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Readers Resist Transit As Gas Prices Rise

I’m not sure if its a love of cars/driving or a dislike of transit but readers in the poll last week indicated it will take a lot to get them to give up driving and use transit.

ABOVE: A large crowd waits to board the #70 Grand MetroBus at Union Station

Q: How Expensive Must Gas Get Before You Take Transit Instead of Drive?

  1. I already take transit and/or bike: 39 [33.05%]
  2. I’ll never take transit: 17 [14.41%]
  3. Other: 16 [13.56%]
  4. $10+ 14 [11.86%]
  5. $6 – $6.99: 13 [11.02%]
  6. $5 – $5.99: 10 [8.47%]
  7. $7 – $9.99: 6 [5.08%]
  8. $4 – $4.99: 3 [2.54%]

Wow, really? This tells me we can jack up taxes on gasoline to fund dramatically better transit and most of you will keep driving. Missouri should raise fuel taxes to be on par with neighboring states like Illinois (41.2¢/gallon). The average for the 50 states is 30.5¢/gallon but Missouri is at 17.3¢/gallon, slightly above Oklahoma (Source).

The high number of “other” answers were mostly those feeling guilty and/or defensive about driving:

  1. I can’t take transit to work, not a choice
  2. When I can get from St. Louis County to St. Charles County
  3. I will just work from home
  4. It rarely goes where I need it to – despite proximity to multiple bus routes!
  5. I take transit and walk. 🙂
  6. I’ll be riding my scooter
  7. When it doesnt take 2 hrs to travel, the same distance I can drive in 20 minutes
  8. When it’s cleaner and safer, maybe I’ll consider transit.
  9. i live 3 miles from work, it’s still not an issue for me.
  10. Tranist is not an option in my current job.
  11. I’d take transit now if there was better coverage near my home.
  12. I don’t have convenient transit access
  13. My job requires me to have a car.
  14. transit is not an option for my commute
  15. i’ll take it when it runs 24/7b

Do people only go from home to work and back? No, we don’t. We go to events, shopping, dinner, etc. I’d imagine many of you have made changes to your routines:

Nationally, 84% of those responding to an AAA survey released earlier this month say they’ve changed their routines as a result of soaring fuel prices. Better planning — combining errands into a single trip — was the most common way cited. (USA Today)

It will be interesting to watch as prices continue to rise.

– Steve Patterson


Permeable Concrete Reduces Water Runoff

Permeable, or pervious, concrete is becoming more and more common around the region but what is it?

Pervious concrete is a special type of concrete with a high porosity used for concrete flatwork applications that allows water from precipitation and other sources to pass directly through, thereby reducing the runoff from a site and allowing groundwater recharge. The high porosity is attained by a highly interconnected void content. Typically pervious concrete has little or no fine aggregate and has just enough cementitious paste to coat the coarse aggregate particles while preserving the interconnectivity of the voids. Pervious concrete is traditionally used in parking areas, areas with light traffic, residential streets, pedestrian walkways, and greenhouses. It is an important application for sustainable construction and is one of many low impact development techniques used by builders to protect water quality. (Wikipedia)

Sounds good but what does it look like?

ABOVE: Permeable concrete on the left during construction on South Grand, May 2011
ABOVE: Pervious concrete under the parked cars on the left at Dardenne Prairie City Hall

The rough texture takes some getting used to although in a context like South Grand it’s a nice contrast with the smooth concrete of the sidewalk area.What’s your thought on this type of concrete?

– Steve Patterson


Downtown’s First Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Last month the first electric vehicle charging station opened in downtown St. Louis:

Microgrid Energy, based in Clayton, Missouri, unveiled its second charging station at its second hotel in less than a year, Thursday morning. Microgrid Energy spent a rainy Thursday morning celebrating the installation of the second station where customers can pay to charge their electric volt (or EV) cars.

The first was at the Moonrise on Delmar less than a year ago. (KPLR)

Earlier in the week I stopped by and saw it was being used.

ABOVE: Two Chevy Volts being charged on Lucas Ave just east of 7th

From the company’s website:

Microgrid is helping lead the transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs). An extensive shift in infrastructure from gas stations to EV Charging Stations is required to fulfill the potential that EVs hold. This transition will go hand in hand with the transition to locally generated energy from renewable sources. EVs result in lower carbon emissions, but when coupled with onsite solar power, the carbon footprint can go to zero. (Source: Microgrid)

As a city and country we are a long way from mass consumer adoption of electric vehicles, but early adopters will pave the way:

The climate will get kinder for electric cars.

 A prolonged spike in oil prices may send consumers scrambling toward electric. Wider adoption rates should result in lower battery and car prices down the line.

 We’re just not there yet. (Daily Finance: 3 Reasons Why You’re Not Buying an Electric Car)

This charging station is next to the former downtownDillard’s, now home to the Laurel Apartments (an advertiser here) and Embassy Suites Hotel.

– Steve Patterson


Spring Equinox is a Month Away

February 18, 2012 Environment, Featured 2 Comments

We may be buried under snow and have freezing temperatures but the Spring Equinox begins on March 20th — 31 days away.

