start time of 9:00 AM. I could be a minimum of twenty minutes early or 15 minutes late. Consequently I didn’t take the bus unless the car was being serviced and I wasn’t feeling fit or keen…

    • If only the “HIGH SPEED” train (in reality, it barely does 100 MPH – slow by most standards around the world) went from SF to LA! It’s going to do Bakersfield to Modesto – and that’s about it. There is still NO PLAN or even an IDEA about how to get the train through the mountains North of Los Angeles. So many earthquake faults and with a steep grade, it makes tunneling OR a pass impossible at this point.

  4. There is an unaccounted for cost associated with public transportation: Travel Time
    A city transit bus averages 15 mph with its constant starts and stops. My commute (one way) if taken by bus would take would take 1 h 40 mins. Driving a personal auto (on congested freeways) completes the commute in 40 mins or less.
    Given the nominal work schedule of 250 working days per year (500 commutes) this would equate to 1000 more hrs/yr sitting in a public transit bus with torn seats covered with chewing gum reeking of urine, vomit and only the lord knows what else.

    hmm…. tough choice to make.

    • Rocketscientist, True. My bus was an Express bus and it went straight downtown on the HOV lane in 25 min. If there had been a lot of stops, I wouldn’t have used it.

      • I’ve been a part time Houston resident since March 2016. We keep an apartment in the Uptown area and my office is downtown at Allen Center. It’s about 10 miles each way. When I drive, I take Woodway to Memorial to downtown. Between 0500 and 0600, it’s 45 mph most of the way. In the evening, it’s a little slower, but not bad.

        Since my weekly commute from Dallas has put 50,000 miles on my Jeep, I try to take the Metro bus at least half the time. It’s not bad. It only adds 35-45 minutes to my commute. But, I wouldn’t even consider it, if not for the fact that home is 253 miles from the office. Although, riding on the bus enabled me to post this comment rather than cussing at the idiot bicyclists clogging up traffic during rush hour… 😎

        • Move to The Woodlands, the bus trip is faster and the drive to Dallas much quicker. We can play golf.

          • I played at golf in the 1980’s… I nearly broke 100 once… I had a slice that could literally travel 180 yards and land behind me… The only time I didn’t slice was when a water hazard was on my left… 🤣

            If the office was in The Woodlands, I’d get an apartment in Conroe… Unfortunately, “T” is a downtown company. Our CEO is committed to building the next Anadarko… but not in The Woodlands.

          • Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I worked downtown also. I took the bus from the Sawdust Woodlands Express park and ride. 10 minute drive the park and ride, 25 minute bus ride downtown. I got off on the second downtown stop. I took the 05:30 bus and walked into work at 6AM. The commute from The Woodlands is shorter than for most parts of the city.

      • Yes Express buses are only viable for work commuter hours twice a day. But they do save time for those commuters. The bottom line is give us commuters a choice and we will travel the system that saves us time/money. Don’t legislate choices off the table except to save on congestion.

        • Congestion is just another example of government failure. One of the reasons London is so congested is because the government will take half a road away and turn it into a bus lane, then tell drivers they should take the bus instead of driving because the bus is faster. No, the cars are slower, because they took away half the road.

        • Sorry, but “express bus” is an oxymoron, to a native of The Forgotten Borough like me.

      • I tried taking the bus for my commute 1 time. My commute was roughly 6 miles 1 way. After all the zigs and zags and stops where nobody got on or off, it took almost precisely the same amount of time to ride the bus as it took to walk. Never again.

    • Had a spell in London recently and looked on Google maps for travel time into the city each day cars incredibly were fastest every time. It did surprise me. That must be the worst or hardest example in the world.

      Here’s the problem if your hourly rate is say 20 pounds/hour which is trivial for a lawyer a car wins always.
      Ultimately driverless cars and ride sharing/consolidation when it takes hold the game is up, buses are gone and trains will be for tourists.
      A very good world will come forward and as much as I see the whole CO2 discussion as a scam, from what is presented here if you travel in a hybrid/methane powered vehicle with three people you are a supper green person and due a medal or even a peace prize.

  5. In my working career, I never had a job where public transportation was even a remote practical possibility. It would have disrupted my career and my wife’s career to arrange our affairs so both of us could use public transportation to get to work.

    The folks who think everyone should use public transportation are missing a whole bunch of variables.

    • CommieBob – the folks who think people should use public transport are well aware of the issues. It clearly depends on where you live. In the US, Australia and other places there has been 50 years of car-dominated thinking meaning that public transport has been neglected, unfunded and or actively destroyed to the point where it is impossible for most people to use it. In Europe on the other hand it has been supported and cities have been designed with properly functioning public transport making it cheap and easy to use. Driving in Paris or London is a nightmare compared to catching the metro or tube.

    • And for those who respond that we should just expand public transportation so that it is available to all, at what cost?

      • Mark – public transport is only cost effective in places where there are high population densities. It is extremely unlikely to ever be practical or cost effective in cities where there is a large amount of urban sprawl. Cities need to be planned so that public transport is cheap and practical.

        • “Cities need to be planned so that public transport is cheap and practical.”

          Translation: people must be forced to live in Stalinist tower blocks rather than the detached houses they actually want. For the childrun!

          • Oh, it’s been going on for much longer than that. All around the world for decades, people have wanted to live in detached houses, but the ‘city planners’ tell them they must live downtown in Stalinist tower blocks.

          • Oh no. People are willingly spending huge amounts to occupy a tiny condo in the sky. I swear that the walk-in closet of one of my friends is bigger than some of the condos I’ve seen advertized in downtown Toronto. Poor people are getting gentrified out of their formerly affordable homes.

            The result is a huge conflict between the car drivers commuting to work in downtown Toronto and the transit-using bicycle lovers who live there.

            It seems that all over America, poor people are ending up in the suburbs. link

          • “People are willingly spending huge amounts to occupy a tiny condo in the sky.”

            Yeah, but they’re mostly retired, or using it as a place to stay in the city when they visit. Or an ‘investment’.

    • Outside of commuting times the busses where I live are usually driving around empty.

