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Shifting the discussion slightly, I don't think smaller, more fuel efficient cars are the solution...they're JUST part of it. I live in a heavily urbanized area...and frankly, I think a concentrated plan to shift us from cars to GOOD public transit must become part of the solution.

In Southern California, we're seeing freeway widening projects costing over $100,000,000 per mile these days. There is a $1.4 billion widening project finishing up now that widened I-15 here...for 9 miles...to reduce commute times for 10's of thousands of people. And that's just the beginning. CALTRANS is budgeting for miles and miles of more freeway widening to handle MORE cars...that are not fuel efficient when compared to rail transit...nor are they speedy.

Somehow, we need to shift from driving to work to driving to high speed train stations and riding the train to a station that offers both public and private transportation to work. It also means HUGE parking facilities at stations.

California is pursuing it's High Speed Transportation system which is strongly supported by the environmental groups...because it is SO energy efficient...and so polution reducing...and it's far less distruptive than these HUGE, multiyear freeway widening projects. In fact, it's elevated on a bridge in urban areas and uses the existing freeway right of way. The latest twist to the project is a study to see if the whole high speed train initiative can be made energy neutral...perhaps energy positive...by leasing right of way to solar power generation facilities.

But...the train is only the long haul part of the solution. How to get from the destination to your job is the other part that must be solved. That's either more buses/trolleys, electric cars, or regional shuttles. That is NOT part of the high speed train solution...in fact, I don't see that the HST commission is even looking at the train as a commuter solution...something it could be.

But with housing prices driving people away from where they work, someone needs to think about how to get those folks to work...without building more freeways...and more fuel efficiently. I look at the housing that is being built north of me in Riverside...and see the thousands of cars driving south to San Diego. The math for transportation says that a high speed rail line running at load factors of 85% is equal to a 4 lane freeway running at a 45 mph average speed...that's about 8500 people per hour...and that's with only 8 trains per hour on one track. But, it's six times faster in commute time...shrinking the long haul part of a commute of 50 miles from just over an hour to under 15 minutes.

That time savings provides lots of time for people to disembark and wait/take local transit to their job...and, is far more relaxing.

The solution to this oil price increase needs a LOT more out of the box thinking than it's getting. More efficient cars is one piece of the solution...but it's NOT a solution when you look at the big picture. Further, more efficient cars still use oil. Others forms of power need to be used to stabilize costs of getting around...because I don't see anything other than trains that competitively uses other energy forms to contain the rising price of oil. Right now, there are no alterntives...so oil being a seller's market will stay...and oil prices will continue to go up...simple supply and demand.

And, this isn't rocket science...Japan, Germany, and France already do this...because they dealt with the energy cost issues before the US did. It's time to think outside the box...and look for a solution in a different solution space...and as a bonus, for those that need the van for the family might be able to keep it...if all it was used for daily was to drive a short distance to the train station and drop someone off...maybe several people.
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