An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator. The term equinox can also be used in a broader sense, meaning the date when such a passage happens. The name “equinox” is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, the night and day have approximately equal length.

At an equinox, the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator (i.e. declination 0) and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points: classically, the vernal point and the autumnal point. By extension, the term equinox may denote an equinoctial point.

An equinox happens each year at two specific moments in time (rather than two whole days), when there is a location (the subsolar point) on the Earth’s equator, where the center of the Sun can be observed to be vertically overhead, occurring around March 20/21 and September 22/23 each year. (Wikipedia)

ABOVE: Forest Park

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for green grass and warmer temperatures.  As Winters go ours has been mild, hopefully our Summer will also be mild.

– Steve Patterson


New Thinking Was on Display at St. Louis Auto Show

In May 2008 I found myself car shopping. I could no longer ride my 90mpg scooter so I wanted a fuel efficient car. Gas prices had been climbing for months:

I was shopping for used a car but I found myself angered at the selection of new vehicles being offered:

Today Ford, GM and Chrysler are caught with too many trucks and SUV’s in showrooms as sales of these segments decline in the double digits. Toyota has passed Ford for the #2 sales position in the U.S. Honda is set to pass Chrysler for #3.

Why does it matter? Well the auto industry is an important part of our national economy. Many thousands of workers build the cars and many others work for suppliers to the industry. Until we can shift these people to other jobs a large part of the economy depends upon all of us doing our part and buying a new vehicle. But with the new reality of $4/gallon +/- gas consumers are finally rejecting trucks and SUVs. Frankly the U.S. economy is to reliant upon sales of autos and of new mostly suburban homes. (full post)

It wasn’t long before both GM & Chrysler were in bankruptcy and Ford was mortgaged to the roof and selling off brand after brand like Aston Martin & Volvo. All three were finally forced to rethink how the design, build and sell cars in a global economy. The government finally pushed the auto industry to higher standards:

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate was first established in 1975 and until this past April 1 [2010] has changed little since. It’s been years of debate, but finally, the standards have been significantly updated. By model year 2016, the fuel efficiency of the new vehicle fleet sold in the United States will have to average at least 34.1 miles per gallon. [Popular Mechanics]

The fact is automakers had been making great improvements in efficiency for decades

Specifically, between 1980 and 2006, the average gas mileage of vehicles sold in the United States increased by slightly more than 15 percent — a relatively modest improvement. But during that time, Knittel has found, the average curb weight of those vehicles increased 26 percent, while their horsepower rose 107 percent. All factors being equal, fuel economy actually increased by 60 percent between 1980 and 2006, as Knittel shows in a new research paper, “Automobiles on Steroids,” just published in the American Economic Review (download PDF). [Source: MIT News]

If we still drove 1980 sized vehicles the automakers could exceed the 2016 CAFE requirement, per the above source. But with creative thinking and using technology used around the world the higher standard can be met:

The Hyundai brand has met the federal government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards four years ahead of the 2016 deadline, achieving an average of 36 mpg across its model lineup, according to WardsAuto. But there are some who have taken issue with the EPA’s estimates of Hyundai vehicles, and have petitioned for a re-test of the 40- highway-mpg Elantra. Hyundai America CEO John Krafcik stands behind the Elantra’s mpg rating, however, saying the numbers are achievable in the real world. [Source: Motor Trend]

At the St. Louis Auto Show last week, new more efficient vehicles were on display. Click the image to see the official website for each vehicle.

ABOVE: Dodge Dart will replace the Caliber
ABOVE: The Fiat 500 wasn't at the 2011 show
ABOVE: Toyota will sell it's tiny iQ in the U.S. as a Scion
ABOVE: Chevrolet Spark micro-car
ABOVE: The new Ford Fusion now shares much with it's European siblings

For decades companies like Ford built models specifically for the U.S. market that had no resemblance to European models. This increased development costs and gave U.S. consumers subpar vehicles. Those days are gone.

2012 vs 2008 Ford Focus via FuelEconomy.gov

The 2012 Ford Focus is a global Ford, whereas the 2008 Ford Focus had nothing to do with European models. The gains in fuel economy speak for themselves. Over at GM a similar story is told.

ABOVE: 2012 Chevy Cruze vs 2008 Chevy Cobalt via FuelEconomy.gov

Chevrolet made strong gains with the Cruze that replaced the Cobalt.

President Obama has proposed a CAFE standard of 54.5mpg by 2025, coinciding with new regulations in California:

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have estimated that the improved technology would add $2,030 to the average vehicle purchase price, but that lifetime cost savings for fuel would exceed $6,000, for a net savings of more than $4,000 over the life of a new vehicle. The NADA disagrees with those figures and plans to release its own study next month that estimates a total price increase per vehicle of up to $5,000. [MSN]

With the economy rebounding fuel prices are expected to reach $4/gallon this summer. This time automakers will have vehicles that meet buyer expectations. When I’m ready to buy my next used car I’ll have better choices  than I had in 2008.

– Steve Patterson