      • “Bus” is first of all a four letter word to a native of The Forgotten Borough like me. Busses lack the speed, capacity, and reliability to constitute adequate mass transit. And not only are they subject to the same traffic congestion as automobiles in most places, they contribute to said congestion heavily. Stopping at every fracking corner, slowly and ponderously moving away from each stop, and causing complete bedlam at every turn from one narrow street into another.

        In the state where I live now, I don’t think I’ve seen a “bus” (as distinguished from a “shuttle” running people to and from office complexes or hotels to the train stations) with more than a half-dozen people on it. At ANY time.

  6. It is only “criminal” when the jury says so.
    A good attorney will always warn their client that the jury might be full of deplorables, and you might want to take the plea bargain.

  7. In this analysis, if the average occupancy of the mass transit options was made higher, which presumably would happen if everyone got with the advocated transit program, then they would be more competitive in these tables, correct? That is what the transit experts are advocating.

  8. My biggest gripe about public transportation is the time it takes. We’ve had several employees who took a bus or train when they started working for us because they could not afford a car. It often took more than an hour door to door and still more if there were transfers. Generally within a year or two, these employees earn enough to purchase a POV and nearly all have done so. Their commutes drop to ~20 minutes each way. In a day and age where many feel all workers deserve at least $15/hour wages, just the added commute time using public transportation is costing employees $20 per day or more than $400 per month.

    • One of my students told me how long it took to get to school and I assumed he lived a hundred miles away. Nope, he was taking the bus from the far side of the city.

    • Six or Seven years ago they did a survey of local business owners. One of the questions asked was what is more important to you when considering hiring an employee, them having a High School diploma or a car. Having a car turned out to be a more important factor.

  9. Rapid transit works if one both lives and works within walking distance of a stop or a terminus and no transfers are required. The cost is about even for me to bus or drive to work, but I either have to get a ride to the stop on either end or walk two miles (total) each trip.

    On the other hand, it’s pretty common for those who live really far out to park one car at the commuter train station so that they can drive both ends. I suppose that that is less polluting in the long run.

  10. If the majority of us average folk started using public transit as our main source of transportation, that would result in way less traffic and way more parking spots. Under this scenario, does anybody think the rich, powerful, and/or ‘important’ people would also use public transit or do you think they’d enjoy the wide open streets and vast spaces to park? My money is on the latter…

    Same for high density urban living. If they moved the majority of us average folk into cities, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that they’ll be living out in the wide-open country side enjoying nature with very few pesky average folk to get in their important ways.

    • Exactly. Anyone from the Soviet Union can tell you about the streets in Moscow, where the majority of the street was reserved for the Zil limousines of the nomenklatura, commuting to and from the government offices from their dachas in the countryside.

      This is the paradise that is so dearly wanted by the “elite” here.

  11. The saddest part of this discussion is that it totally ignores the market solutions offered by Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing offerings. They are totally demand based, metering the market requirements efficiently, and don’t require additional tax structures to cover the costs. Five decades ago, Frankfurt, KY was looking into buses vs. light rail, and someone put in Jitney Buses. Jitney buses are private transportation that picks up passengers at designated locations, but will drop passengers at their indication on the route, much like airport shuttles to car parks. Jitney’s were 1/3 the cost of anything else.

    Mostly I think politicians avoid market solutions as they have no control. They need control. See the horrible state of taxicab medallions in large cities if you need proof.

    • “Centralization of the means of communication and transportation in the hands of the state” was one of the core goals of the Communist Manifesto. There are reasons governments don’t want people to be able to travel without permission.

    • I’ve ridden Uber a lot over the past couple of years probably more than 150 trips… and I’ve had maybe 3 bad experiences.

      Although I don’t think it would work well for commuting… It’s great for airports and bars.

      • “It’s great for airports and bars.”

        Really? Unlike Republican interns using Uber, I’ve never been thrown out of my car for wearing a MAGA hat.

  12. They’ve never put me on one of their human cattle liners. I value my freedom of mobility. I’m also not going to pay for my ride, and then fill the thieving pockets of corrupt government unions.

  13. “A single person, commuting alone by car, who switches a 20-mile round trip commute to existing public transportation, can reduce his or her annual CO2 emissions by 4,800 pounds per year, equal to a 10% reduction in all greenhouse gases produced by a typical two-adult, two-car household. By eliminating one car and taking public transportation instead of driving, a savings of up to 30% of carbon dioxide emissions can be realized.”

    None of the other statistics are nearly as relevant as this one; if I took public transit to my office, it would change my 30 minute commute to the office by car into a 2 hour ordeal on a series of uncomfortable buses. EACH WAY. Public transit really only works when people are all heading into the central city to work, and then going home without any errands.

    I have a better idea; encourage people to telecommute. At least one or two days a week. It would lessen traffic, greatly reduce congestion, and greatly reduce emissions – because cars idling in heavy traffic generate a lot more pollution than cars cruising along at the speed limit. We would reduce wear and tear on the roadways AND give people an extra hour or two each day that they DIDN’T spend in traffic.

  14. Andy,

    Sorry to be technical here, but I can’t remember how many times I have seen the use of simple percentages misunderstood…

    ” For those interested, the dollars in 2007 are 86% cheaper than the dollars today, that is the 2007 costs are multiplied by 1.14 to get to 2016 dollars.”

    If something is 86% of a value today, you don’t simply subtract 86% from 100% to get the value to turn 86% back into 100%. In this case, you would multiply the 2007 dollars by 1.16 (approximately) to get the 2016 dollars. This is easier to understand if you consider 50%. If I take 50% of 100 I get 50, but I can’t then just multiply by 1.5 (50% extra) to get 100 again, I only get 75. So while 50 is 50% less than 100, 100 is 200% of 50.

    I am still digesting your paper… In the following, I am not pointing to errors, just testing your boundaries and assumptions…

    You make a reference to bus using existing roads… Well, the same can be true of some light rail – the light rail system near my house used existing (but abandoned) tracks. so it isn’t clear to me why buses are getting a free ride on costs of roads. Roads cost a lot of money to build and maintain, just as tracks do, and buses are doing their fair share of wearing them out. I did not see that the costs of light rail capital were added in so this point may be incidental. Since your argument is which is more efficient, the total costs would need to be considered if you are going to compare dollars, and the total CO2 (and pollution) budget if you are to compare pounds of CO2 emitted.

