Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for March 31st, 2009

Buses anyone?

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The comments section of this blog seems to be dominated by the almost theologically intense debate about trams v skytrain. So it comes as something of a relief to have another subject suggested. The Sightline Institute (formerly  North West EnviroWatch) has asked me to draw your attention to a post on their blog about buses.

The data is American, but favourably compares passenger miles per gallon between intercity bus, train and plane (in descending order of fuel efficiency). It would be nice if someone with time on their hands could dig out comparable Canadian data. Note that we are not talking about city buses – which spend such a lot of time starting and stopping that their fuel consumption is higher, and one reason why hybrids perform better in city traffic.

Intercity passenger trains do not do very well in a US comparison – since the type of service now provided is far inferior to most other advanced countries – and even some third world ones. There is little electrification or even decent speeds outside the North East corridor, and in most places trains use tracks designed for and dominated by freight trains. But of the choices now offered, a well filled bus is quite a good choice (apparently) if you want to reduce your carbon footprint.

Of course most people have other, more pressing concerns.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 31, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Air Canada: $50 Folding Bike Tax

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The following article was circulated to a couple of vancouver based cycling/transit lists. It originally comes from

www.ridethisbike.com

but I am going to paste the whoile thing here. Not because I take folding bikes with me everywhere, but because it offends me that Air Canada has a stupid policy. And the more people point this out to them – especially if you quote your Aeroplan number to them – the more they are likely to reconsider.

by Larry Lagarde

Imagine Lloyd Alter’s surprise and rage when checking in recently for a flight on Air Canada. He checks a bag that’s well within Air Canada’s dimensional and weight limits for checked baggage; yet, he’s hit with a $50 surcharge because the bag contains a folding bike.

Lloyd’s a conscientious air traveler. When he flies, he buys carbon offsets but he wanted to do more. Thus, to further reduce his carbon footprint when traveling, Lloyd got a Strida folding bike to reduce his dependence on rental cars and taxis.

So why was Lloyd upset? Air Canada’s baggage policy makes no sense and is inconsistent.

Senseless Baggage Policy
Air Canada imposes a 50 lb weight limit and 62″ linear dimensional limit on each checked bag. Some items (such as standard sized bicycles) typically exceed Air Canada’s weight & dimensional limits and are obviously subject to an overage fee; yet, the Strida is NOT your typical bike.

When folded, the Strida is very compact, taking up less than a third of the space needed for a full size bike and certainly within Air Canada’s 62″ linear dimensional limit. Packed inside its padded custom carry bag, the Strida and bag combo weigh about half of Air Canada’s 50 lb. max weight limit for checked bags. There are no special handling requirements either; the Strida goes on the luggage belt just like every other checked bag.

Inconsistent Baggage Policy
According to Air Canada, every bike is subject to a surcharge because it would be too difficult for check-in personnel to determine which bikes meet the dimensional & weight requirements (I guess the scale and measuring tape works for everything but bikes). Air Canada also argues that they charge for folding bikes because other major airlines do too. Naturally, Air Canada conveniently forgot that Southwest, Alaska and other airlines DO NOT charge for folding bikes (you can even take certain folding bikes into the cabin on Southwest as a carry on).

Insult To Injury: Air Canada’s LeaveLess
Air Canada promotes itself as an airline striving for a greener world. As part of their LeaveLess “environmental initiative,” Air Canada brags how they’re cutting greenhouse gas emissions by converting some of their ground vehicles to propane, etc. If they were serious though, the airline’s policies would encourage fliers to use folding bikes. Instead, they charge a fee that discourages use.

Given that folding bikes like the Strida
– emit NO greenhouse gases…
– are ideal for use with buses, trains and subways…
– meet airline dimension & weight standards…
the only logical conclusion is that Air Canada’s policy towards folding bikes is simply a way to generate revenue.

Convincing Air Canada to change their policy is simple: take action & complain. With all the competition out there and the state of the economy, Air Canada would be crazy not to listen.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 31, 2009 at 7:34 am

Posted in Air Travel, bicycles