Friday, November 2, 2007
For an all-too-real description of what it's like to ride public transportation, check out Mathew Baldwin of Defective Yeti fame. I laughed tremendously at his posts long before I took my maiden voyage on a public bus, then I shot gallons of funny out of my nose while taking the bus, thinking about the posts he had written. It's kind of like parenting: you can never fully understand it till you've been pooped on.
I've cued up all of his bus entries here.
"78 million more trips taken than last year in the first six months -- New report finds 30% of transit riders are new riders; majority of riders use transit to commute."As a new public transport commuter,* I am pleased by these findings...but dismayed by our Central Ohio public transport.
Just yesterday, I waited for my bus that was scheduled to arrive 5:43. I allotted myself +/- 5 minutes and showed up early. My bus was running late and didn't show up until 6:05. As a result, I missed my connection downtown and waited an additional 20 minutes for the next bus to come. I arrived at home at 7:05.
That's 87 minutes...with only one transfer...to go 12 miles.
Given the fact that the average cyclist can sustain 13 miles an hour, I recall looking enviously from my rattling window as the two-wheelers passed us by, envious of their ability to run red lights and move their legs freely, unburdened by the 425 pound man not sitting next to them.
But alas, I must admit, my gripes are few and far between. Let me emphasize that COTA is not a bad bus system (though it's name is not as cool as Seattle's South Lake Union Trolley, or S.L.U.T.). The buses are generally clean and the drivers are courteous. Once you figure out the routes, it's not that difficult to get around. And they even provide a healthy vein to bring OSU fans to and from the packed-to-the-gills games at the Horseshoe.
From their website:
For the 12 months ending December 2006, COTA provided nearly 15.0 million trips: 14.8 million rides on the fixed-route system and 156,000 paratransit rides. Compared to the prior 12-month period, fixed-route ridership decreased 1 percent and paratransit ridership increased 1 percent.
But if I was working a minimum wage job somewhere in the city, without any flexibility in a work schedule, 45 minutes of "tardiness" can cost me my livelihood. Not to mention 87 minutes is a healthy 12 miles. And the website...don't get me started on the website. Their Trip Planner is a friggin nightmare, where you need to know the exact case-sensitive punctuation they inputted in order to find out the stop's times. Just a simple pull down menu would work wonders.
And as far as public transportation goes, I recognize that this ebbing and flowing might be par for the course. Their will always be hiccups, but it is important to note that smaller scale bus systems like Columbus need a desperate overhaul. We're 1/20th the size of New York, yet we're based on big city planning without any customization to scale and need. Without street cars, dependable cabs (it's illegal to hail a cab in Columbus!) or a subway system, the lucky carless few are invariably stuck inside the 270 outerbelt.
COTA has studied the feasibility of constructing a light rail line, a streetcar line, or a bus rapid transit line several times in recent years, but has failed to secure funding for any system beyond the current bus service. COTA's most recent attempt, FastTrax/North Corridor, was permanently tabled in the summer of 2006. Columbus did not meet current federal feasibility regulations, and did not receive federal funding, which was expected to cover over half the cost. No light rail lines are expected to be built in the near future, though the city of Columbus is still considering a streetcar system in downtown Columbus.
Just give me my street cars, damn it! That's all I ask. The debate has been on the table so long that I'm starting to give up hope, but here's what I want:
Make them free. Run them on High Street from Worthington to Bexley. Keep them running till 2:00 am on Fridays and Saturday. Keep them free, even if they're losing money. Don't go modern. Free cars are the best. Don't go mod. Pay homage to our history with a classic design. Did I say free? Free. Free. Free.
So until Mayor Coleman comes through with his proposal (and figures out how to fun my FREE project), I have no choice but to gut it out with COTA. There are, sadly, no other options. With winter closing in, you won't catch me on my Giant. It'll still take 87 minutes to get home. I'll still stand at my cold, shelter-less bus stop. I'll still wonder why cyclists are lapping us. And I'll bring brats and saurkraut. Why? The 425 pound man loves to eat brats on cramped buses.
