Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Everyone complains about gas prices

with 12 comments

but how many actually do much about it?

This is just based on personal observation, not on anything I have read. Although there have been a plethora of stories in the media about people who are switching to transit or using their bikes. What I have noticed is that as gas prices have risen steeply driving behaviour has not changed. Yet there is a direct link between fuel consumption and speed in urban areas. Because of the frequent starts and stops, a lot of fuel is used to get the vehicle moving from rest, but the same energy gets thrown away as heat in the brake pads. And the harder the acceleration, the sharper the braking. I live on Steveston Highway which has a posted speed of 50kph – but the times I see someone driving at or below that speed are very rare. The average speed on that road is 70kph – which means half of the vehicles are exceeding that speed. And that is not the only road where this can be observed. In general, moving traffic in Greater Vancouver is at least 10kph over the posted speed on arterial roads.

But everyone knows that rapid acceleration and hard braking wastes fuel and wears out cars. Yet nearly everyone does it anyway.

And I also notice that the number of brand new large trucks used as personal transport is a obvious as ever. In fact the trucks seem to me to be larger than ever. Yes, I also notice the number of Smart cars and hybrids – but they are greatly outnumbered in my unscientific observation than the SUVs “cross overs” and four seat pick ups – all shiny and new and quite a few jacked up with off road tires (another good way to increase rolling resistance and increase fuel use).

Yet all these people are bitching and complaining about how much gas costs and blaming the government and its carbon tax which has yet to be implemented. And Carol James, to her great disgrace, seems to support them.

This blog of course is mostly read by those who understand these issues. We do, every so often attract a comment from one of the dinosaurs but not often and it is even less a rational explanation – more usually an attack on those who they feel are trying to “socially engineer” them. And I have been one of the first and loudest to point out how poor some of the alternative still are after years of trying to get much needed improvements.

But what really surprised me recently was the way that the Chamber of Commerce people in Abbotsford are convinced that their airport is going to be an engine of growth. Is this the same sort of denial that is behind the choice of a brand new Hummer? Air Canada lays off thousands and cuts service. Small airlines go bust and cease operating. Others seek bankruptcy protection and start charging for sandwiches and tell their pilots to leave their manuals behind. These are not the indicators one looks for in a flourishing industry.

We know that oil production cannot keep pace with growing demand, especially as China and India are motorising at a phenomenal rate. China will soon replace Japan as the biggest consumer of oil. There isn’t any more cheap oil to find and the reserves we know about are often in places where drilling has been prevented due to environmental concerns. Like the coast of BC. Only people people like Dick Cheney and his puppet think that is a good idea.

But the fast and agressive driver seems not to make the link between his (or her – yes, there are increasing numbers of female drivers who forget their manners on the road too) behaviour and the effect at the pump. And I see no sudden increase in the number of parking spots available.

I can understand why people think they have no realistic alternative to driving if they live and work in the suburbs. What I do not understand is why they cannot drive in a way that reduces both acclerationand braking, allows for a much less stressful journey and cuts fuel consumption. And usually does not take any longer.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 21, 2008 at 8:17 am

Posted in energy, Transportation

Tagged with ,

12 Responses

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  1. Two items:

    1) On the US news stations last night (Friday), there was much made about the reduced traffic on US highways. Where once daily traffic jams took place, traffic flows with minor delays

    HEY GORDO – Me thinks you should rethink Gateway.

    2) A lot of money is made on the ‘black’ market either by dealing in illicit drugs, counterfeit items and more. This unreported income is almost free cash and people treat it as such. In WW 2, people in the ‘black’ market had lots of gas, tires, steaks, etc. and spent lavishly, including (I would guess) on their favourite politicians.

    It’s the poor beggar’s like us that always feel the brunt of a new gas tax.

    Malcolm J.

    June 21, 2008 at 9:11 am

  2. I think the vehicle fleet is much like real estate; even when changes in zoning are implemented, it will still take years for that specific area to reflect those changes “on the street.”

    Likewise, when I moved here last summer, gas was in the range of $0.80 a litre or so. Now imagine the number of people who bought a crossover SUV or a truck thinking that the recent rise in fuel costs was a temporary spike because of the war in Iraq or some nonsense. Or even more likely, they didn’t even think about fuel costs at all if they were buying that big shiny new Lexus. This last year has been the “zoning change” but I think we’re only seeing the very beginning of change in our behaviour towards cars.

    Even now, a year later and gas at $1.50, the chance that this same person is going to change their driving habits is pretty slim if you ask me. The momentum of their purchase has taken over, and even if it is hurting them in the pocketbook, they’re not about to sell off that year old car just because of an extra $50 a month in fuel costs. That said, people are now looking towards smaller cars, right? So change comes, but more slowly than we’d like I guess.


    Speaking of denial, another chamber of commerce, this time in Victoria, has successfully killed the Douglas Street BRT proposal there for the time being. Those spineless jellyfish over at City Hall, BC Transit or God knows where didn’t want to offend the business community I suppose, but still what a bunch of blind fools.


