Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We Can Cut Fuel Cost By Sharing Rides

by James Robert Deal
July 1, 2008

Every day there is another piece on television or in the papers about soaring fuel prices. No solutions are offered, only complaints and laments. Apparently nothing can stop the price of fuel from rising. But we could spend a lot less on fuel than we do now by driving together.

I am proposing a ride sharing plan in which we would use our computers, cell phones, and pagers to connect those needing rides with those offering rides. Such a plan could be implemented in a few months at low cost. A ride sharing program working in conjunction with congestion pricing could easily get a quarter to a half of single occupancy vehicles off the roads and freeways. We could increase average occupancy levels, reduce total fuel consumption, and meet our commitments under the Kyoto Protocols.

Ride share riders would take an orientation class on proper behavior, pass a written test and a criminal background check, and be issued a ride share ID card. Ride share drivers would do the same; in addition they would prove themselves sober and responsible and get a chauffeur’s license. Their vehicles would be equipped with dashboard GPS computers, the kind taxis have, which would illustrate the best routes to follow to pick up and drop off riders.

Riders would pay a flat monthly fee, which would cost less than driving alone and buying gasoline. Ride share drivers would get credits and be paid at the end of each month for each passenger-mile they deliver. No money would change hands during trips.

Riders would get door-to-door service, from wherever they are to wherever they need to go—home-to-office, office-to-lunch, lunch-to-office, office-to-gym, gym-to-grocery, grocery-to-home. Our children could get rides to and from school, daycare, and the ex-spouse. A person needing a ride could hold up his card and waive down a jitney. We need to deliver comprehensive service to get riders to participate.

To go to Bellevue for a seminar, I would ride in a jitney carrying maybe two or six others to the Lynnwood Park & Ride, where I would pick up a fast bus to Bellevue Park & Ride. From there I would pick up a jitney which would carry me and maybe two or six others to our ultimate destinations, all in the same quadrant of Bellevue. Two to six cars would not be on the roads.

Would this be affordable? Large numbers of cars would be left at home. Buses would be better utilized. Freeways would not need to be widened. Park & Ride lots would not have to be expanded. We would get to work more quickly, so we will be more efficient. We would save countless gallons of fuel. Yes, it would be affordable.

Ride sharing is not less but more important in the suburbs and rural areas where densities are low and fixed route bus schedules do not work at all. Ride sharing should be implemented on a multi-county and state-wide basis.

Those driving solo would pay a per-mile congestion pricing toll. This would encourage them to leave the gas guzzler at home and ride a jitney. Toll levels would be adjusted during the day to whatever level necessary to discourage enough people from driving so that at all times roads would flow freely and fast.

During World War II we rationed fuel. Instead, we would be rationing space on our too full roads. Our president says this is a national emergency. Shouldn’t we then take emergency measures?

Roads have become so packed with mostly empty vehicles that the vehicles can no longer move efficiently. The space on the roads is valuable public property. We own it and can legitimately charge rent for it to ration its overuse. Otherwise it becomes less useful. We should treat transportation as a unique public necessity, one which requires organization and cooperation for it to work effectively, and one which must be delivered reliably and affordably for us to live quality lives and compete economically. It is not communistic to apply a more cooperative and less individualistic model to transit and transportation.

However, it would be an unfair burden on the poor and the middle class to implement congestion pricing without at the same time implementing a better, cheaper, and faster way for people to get around. The ride sharing program I propose would do that.

To hold a job it is usually necessary to drive a car, a heavy burden for some. With ride sharing people could sell one or more cars and save on car payments, insurance, and repairs. Families could sell some or all of their vehicles, which would lower their cost of living and raise their effective standard of living. With fewer cars on the roads we would move at higher speeds and with few delays. We could take a nap on the way to work or listen to music or maybe work on our laptops. Our general anxiety level would drop and our quality of life would rise.

Heavily traveled bus routes on freeways, highways, and major thoroughfares would be maintained, but underused bus routes would be replaced with door-to-door jitney service. A hub and spoke system might be used: We would travel freeways, highways, and major thoroughfares on buses running in HOV lanes, but at the Park & Ride stations we would switch to vans for delivery to our final destinations, whether it be the grocery or our front door step. Bus drivers would double as jitney drivers. They might drive Metro owned vans and serve major venues. Many jitney drivers would be private citizens driving fuel efficient vehicles.

To highlight the absurdity of our current system, look inside cars as they go by. Note the typical 120 pound woman or 160 pound man riding alone in the typical 4,000 pound car. Look inside buses. Here in Lynnwood it is embarrassing to see so many buses driving by mostly empty. In large part we have a “pretend” bus system with drivers putting in their time burning diesel fuel, driving around in 30,000 pound buses carrying almost no one.

Generally those who can afford cars do not ride the buses. We do not like to stand in the rain in the dark and have strangers leer at us as they drive by. We do not like to study schedules and then walk some distance to a bus stop and then wait for a bus that might not arrive on time and might not take us where we want to go without transfers and more waiting. The fixed route bus system is too rigid. We need smaller vehicles delivering flexible and personalized transportation. With computers, cell phones, and pagers, we now have the technology to make such a system work.

The only full buses I see in Lynnwood are the express commuter buses. Those who ride them generally drive solo to the Park & Ride and fill up a parking lot the size of a subdivision. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have jitneys bring commuters in groups of two or six to the Park & Ride instead?

We accept our traffic jams, our prodigious fuel consumption, and our acres of parking, perhaps because it is all we have known. We cling to the belief that we have to build something to solve our traffic congestion problem—light rail, monorail or more freeway lanes. No, we can solve our problems before we build any of them, simply by utilizing our road capacity more efficiently.

I have come up with a theory of what might work. This article is just the beginning. My full proposal is lengthy, so I have posted it for your further consideration at: Comprehensive-Transportation.Blogspot.com.

If you disagree with me, come up with a counter-proposal. Don’t just say “it won’t work” or “nothing will work.” That is what most of us believe right now, that it will take decades to get us out of traffic jams—if we ever get out.


Read my Theories About a Comprehensive Approach to Transit and Transportation http://comprehensive-transportation.blogspot.com/

Fuel Tax, Not Sales Tax, Should Fund Roads
October 26, 2007

Alaskan Way Viaduct
February 23, 2007

Don't Destroy One Monorail to Build Another
July 12, 2002

How Would You Spend A Billion Dollars?
October 15, 2000

Highway 520 Congestion -- Solution To Traffic Jams Requires Big- Picture Analysis And Light Rail On I-90
March 23, 1997


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It is amazing that something as absurd as adding fluoride to drinking water has not been outlawed. It is amazing the tenacity with which people cling to this completely unscientific custom, like those who believe that the earth is flat.

To read my recent Post-Intelligencer Letter to the Editor about fluoridation click here:
Too Much Fluoride in City Water
May 14, 2008

My anti-fluoridation partner Dr. Osmunson, Bellevue dentist, has been working with Seattle Public Utilities to get them to set up a taskforce on the fluoridation question.
Click here to read his letter.

See and hear Dr. Bill Osmundson, Bellevue dentist, on fluoridation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds5G0XasTHM

Read what Dr. Rubin, Seattle dentist, has to say about fluoridation. http://www.dentalwellness4u.com/layperson/fluoridefacts1.html

See the Safe Drinking Water slideshow on fluoridation http://www.greenfrogcreative.com/presentation.pdf



Mail a letter about fluoridation to the Governor
Governor Christine Gregoire
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
Fax: 360-753-4110
Send an e-mail to the Governor


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