Oddly enough, the smell is usually a welcome change. I think of it as his cologne.
Here's some additional factoids that force my continued support. Peruse them at will.
From the American Public Transportation Association website:
September 26, 2007
(Download In Adobe PDF format)
Background on Transportation and CO2 Emissions
-U.S. greenhouse gases (GHGs) from transportation represent 33% of total U.S. GHG emissions
-GHG emissions from mobile sources have grown 29% from 1990 to 2004, an average annual compound growth rate of almost 2.0 percent.
-Automobiles and light trucks are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources and together represent more than about 60% of total mobile source greenhouse gas emissions.
-CO2 represents over 95% of total greenhouse gas emissions from mobile transportation.
Transportation Industry’s Contribution to CO2 Emissions Reduction
-Nationally, public transportation reduces CO2 emissions by 6.9 million metric tones annually.
-Public transportation’s reduction of 6.9 million metric tonnes exceeds the transportation CO2 emissions that exist in states such as North Dakota (6.3 million metric tonnes) and Delaware (5.0 million metric tonnes).
Household Actions – the Potential Power of Individual Action
-The average American household carbon footprint is 22 metric tonnes per year, compared to a European household of 10 metric tonnes per year. Of this, approximately 38% (One car household) to 55% (two car household) of total household CO2 emissions are transportation related.
-A solo commuter switching his or her commute to existing public transportation a single day can reduce their CO2 emissions by 20 pounds or more than 4,800 pounds in a year, about ten percent of a two-car family household’s carbon footprint of 22 metric tonnes per year.
-Switching your commute to public transportation reduces a family’s carbon footprint more than replacing five incandescent bulbs to lower wattage compact fluorescent lamps (445 pounds of CO2 per year), or replacing an older refrigerator freezer (335 pounds of CO2 per year.
-Eliminating one vehicle and using public transit can reduce a two-car household’s carbon footprint between 25-30%. A two-car household switching all travel to transit can reduce their carbon footprint by up to 55%.
*prior to this year, I had never set foot in a public bus. Growing up in the Ohio burbs, there was never any reason to do so. We are and always have been a car city.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
It's just some tomatoes, right?
Fish swim in water > Fish poop in water > Poopy water becomes toxic for fish, so it is cycled into plants > Nutrient rich water is loved and absorbed by plants > Plant-filtered water is then safe for fish and circulated back into the water > Wash, rinse, repeat.
Would you buy one? You don't need to. They want you to build your own, going so far as to provide you with step-by-step instructions.
Start drinking that soda!
From their website:
Farm Fountain is an experiment in local, sustainable agriculture and recycling. It utilizes 2-liter plastic soda bottles as planters and continuously recycles the water in the system to create a symbiotic relationship between edible plants, fish and humans. The work creates an indoor healthy environment that also provides oxygen and light to the humans working and moving through the space. The sound of water trickling through the plant containers creates a peaceful, relaxing waterfall. The Koi and Tilapia fish that are part of this project also provide a focus for relaxed viewing.
The plants we are currently growing include lettuces, cilantro, mint, basil, tomatoes, chives, parsley, mizuna, watercress and tatsoi. The Tilapia fish in this work are also edible and are a variety that have been farmed for thousands of years in the Nile delta.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Original Picture Credit
Photoshop by me
And suddenly, the Dyson Sphere doesn't seem so impossible...
The US Military has a small proposal: a space-based solar power station.
First and foremost, the question should be asked, "Why in the hell is this being done by the US Military? Why not NASA?" Well, the shot-callers in Arlington decided that energy independence is now an issue of national security.
So we're invading the moon? Wow, I didn't even know it had weapons of mass destruction.