    Using a Toyota Corolla as your vehicle for comparison seems to be cherry picking. Many of us (cough…) have less efficient vehicles, and besides the stated MPG on the sticker is seldom achieved in real situations. Also, if people were to suddenly become sane, they might embrace nuclear power and then the CO2 budget completely changes, so your valid points are all based on current conditions, not the likely future ones where electrical generation is extremely likely to become more CO2 efficient. (Whether or not it needs to be…)

    Also, MPG is not linear when you consider traffic congestion. As traffic congestion increases, the MPG drops rapidly (because people are stuck in traffic). Even if the car shuts down when stopped, much congestion is just creeping along but not fully stopped. This is the primary reason I would have to using public transport – not the cost but to avoid the delay. Without systems like light rail, the existing congestion would be much worse, and there would be no alternatives as traffic came to a crawl. So there are other reasons why public transport is more valuable than it might otherwise appear.

    But I love my Truck… And won’t be giving it up any time soon. So here’s to at least a Corolla being more efficient than a train! I’ll wave as I drive by.

    • Robert of Texas, all valid points that I considered (except for the inflation adjustment, which was an error in writing, but I did the calculation correctly). I decided to use the Toyota Corolla because it is a good commuter car and because I didn’t believe any of the overall MPG data I could find for cars and trucks, they varied too much from source to source. A Toyota was just one number. In any case, the difference between LR and buses and cars is so large, cars win with almost any reasonable number. My results are based on current (2016) data, no apology for that. I make the same point you do in the post, car use increases congestion, we agree there.

      One more point, the US and Canada shift to natural gas is lowering CO2 emissions here. Europe’s shift to solar and wind is increasing their coal use and their CO2 emissions. Worldwide CO2 emissions are going up as people move out of poverty and buy cars and gain access to electricity.

  15. For most of my working life in the UK public transport was not an option for commuting or for leisure activities, because living and working in a rural area, there was none.

  16. Public transit is subsidized. Riders do not pay enough to cover the costs.

    About 20 years ago I tried to compare the costs to Society of auto, bus, light rail, heavy rail, and long distance rail.
    The cost for auto was higher because it included figures for environmental damage, policing, lost property tax revenue (land under roads and public parking lots) and more. While costs for construction of rail was included, some other costs were not included because I could find no information on them.

    My conclusion. The total cost of the auto was less than the subsidy for the mass transit modes.

    • Public transportation also uses roads that are paid for with gas taxes, without paying any gas taxes.

  17. For me it was always cheaper to bike to work when I could. The nearest bus stop was 3 miles away in the opposite direction of work and there was no direct link with that bus stop and work. By bike, work was only 7 miles away and much of the rout was along the beach.

  18. We get the same sort of drivel here in Canada. I attended a community centre opening a couple of years back with my daughter and a MiWay (Mississauga public transit) rep started talking to me as I glanced at their booth. Her approach was interesting:

    “Hi there. Have you considered public transit?”
    My response was short, but legitimate: “what for?”
    “For your commute to work. I can guarantee you that we can cut your emissions by 80% if you take public transit if you drive!”
    “Really? How so?”
    “Well, by using public transit, we’ll ensure that your car doesn’t end up emitting carbon into the air and creating global warming. You do drive, don’t you?”
    “I have a car, yes.”
    “Okay, so then how about we work up a transit solution that will get you to work with 80% fewer emissions?”
    “Sounds awesome!”
    “Great! So what’s your home address?”
    * I give her my home address *
    “Okay…and your work address?”
    * I start to give her my home address again *
    “No, no, your WORK address!”
    “That is my work address. I work from home. Mind you, my bedroom is on the second storey of a house and my computer is in the basement, so I was hoping for a vertical train to get me from the top of the house to the bottom.”

    Everyone watching thought my legitimate request for a two-storey, single-passenger vertical train was hysterical except for the MiWay girl. She was visibly upset. I don’t know why; I was just trying to help save the trees and keep the planet from microwaving like a stick of butter after about 15 seconds. She never gave me my vertical train, either. 🙁

    • I’m surprised she didn’t automatically spit out a carbon credit. She must not be programmed correctly.
      As for the vertical train to the basement, I would look into enlarging the laundry chute, it might be convenient. ;=)

        • I recall seeing a design for an elevator where you went down with gravity, and then had a bicycle arrangement on one side for going back up. Not sure it was ever built. It would be a great thing for the high-rise condos of the elite, though. Just about every one of them is severely overweight (except the Hollyweird ones, most of them).

          Just imagine, a 150 pound Michael Moore. He’d probably stop being such an annoyance as a side effect, with blood actually managing to get to his brain!

  19. Regarding “Electricity is not very efficient, since only 32% of the primary energy used to produce it is delivered to the customer as electricity according to the EIA”: Electric motors are efficient, while gasoline engines are not, only about 25% efficient.

    • “Electric motors are efficient, while gasoline engines are not, only about 25% efficient.”

      Diesels are 40% efficient, and Bosch-style tweaks coming next yerar (and thereafter) will make them acceptably clean without expensive after-treatment of exhaust. Radical new gasoline engines from GM and Mazda (Sky-Activ-X and later SkyActiv-3) will increase their fuel efficiency by about 30%. Nissan’s E-energy car and other EREVs (like the Toyota/Mazda Extended-Range EV), aka battery-buffered bangers, will also improve the efficiency of autos in the near future. Nissan’s car is selling very well in Japan.

      • Donald Klipstein, Electric motor efficiency varies a lot. They are only efficient (~80%) at full load. Efficiency drops a lot at low load, to the range of 60% at 40% load. It depends upon the time the light rail train is moving at full speed (maximum efficiency) and less than full speed or stopped (low efficiency). Coal plant efficiency is only about 38%. Most buses use efficient diesel engines that are 40% efficient. The efficiency of gasoline engines varies a lot, Toyota’s best engine is 37% efficient. Complicated subject, I didn’t want to go there in the post.