    June 21, 2008 at 9:39 am

  3. Corey, there is much more to Victoria’s BRT issue and it seems it was killed by a lack of support. There is a large established group in Victoria agitating for light-rail and have done their homework well. BC Transit, instead of dealing with fact, tried to ‘fool’ everyone about BRT and the plan sank like a brick.

    Why can’t our transit officials deal in fact? Translink and BC Transit for years dealt in myth and nonsense and no one really believes anything coming out of the two organizations.

    Malcolm J.

    June 21, 2008 at 10:16 am

  4. I always found it interesting in stop and go gridlock—–I used to not move forward one or two car lengths at a time,I would wait until I could move say like 10 car lengths,talk about the horn honking,the swearing,not to mention all the cars that would just swoop in from the other non moving lane.

    I eventually buckled under to the wills of the other grid lockers.
    I have seen some very disturbing stories lately about “hyper miling” —-Apparently your supposed to draft behind trucks,continually go into neutrol and coast,time lights,don`t brake turning corners,and a myriad of other techniques—I find people have enough trouble doing “regular driving” god help us if everyone becomer hyper milers.

    grant g

    June 21, 2008 at 10:36 am

  5. Malcolm I would love to know more about it if you have any online resources? The papers seemed to suggest that a business association along the route was responsible.


    June 21, 2008 at 10:44 am

  6. Grant,

    I think this video may have been posted before, but it shows the inefficiency of vehicle traffic in congestion. You could stick all these people into one single bus and have it cruise along at 100 km/h and use a fraction of the fuel, but no, we like to sit in our cars and rage impotently at the “arsehole” in front of us.


    June 21, 2008 at 11:03 am

  7. Stephen….you seem to ignore the fact that humans are by and large and emotional and irrational lot. It is the minority who can deliberately put their feelings aside and look at a situation rationally and logically. Even amongst the more rational of us, we all let our base emotions get the better of us at times.

    Most people simply go by what they read in the mainstream media if they even pay attention to that. As we all know, the mainstream media in this country all too often has a conservative bias while their main motivation is to make as much money as possible. If the truth or proper representation of the facts has to be discarded in the process, the media seems to by and large have little problem with that.

    Despite that, as a society we have a greater global awareness that at any other point in human history. Unfortunately the number of people with a truly global perspective not clouded by an ideology of one sort or the other is still very, very small. It is however, more than in the past. As a species, we have a long way to go yet…..but we’ve also come a long way from the Middle Ages too. In the great span of time that marks human existence, that is as good as yesterday. Of course, that span in and of itself is only a blip compared to that of the existence of our planet, or the universe. I just hope humanity is not relegated to the status of just being a curious astrological phenomenon in the great expanse of time. I’m hopeful it won’t…but we certainly do have a rocky road ahead of us.


    June 21, 2008 at 1:46 pm

  8. I’ll believe that people are truly changing their energy-hungry driving habits when the latest increase in gas prices is no longer front-page news. For those of us who have found alternatives, the impact of the price of gas is no longer felt as directly or frequently. If a majority were to make this shift, I wonder what would happen to the market for news like that. I don’t expect we’ll stop caring anytime soon.


    June 21, 2008 at 3:01 pm

  9. Corey—-I agree, I wave people in,I relax, I crank up some old rock and roll like the who–or supertramp—maybe even some tradgicaly hip, or blue rodeo—-Drink my large 7-11 coffee and let my mind wander back to more pleasent times, maybe I was meant to stay in the past?
    I have a photographic memory and its very easy for me to start laughing or tearing about times gone by.

    Then along comes some rude dude or dudette yelling at me to turn down the tunes or shut my window,I refuse to do either, hell its only a cheap cassette player with a couple of speakers, I retired my 8 track some time ago! LOL LOL

    grant g

    June 21, 2008 at 3:56 pm

  10. Corey, certainly the light rail folks in Victoria did not support the BRT plan, even with vague promises of LRT ‘sometime’ in the future. They also have retained the services of Gerald Fox of LTK, who is a noted and well respected transit planner in the USA, to help pursue LRT in Victoria.

    Mr. Fox’s AGT study gave SkyTrain the coup de grace for international sales (in fact all AGT transit systems) and he shredded the Evergreen Line business case.

    The Victoria boys used to be called G.V.E.R.S. of the Greater Victoria Electric Railway Society. but I believe they have changed names. I get regular emails from them.

    Malcolm J.

    June 21, 2008 at 5:47 pm

  11. Amen to that from Abbotsford. Driving like that will get you road-raged in this town.
    I had the temerity to ask the instructor of the pilot training program if his pilots would be qualified to fly airships/zepplins. ‘Yes’, he said, ‘but the oil won’t run out in our lifetime.’
    A company in California has bought a Zeppelin NT airship to take tourists (12 at a time) sight-seeing starting this Summer (and booked up well into the future). But mainstream airline companies should be buying these as fast as they can be made (in Germany in this case, but Lockheed-Martin own the rights to many designs) for passenger travel. A better way to travel routes inaccessible by passenger rail (when we get that rebuilt!).

    Greg A

    June 22, 2008 at 9:12 pm

  12. Malcom—good call this morning on brand x radio—–great line about Campbells cronies on translink!

    grant g

    June 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

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