Seriously though, why would the DoD be interested? Here's just a few reasons from this guy:
Immediate military tactical and operational needs:
1. Dramatically reduce the energy logistics train to forward operating bases and reduce the need to secure massive energy convoys and stores in:
-Disaster relief efforts
-Nation building efforts
2. Beam power directly to vehicles in all operating media for the following reasons
-Reduce weight of carrying fuel
-Increase range and loiter time
-Eliminate need for refueling and reduce the need for refueling vehicles
-Reduce the need for consuming local energy supplies
-Reduce size and signature
3. Use SSP for liquifaction of carbon-neutral fuels for current generation of liquid-fueled systems
-Continue to exploit current liquid fuel infrastructure, using carbon neutral fuels
-Gain independence from foreign liquid fuel providers
Urgent national security strategic goals:
1. Assist in achieving national energy independence from current liquid fuel providers
-Reduce level of national interest in unstable regions
-Reduce national dependence on unfriendly foreign governments
-Reduce the risk of energy competition wars in the 21st Century
2. Assist allies in achieving their national energy independence
-Develop and strengthen broad international partnerships
-Participate in international energy consortia and alliances
3. Economic: Become an energy exporter
-Increase national ability to influence or avoid geopolitical events
-Increase GNP, wealth of the nation, and increase tax revenue
-Use energy earnings to pay off national debt
4. Environmental: Dramatically reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere
-Prevent food wars which might happen if global warming continues
-Enhance soft power and green credibility around the world
-Lead the international clean energy movement by example
OK, so the product has legitimate applications and is not, in fact, an invasion of the moon. I can see it now, like two big bug eyes circling the earth, harvesting solar rays in a "lock box" where they are converted into high-power density microwave beams back to earth. Like this:
Sound a little far-fetched? Well it needs to be, because whoever develops the technology will rule the world.
Lotttttttsssssss of money. Lotttttttsssssss of power. Lotttttttsssssss of women.
Brown hot women.
They estimate that just one of these bands will produce enough energy per annum to equal that of the entire oil reserve left on the planet (granted, this is an estimate from a bunch of guys that can't even get a missile shield working).
Still, I'm optimistic...not in my lifetime, but maybe when my one year-old son is on the verge of retirement.
From the website:
NSSO Backs Space Solar Power
Oct 11, 2007
Frank Morring, Jr./Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
Collecting solar power in space and beaming it back to Earth is a relatively near-term possibility that could solve strategic and tactical security problems for the U.S. and its deployed forces, the Pentagon's National Security Space Office (NSSO) says in a report issued Oct. 10.
As a clean source of energy that would be independent of foreign supplies in the strife-torn Middle East and elsewhere, space solar power (SSP) could ease America's longstanding strategic energy vulnerability, according to the "interim assessment" released at a press conference...
And the U.S. military could meet tactical energy needs for forward-deployed forces with a demonstration system, eliminating the need for a long logistical tail to deliver fuel for terrestrial generators while reducing risk for eventual large-scale commercial development of the technology, the report says.
Read more HERE.
I've extolled the virtues of GOOD magazine many times before, but I was suprised to learn that the philanthropic print publication has a plethora of videos online. For those of you familiar with Current TV (I, myself, am tivodicted to the channel), GOOD gives their videos a similar flavor. The facts are short and sweet, the graphics are appealing, and the stories are interesting.
Here are some to get you started. If you get addicted, check out the rest of them here.
Monday, October 29, 2007
For instance, this excerpt from Springwise:
...Norway’s two-seat, electric-powered Think City car—set to go on sale in the coming months—will come with an owner financing package unheard of in the auto industry. Consumers will pay an estimated USD 15,000 to 17,000 for the vehicle, but the company plans to lease the Think’s battery. And for good reason: on its own, the battery would cost an estimated USD 34,000, more than the price of a low-end luxury vehicle in most countries. Moreover, the Think battery’s useful life will depend on how the vehicle is used. Meaning: if Think owners were compelled to buy the battery along with the car, they’d be assuming risks few vehicle buyers would tolerate.
The workaround Think has devised is a USD 100-200 per month bundle that will include the battery lease plus other services such as insurance and mobile internet access. The latter will enable the company to remotely monitor the battery’s remaining useful life. As the battery’s ability to recharge declines with age, the company will automatically offer owners the chance to replace it or alternately keep the battery in exchange for a lower monthly leasing fee.