        • Depending on how far away the power plant is, a minimum of 20 to 30 percent of the energy generated is lost between the power plant and electric motor.

        • Efficiency of gasoline and diesel engines also drops when load or RPM is different from that at which efficiency is maximized. One good datapoint for comparison is the Tesla Model S, which gets 104 MPGE, 32% of which is 33 MPGE, city and highway combined, and that’s after losses in the charging circuitry, and even with batteries releasing less energy during discharge than went into them during charging. This is a car that weighs over 4300 pounds. Why isn’t anyone making a gasoline or diesel car or SUV this heavy with MPG this good? And electric trains don’t have energy storage batteries or charging circuits.

          • As always, Donald ignores the largest inefficiencies in delivering electricity to his favorite toy and touts made up propaganda figures.

    • Electric motors may or may not be efficient. However the cost is generating the electricity then getting it to that electric motor.

    • Donald Klipstein, I should also add that fuel costs are a very small part of the operating costs of light rail and buses. They are about 0.03% of the operating costs of light rail and 8% of the operating cost of transit buses. Fuel is about half the operating cost for a car. So, from a cost standpoint the relative efficiency of the motors/engines makes little difference. For the miles-per-passenger-mile-gallon calculation, using the highest relative efficiency I can imagine (LR=0.8(engine)*0.5(power plant)=40% and cars=25%), light rail is still less efficient in mpg than the Toyota. It works out to a very generous 50.6 mpg for light rail and 57.2 for the Toyota and you still have the very high capital costs for the light rail + the car commute that the riders have to the train station.

      • Is that 50.6 passenger miles per gallon for light rail? Being compared to 57.2 for a Toyota Corolla with 1.6 passengers? I would like to see a cite for 1.6 passengers being the average in cars while they are being used in commuting, because my experience indicates much less.

        • Donald Klipstein, See the top of figure 1 in the post and the peer reviewed paper at the bottom of the post for the reference and data. The value is 1.59, 1.6 rounded off. Vans are higher, pick ups lower. The very generous (possibly unrealistically high) value is 50.6 MPGe for light rail and 57.2 MPGe for the Toyota. These are per passenger. I doubt very much if LR is actually 80% on average, more likely 60%. And most electric power plants are much lower than 50%, probably averaging 40% or so. Coal plants are 30%, diesel plants are 25%, but nuclear and natural gas are higher. Wind and solar much lower, in the 12% range.

      • A data point for how efficient electric motors at moving trains: The usual diesel locomotive has a diesel-electric transmission, where the mechanical power from the engine is used to turn a generator, that powers an electric motor that turns the wheels.

  20. I was always told that US mass-transportation was bought up and shut down by automakers and oil companies in the post-ww2 years. Is this true?

    • The original light rail (AKA streetcars). They last a lot longer than buses and didn’t use gasoline/diesel. And yes they were bought up, the tracks were ripped out and busses put in place. They were found guilty of monopolistic practices and were fined $1,500 (really!) of course during this period of time the ridership of streetcars was falling because of the popularity of automobiles.

      • Yes, I remember Kennedy and “two cars in every garage” (we only had a one car garage so the concept eluded me from a practical standpoint as a 1st grader).

      • I think it was actually a dollar (the fine).

        Read “Getting There – The Epic Struggle Between Road and Rail in the American Century” by Stephan P. Goddard for the history.

      • Streetcars had downsides (I’m old enough to have ridden in them as a child):
        Noisier than buses, especially going around curves (screech), an annoyance at night to nearby sleepers;
        Unable to pull over to a curb, making riders step into a possibly very wet or dirty gutter, and blocking traffic while stopped;
        Unable to maneuver around double-parked cars or street repairs;
        A breakdown blocked all following streetcars, unlike a broken-down bus.
        Sometimes lacked traction on wet or icy hills; Etc.

        • And now the city of Portland leaders are spending billions to bring them (streetcars) back with all the aforementioned drawbacks, while the homeless camp out on every patch of non-private land that can be found.

  21. Regarding driving costs according to AAA: I did not see any links supporting it being 36 cents total per mile in 2016 dollars as of 2007, or 35 cents total per mile in 2016. However, I have a link for this as of 2017:

    This says much more than 35-36 cents per mile. It says average annual cost of owning a new motor vehicle is $8,469, and AAA considers annual mileage to be 15,000 miles, which means 56.46 cents per mile. Here, they also state specifically for a “small sedan”, $6,354 as total average annual cost of owning of one purchased new, including fuel and tires and maintenance when driven AAA-assumed-average 15,000 miles per year, which is 42.36 cents per mile.

    Another AAA link:
    This says “composite average” driving cost as of 2017 is 73.54 cents per mile of a vehicle driven 10,000 miles per year, 56.46 cents at 15,000 miles per year, and 49.44 cents per mile at 20,000 miles per year.

    • Donald Klipstein, Your figures need to be divided by 1.59, the average number of passengers in a car. Thus, 56.46/1.59=36 cents.

  22. Since I live in the city from which this data is based I wish to put in why I never used Tri-Met (the bus and light rail system here). To drive to work (I retired in January) I spent from 1/2 hr to 50 minutes to travel 20 miles one way. To take public transportation my commute would have been 1.5 to 2.5 hours each way. I would have had to leave home at 5:40 in the morning to make it to work by 8, and would have gotten home about 7:15. That is two hours a day I could not afford to lose. On top of that, the city has reduced the speed limits on all roads but the freeways by 5-10 mph over the past five years for “pedestrian” safety further increasing travel time. In this city, only those who work downtown, to avoid high parking costs, and the poor use public transportation.

    • Don’t forget that the light rail can only transport a maximum of 6% of Portland’s population, making it a bit hard for everyone to park their car and ride it. Other interesting part is it averages around 200million/mile to build (that’s a lot of new buses) and that no one would pay the actual cost of transportation if they were told to. Think that’s around $14/ticket if I remember right.