Leasing a battery?
Not a bad idea, only I've always been the kind of guy that is/was/still is afraid of over-bundling, be it a cell phone contract, airline mile-purchased plane ticket, satellite radio automatic contract renewal, magazine subscription, etc.
I'm just waiting for the day when I'm pained to find out that the Think car you purchased can ONLY work with the "locked-in" batteries they lease, thus killing the chance at open market competition.
So why is this entrepenewship so special? Apparently, it runs against the grain of every established business model.
For quite some time, businesses have based their profitability on the bottom line and nothing more. Waste reduction interested businesses if, and only if, the waste could be used to make more of the end product, thus helping the bottom line. The actual work involved in counting non-profitable waste post-production took time.
And we all know that time is money.
Unfortunately for the old schooled, there will no longer be much of a choice.
In the future if you waste, waste is just as expensive (if not more) than time.
A proposal from an article in Business 3.0 from FastCompany:
A good start [in greening the market] would be reducing the income tax and augmenting it with graduated taxes on ecologically harmful activities, along with federally consistent mandates requiring companies to take greater responsibility for their own waste streams and for their products at end-of-life. These reforms would align both consumers' and businesses' understanding of a given product's total cost to the planet, and allow both to make more informed decisions.
Practicing such "true cost" economics will unlock a powerful wave of product redesign, much of it hidden from the consumer's eyes, as companies seek to lighten their own burden when they get a product back at the end of its useful life. A focus on the total life cycle will amplify an entire nascent branch of creative engineering: Design for low-cost disassembly will become as important as design for low-cost assembly, with elements such as lead-free solders, modular construction, snap-fit rather than epoxy-based joints, and biodegradable plastics becoming the norm. Consumers would benefit from products that last longer, are easier to fix when they break, and become the basic inputs to other industrial processes when they're taken out of commission.
By attaching economic value to the elimination of waste, we also increase the likelihood that innovators will seek out and discover that rarest of capitalist prizes: the twofer. Enterprising 21st-century capitalists will make a name and a fortune for themselves by getting paid twice--once for eliminating some bit of a harmful waste stream, and a second time for spinning that waste into industrially useful gold.
While the extravagantly hedge-funded might be shaking in their John Lobb Ghillies, afraid to clip some of the weighty branches from the family tree (all the while knowing full-well the tree is a danger to their Hampton estate), able-minded visionaries like Fredrick Musonda of Zambia are leading change for the benefit of their families, their country, and the environment.
Developing nation or forward thinking?
Fredrick's vision-turned reality:
Living in Lusaka, Fredrick Musonda noticed two things. Increasing demand for the most common fuel, charcoal, was supplied by native trees ‘carbonized’ in simple, but inefficient, earth kilns. And the local sawmill, using logs from eucalyptus plantations, simply burned the waste from its operations. So he started a company to manufacture charcoal from sawmill waste in more efficient kilns.
This was an important step in a country where demand for charcoal, already 900,000 tonnes a year, is rising by 4 per cent annually. This growth, together with inefficient production methods, increases deforestation – and the associated soil erosion, water pollution and biodiversity loss – leading Zambians to an unsustainable energy future.
When others continue to change the way we work / spend / design / live, what happens to those businesses/governments that continue to focus on the exhausted / squandered / antiquated / dead?
Does the future have room for the large-scale? Grandiose? Corporate conglomerate?
Looks like even WalMart gets the idea.
Welcome to the non-industrial revolution.
UN independent rights expert calls for five-year freeze on biofuel production. HERE
The Cuban capital Havana has won a United Nations prize for restoring its architecture to its former colonial glory. HERE
The creation of a new economy. HERE
UNEP Community Cooker in Nairobi, converting garbage and waste into an heating element for cooking. HERE
UNEP Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign. HERE
2008 Beijing Olympic Games are environmentally impressive, says UN Environment Programme Report. HERE
UN even takes a slightly neutral stance on smoking in their press room. HERE
UN's Latest Global Environment Outlook report, in pictures. HERE