      • Last I heard it was closer to $16, paid mostly by a per employee transit tax by business, even those which aren’t anywhere near a bus or light rail line.

  23. This topic is ripe for innovation because large gains can be made with low cost changes.
    For example, what about a simple, remote coupler, bumper to bumper, that converts a string of idling, slow moving cars to a dozen cars moved along slowly by only one of them with motor running, able to be decoupled at the push of a button when the way ahead clears?
    This idea took 2 mins of thought. Once we accept that we are all too romantic in our attachments to our shiny chromed cars, all sort of ideas can emerge. There would be a huge social change if all cars were made with a good wearing finish instead of ultra shiny, high maintenance paint. Drivers could nudge other along instead of frantically trying to avoid minute paint damage and then hold ups for inspections for insurance claims.
    Badly needed is a holistic, lateral thinking study of variations to the engineering of the car as we know it now. Not by engineers fixated on fashion and style, as if cars bonded like pet dogs to owners. Geoff

    • Visions of bumper-cars at the amusement parks, I get.

      But I see automated cruise controls with proximity sensors and braking overrides as a virtual version of that system. The problem is that those features (as well as rear camera) are not included in the base models too. This is a quandry of conscience vs $ for the automotive business.

    • People could buy the low cost finish that you envision if the wanted to.
      The question is, how do you force people to start wanting the stuff you want them to want?

  24. When I was a University Student (seems like a previous life) it took me and hour and a quarter to travel to or from Uni by train and bus. Then my grandfather bought me a car. After that, it took about fifteen minutes in the morning and ten minutes to make the return trip, (Less traffic on the toll bridge.) It cost me 10 shillings or a dollar a week for gas. Tell me how Public Transport was better.

  25. Don’t take this in a bad way, but I think the analysis in this article has gone wrong at several points.

    First, the article doesn’t deal with subway systems, only with buses and light rail. Subways usually have much lower energy consumption per passenger-mile than buses and light rail, because the latter move around empty half the time. In the US, light rail is often a boondoggle, that much is true; but it’s also the smallest form of transit in terms of how many people (or miles) it moves, and so not very relevant. Buses are a public service and they are not designed for low-energy consumption; they are designed to reach every nook and cranny in a metro area, getting where rail cannot get. So it’s only natural that buses have relatively low occupancy rates, and thus relatively high energy consumption.

    Second, the article takes the average occupancy of cars, but the quote you are trying to refute dealt specifically with commuting. Look around you at rush hour: does the average commuter car carry 1.6 people? No way; that’s the average including things like family holidays. Polls in the US show that less than 10% of commuters carpool, and most of those carry just 2 passengers. So average occupancy of commuting autos is more like 1.1; this alone reduces the stated MPG of the Corolla, from 57 to 39 MPG.

    Conversely, the energy consumption of buses, subways and light rail looks high precisely because they have to operate when / where hardly anybody takes them. So it’s perfectly possible for a bus to have higher energy consumption *on average* than a car, and yet for CO2 emissions to be reduced when someone switches from commuting by car to commuting by bus.

    Another way to look at it is that transit, particularly rail transit, has relatively high fixed emissions because energy consumption is virtually the same whether someone rides a train or not, and doubling ridership does not require doubling the number of train trips. But *marginal* emissions, the additional energy consumption coming from a commuter who stops driving and starts taking the bus / train, are very small. Again, the fact that average passenger-mile emissions of transit and autos are comparable only tells you that, if you completely abolished transit, emissions would be about the same… but AFAIK nobody is advocating the elimination of public transport. It wouldn’t be possible anyway, due to the density of some cities, which takes us to the next point…

    During commuting, mpg is quite a bit lower due to constant acceleration and deceleration. The EPA even has different MPG ratings for city and highway driving. The average US car doesn’t get 36 MPG on average, unlike the Corolla used as an example in this article. But even the Corolla doesn’t get 36 MPG in city driving.

    (In fact, it seems the real-world Corolla doesn’t get 36 MPG even when averaging all types of driving: shows about 31 MPG, and as mentioned it will be lower for commuting trips).

    So the average fuel efficiency of mass transit is even more meaningless. It’s not even worth the mental exercise of what-would-emissions-be-if-transit-disappeared, because if transit disappeared congestion in dense cities would get a lot worse… and so would cars’ MPG. In other words, emissions would increase.

    Finally, the main point: passenger-miles are the wrong measure because by definition a world in which people switch from driving to the bus / train is a world in which stuff is closer, and thus a lot of car trips either don’t happen (because e.g. children can walk to school) or are much shorter. Compare the US with other high-income countries: Americans move about twice as many miles! 80 to 85% of passenger-miles in both the US and Europe are by car (Americans fly more, Europeans take the train more, but in absolute passenger-mile numbers the car is king in both places).

    Yes, the US is richer so naturally you’d expect a richer population to be more mobile. But not 100% more mobile. Besides, Australia is about as rich as the US, but has much lower transportation-related emissions; whether that’s because they drive less km or they have smaller cars, I don’t have the time to research now, but both factors probably play a role and both are incentivized by dense cities. (Overall per-capita emissions in Australia are about as high as in the US because of coal burned for electricity generation, but oil consumption per capita is much lower).

    (It may also be that denser cities have smaller homes. Probably undesirable for other reasons, but smaller homes definitely have lower energy consumption).

    This is also obvious if one looks at differences between US states. The lowest emissions are in:
    -New York, where the metro area as a whole isn’t very dense but half the jobs are in NYC, and driving to work has the lowest mode share of the US.
    -California, where metro areas are the densest in the US.

    Of course just because one person stops driving doesn’t mean jobs will automatically relocate from suburban campuses to a neighborhood with a train station. It takes decades to reshape cities. But it does happen.

    None of this is to say whether one mode of city or transportation is preferable to the others. But yes, leaving the car at home and taking the train / bus will reduce emissions. If just one person does it, the reduction is easy to calculate from the energy savings. If lots of people do it, there are even more reductions due to the reconfiguration of cities into denser spaces.

    • Alberto, most of your points are good ones, just not relevant to my post. My post was just about the transportation debate in the U.S. I did not research the rest of the world. Passenger-miles is the only way to evaluate the question of the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to move people to work and back, in my opinion. The most absurd way is to take a “single person” and move him or her from their car to a bus or train, that argument is silly. Your assumed ridership of 1.1 people per car is wrong, 1.6 is the correct figure. Cars only operate when there are people to move, trains and buses operate on a schedule, empty or full. It is the low average occupancy of trains and buses that is critical. Light rail is the only sensible rail in most of the U.S., subways only make sense in older denser cities, like New York or Chicago, they would never be built most places. Light rail suffers from very high capital costs and the difficulty of getting bond issues permitted by the public.

        • Thanks Donald, I see the table and what you mean. Since it has no explanation, I dug out the NHTS report. You can see the 2009 report here:
          Unfortunately, the table with the Avg. Vehicle Occupancy is not in the report, but it does have a link to the raw data and maybe I can figure out how to reproduce the table. I don’t like relying on a table with no discussion. It looks legit, but it is hard to tell. 1.15 seems low to me, especially since the establishment of HOV lanes and Van Pools.

          • HOV lanes don’t seem all that common; not all metro areas even have them at all. For example, I have yet to see one in the Philadelphia metro area, and there are definitely none in the majority of the Philly metro area that is in Pennsylvania. As far as I can tell, only two roads in all of Pennsylvania have HOV lanes, both in or near Pittsburgh, and Penndot says 2 occupants is enough to qualify. Van pools also don’t seem common. Everyone I know commutes solo or by mass transit. Another thing: A significant number of cars with more than one occupant are being driven for the purpose of transportation of only one occupant – taxis, Uber/Lyft/etc.

  26. Very interesting and thought provoking – but I think there is one substantial adjustment to be made to the calculations. “Book” MPG figures for cars are way out for short journeys. Your Toyota Corolla is probably doing less than 20 m.p.g when you roll off the drive on a cold winter morning.

    When I used to do a 20 mile commute (40 round trip) the electricity used to cost me less than £1 Sterling if I charged overnight (which my car was set to do). The motor and controller had no warm up issues, there was no street level emissions and if I was leaving early I didn’t disturb the neighbours with this strange task of “starting” the engine. Flip a switch and whisper off.

    And before I get leaped on by the anti-EV thought police, the battery still has no detectable deterioration after 5 years and 60,000 miles (mine isn’t a Tesla, but for interest one Model S has 300,000 miles on it –

    For the record I consider C02 emissions irrelevant.

  27. An experienced cyclist stands at the intersection either clearly in front of the truck


    safely behind the truck.

    Dangerous are cyclists who lurk past the truck to the right:

    the damaged ones are the trucker and the forwarding company.

  28. Here are two ideas that strike me off the top of my head as being more worth pursuing than others discussed here:

    1. Encourage nearby employers to promote car-pooling by creating a macro pool of all their workforce for potential riders to sign up for. Employ sophisticated software to make matches, especially over partially overlapping macro pools.

    2. Encourage Uber & Lyft to function more like jitneys during commute times—e.g., allow them to tap into the pooled pool of employees advocated above, providing the service for a fee.

    • Thanks to the two commenters.

      Here’s an additional idea: deckless e-scooters, rentable by smartphone app. Making a commotion in Milwaukee, Santa Monica, etc.

  29. Situations vary markedly but public transportation is frequently much less convenient. I experienced a real world commute where the time, door to door, was 15 minutes by car (both ends were fairly near freeway exits) but at least 2.5 hours by bus. The bus typically required long waits at bus stops and involved transfers from bus to bus three times each way.

  30. Public transport leaves from the location you can’t conveniently get to, at the time you don’t want/need to travel, to the destination you didn’t need/want to go (nor nearby where you are actually were going), costing money you don’t want to pay, or requires you to pay in an awkward format that you can’t easily verify.

  31. The comparison between transportation systems is correctly stated if a decision has to be made over which way to go. But that is rarely the case. When you already have a public transportation system installed, then moving passengers from private cars to the public transportation system is advantageous for every parameter. Cost per passenger-mile improves in the public transportation, emissions decrease, road congestion improves. It is all advantages. However moving passengers from public transportation to private cars is just the opposite and every parameter gets worse unless you dismantle the public transportation system, which is very unlikely.

    So in the end it is correct that once a public transportation system is in place a higher utilization results in an improvement in every parameter considered, including greenhouse gas reduction. It is very important that the decision over installing a new public transportation system is correctly taken. Otherwise it leads to a worsening of the situation. But I guess that is common to every policy decision.

    • True, and this post was spurred by such a decision. The question of whether or not to build a light rail system in Houston. It is foolish to build it when buses and HOV (high occupancy vehicle lanes) already exist and light rail is less efficient than buses or cars. Moving people to existing public transportation systems is better, but obvious and silly. Public transport suffers because people don’t want use it and because to be useful they have to run when nobody is on them. That will not change for the reasons given in the comments above. I was in a perfect situation, my company paid for my bus pass, the park-and-ride was close and it was an express to downtown. Obviously, most people are not in that situation.

      • I think it is a very simple matter, Andy. High capacity utilization of public transportation directly correlates to population density for the areas involved. That’s why it works so well in Europe and Japan. In the US it will not work well outside the big metropolitan areas.

    • Once again, the warmists show their totalitarian roots.

      All that matters is making “society” more efficient. If the individuals involved have to suffer, it’s not important.

  32. Logic tends to be a serial PoV and can break down with a chink in its axioms & assumes a level of omniscience (i.e. you know all the causes & conditions etc., that none of us do obviously do!).
    Also check logical fallacies & Cognitive Biases
    Nevertheless, my two pennies worth:
    CO2 at currently average 0.041% is no problem from what I’ve read on this matter since the 70’s, sometimes almost wish we had more of it to green the world, but pollution is a problem no matter if we are CO2denialist or CO2warmists and there’s a spectrum in between; I’m lukewarm and think that the timescales are too long for mankind to know in truth how the climate changes with the different outputs from various species like humans, termites etc.
    Our deluxe lifestyle relies on just how it is at the moment, but for sure there must be a time beyond probably our small lifetimes, that usable resource for this way of life will deplete to the extent they cannot be re-used effectively?
    Would like to cycle to work, however the traffic isn’t all that friendly and looks quite dangerous on my trek in to work; and my ailing health is an issue currently. I could get there but getting back after a long day may well be an issue.
    Maybe governments could incentive firms to ask workers to work at home if name begins with A to E on Mondays, F to J on Tuesdays …. U to Z on Fridays…. etc, to reduce pollution & save resources (just an idea folks).

  33. I applaud Mr. May’s work. I am particularly grateful for his pulling together the $1.33/passenger-mile bus cost that Mr. May’s Table 3 implies.

    But in my view it’s questionable whether in medium-sized cities transit systems actually ease congestion to any great extent.

    True, they seem to if all you do is compare the number of lane feet commanded by car occupants as opposed to bus occupants. If you include 97 feet of inter-vehicle space, then a 480-inch bus with an occupancy of 5.8 requires only 24 feet per passenger, as opposed to 77 feet per passenger for a 192-inch-long Ford Fusion with an occupancy of 1.5. On a lane-foot basis, that is, buses occupy only about a third of what cars do per passenger.

    As far as causing congestion, though, buses punch above their weight (or, rather, their length per occupant). They obstruct other motorists’ ability to see signs and other vehicles, they start and stop a lot, and their wide turning radii make them menaces at intersections where they turn.

    Because they’re highly subsidized and used disproportionately by monthly-pass owners, moreover, their occupancy is in a sense overstated. Specifically, many riders’ trips would not be made if those trips’ marginal cost to the rider weren’t zero. (As a veteran, for example, I can ride the bus for free in my town.) That is, a bus passenger mile displaces less than a full car passenger mile. A survey I saw suggests that one bus passenger mile displaces only 0.54 car passenger mile.

    Anyway, except in the densest (and consequently the most-expensive) cities the transit system barely makes a dent in overall transportation. Even if you think that every bus passenger mile displaces a full car passenger mile and ignore how much buses get in the way, the bus system in a medium-sized city may reduce congestion only by about a half a percent.

    Bus systems encourage more resources to be diverted to transportation than would be the case in the absence of subsidies, and on average they cost more and result in more emissions per passenger mile than the vehicles they arguably displace.

    My conclusion in that continuing subsidies of municipal bus systems makes society as a whole poorer.

  34. My vote goes for personal, private, unlicensed, liberty ensuring, fast flying cars.

    That’s what we were offered as the USA dream in the 1940s& 1950s, and I’m holding them to it.

    If there are no designated bicycle lanes/trails…that’s all the more reason to keep the pushy, power-mad bicyclists off the roads and otherwise out of the way, i.e. not obstructing traffic.

    They tore up many perfectly good (if the economics had been there) rail lines to make “biking paths” that are usually empty. If the watermelons are so all-fired enthusiastic about rail, why did they not object? And expect their ire to increase as they find out that restoring those rail lines will now be even more expensive. My idea of light rail transit was demonstrated in the movie “O, Brother”. Carry those watermelon politicians right out to the edge of the county on a light rail and dump them.

  35. Its mathematical, blokes & lasses…

    A bus maybe holds 75 people. It takes up the area (linear, lane) of maybe 2 cars with their usual car-to-car spacing. A commute car holds at most 5, but more usually 3 people (to get onto the prized HOV lanes). The average car, though including those commute cars, only holds 1.4 people. Statistic from the SF Bay Bridge commission 10 years ago. … “I remember things” …

    Therefore, it takes 1 ÷ 1.4 = 0.7 mean car-spacings to transport people by car…
    And 2 ÷ 75 = 0.0267 car-spacings to transport them by bus. Per person.
    Making 0.7 ÷ 0.0267 → 27× better ROAD CARRYING efficiency.

    The greater frontal area of a bus and length both contribute to higher Reynolds number (aerodynamic inefficiency), so in terms of fuel-per-passenger-mile, busses are not hugely more efficient than well-packed, lightweight, specifically fuel-efficient passenger cars.

    But they have the (ahem) Trump Card for road-carrying efficiency.

    Just saying

    • “road carrying efficiency” is just one parameter.

      Multiplying by the “coefficient of interference inefficiency” for all the bus starts and stops for drop offs and pickups that interfere with the flow of traffic is necessary to fully understand the net. {(27)x(Cii) = (27)x(.035) = 0.945} There is a net reduction for buses … 0.94%.

      (and although a bus “maybe holds 75 people” … it doesn’t)
      (and then there is the inefficiency of needing to bring your “bus pants” when you ride a bus)

    • You’re confusing inter-city buses with transit buses. In my town the average transit-bus occupancy is 5.8, not 75

      That’s because to get a bus full for the densest part of the route it has to run nearly empty on the feeder parts. There’s not much way around this

      Average car occupancy is 1.5-1.7, depending on whom you ask. Including inter-vehicle distance does make cars command three times as many lane feet per passenger. At 4 mpg, though, they’re less efficient: equivalent to a 15-mpg gas guzzler.

  36. I was surprised the CDC made this statement ” Even the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommended public transportation, in 2017, as “one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse emissions.”
    It seems to me that public transportation would do a great service for spreading diseases.

  37. Interesting post and discussion. Some thought on both the post and the comments:

    We’re not really considering ALL costs. Gasoline prices, for example, don’t include the (uncharged) costs of projection of geopolitical power into hostile parts of the world that happen to sit upon lots of the easily accessible oil. And the roads aren’t “free,” and certainly aren’t paid for fully by fuel taxes. They occupy lots of land on which no property taxes are collected, that’s not free either.

    Buses not only aren’t paying the fuel taxes paid at the “public” pump, they (like tractor trailers) do a disproportionate amount of the damage to roads and highways due to their relatively massive weight. And you can add to the “inconvenience factors” for buses idiotic operating practices that make them more unpleasant than they already are. For example, when I lived in The Forgotten Borough and had the misfortune of needing to take the bus to get to the ferry (to get me to the subway to get me to my job), bus drivers with an already excessive passenger load (and, as a result, running so late on their schedule that the next bus was already catching up to them) were MANDATED to make every stop where there were passengers (instead of passing them and allowing the essentially empty bus chasing it to pick up those passengers), which led to the infuriating situation where the nearly empty bus just behind it would pass it by, leaving the people at the bus stop passed by the empty bus just behind stuck standing on a rolling sardine can instead of getting seats. And that bus route I took, with the shortest and fastest trip to the ferry you could find from where I lived, averaged about 12mph on a good day, which I could probably manage on a bicycle for the 5 miles I had to travel.

    Some of the costs aren’t remotely realistic, either. The “car” fuel economy figures are a joke unless you’re talking about rural areas with light traffic. Where I live the Interstate traffic during rush hour is for much of its length stop and go, bumper to bumper traffic in which nobody is returning anywhere near their “rated” fuel economy, not even their “city” economy may be achieved much less their “highway” economy. Not to mention that few would tolerate driving a Corolla, which I can’t even comfortably fit in due to inadequate leg room (I’ve been in one, and don’t ever want to repeat the experience). Most personal vehicles would probably cut your fuel economy figures easily in half (if not more).

    The lack of “heavy rail” in the study leaves out the best “mass transit” option. Heavy rail is the only truly “mass” transport, with enormous capacity compared with any other mode. And unlike buses and the present-day “light rail,” it can operate reliably on a schedule and at a reasonable rate of speed. As others have said, “light rail” is often poorly conceived and, like buses, is generally light density, underscoring its relative lack of utility. The original “streetcars” and other “interurban” railways were far more effective than “light rail” as conceived today, but the conspiracy (in this case genuine) of automakers, tire/rubber companies, and oil companies to buy up the “interurban” railways, scrap them, and substitute useless buses in their place (California being the classic case) deprived commuters of that option.

    Biking isn’t realistic unless you’re only traveling short distances, and is only workable if you have a job where you can show up sweating like a pig. Where I live, most of the roads are narrow with basically NO shoulders, winding, and lined with lots of trees, limiting visibility and making bicycle use both impractical AND highly dangerous, so there’s that, too.

    Of course, making this about CO2 emissions is completely pointless, since CO2 emissions are net beneficial and aren’t causing the “climate change crisis” the Eco-Nazis claim it is. The discussion around how to get to work should be about how to make it as quick and easy and pleasant as possible, to minimize aggravation and wasted time, not about how to virtue-signal about “carbon footprint” BS. My own commute is about 40 miles, 3/4 of which is done by “heavy rail,” with the rest in my personal auto. Even if there was a bus anywhere near my home, I wouldn’t use it, since it would turn a ~15 minute trip to the station into probably a ~ 60-minute ordeal.

    • Mostly good points, I disagree on heavy rail though. That only works in very high population density areas, otherwise the occupancy is very low, driving up cost per passenger mile.

  38. I already ride a motorcycle (@ ~70mpg) to the train station. Take the train in, then walk to work. I’m already doing anything that can reasonably be done. But it’s not to combat “climate change”. It’s to maintain my sanity. Driving in would have me barking mad in no time.

  39. The American Planning Assoc (government planners) has long declared their purpose to be getting people out of their own vehicle and into public transit, to the point of deliberately mucking up (i.e. stalling, constricting) traffic flows.

    It adds to their funding/staffing by creating a problem of nearly crisis proportions. It’s a blatantly Marxist premise.

    • Portland, OR is a prime example. The city doesn’t repair potholes because they want to discourage private cars. A single Portland state senator kept Oregon from cooperating with Washington to replace the outdated I-5 bridges over the Columbia River.

  40. When I lived and worked in Toronto, I could walk to my office in the central business district in 35-40 minutes. I could take public transit (walk + streetcar + subway) and it would take between 25 and 45 minutes depending on traffic/time of day. I could have driven in 15 minutes but I would have had to pay $40 a day to park.

    Cost of parking in crowded cities is one of the determinants of driving versus using public transit. I didn’t see that in any of Andy’s tables. Perhaps it’s not a consideration in the USA.

    • Smart Rock, Parking is expensive in downtown Houston, but generally the company you work for pays the parking, if you drive. Elsewhere in the city parking is free. I think parking costs are a problem in a few other U.S. cities, but it is not like Toronto or London.

  41. Before I retired, my car was my office, worked in the Greater Vancouver area. I clearly remember the traffic conditions from before, during and after the last transit strike. During the strike there was no public transit, no buses, no Sky Train. I wanted that strike to go on forever, it actually proved that public transit was the main contributor to traffic congestion and not the solution. Not that any public transit advocate would ever admit to it. Suddenly every trip by car took half the time going point a to b. No delays at traffic lights, zero traffic congestion.

  42. Technology will come to the rescue, with autonomous aircraft, like giant quad drones, either taxis or privately owned.

    • Air taxis will however have to compete with the cost of parking your car for eight hours. Saving time however will be in their favor.

      California’s Kitty Hawk Cora autonomous electric air taxi is being tested in NZ.

      Twelve lift rotors and a single pusher propeller for FW-borne flight. Meant for two adults, so passengers can share rides, aircraft pooling.

      • IMO battery technology will make significant incremental improvement about every five years for the next 20 years or so, or there will be a major revolutionary breakthrough, such as a pure graphene battery (some already claim to have achieved this, but I’m dubious), rather than merely graphene supercapacitors to speed up recharging of advanced battery designs.

        Within the next five years, improved Li-ion configurations, such as the cylindrical batteries now coming on line, will occur, followed by Li-, Si- or Al-ion arrangements, with higher energy densities and safety and lower cost. Then will come solid state electrolyte batteries and Li-, Si- or Al-air or oxygen batteries. Theoretically, Li-air could just about equal the energy density of hydrocarbon fuels, with greater power density per unit mass.

        The final stage, and revolutionary it would be, is pure graphene batteries, offering storage superior to today’s Li-ion designs, combined with the rapid recharging of graphene supercapacitors.

        Might never happen, or could be here by 2040, if not before.

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