Transportation
Photo of sleek MARC locomotivePhoto of bicyclist by the Connecticut River, Montague, MAPhoto of PVTA transit bus in Springfield, Mass.Photo of Yellow Cab Cooperative Hybrid Prius taxicab, San FranciscoBikes parked in front of Pie in the Sky bakery, Woods Hole, MAPhoto of Smithsonian's hybrid passenger busPhoto of Washington, DC Metro subway stopPhoto of natural gas powered city bus, Washington, DC
Photos: (1) Streamlined electric commuter rail engine in the MARC system, at Washington, DC terminal (2) Bicyclist by the Connecticut River on Falls Road, Montague, MA (3) PVTA public transit buses in Springfield, MA (4) Yellow Cab Cooperative hybrid gas-electric taxi, San Francisco (5) Bikes parked in front of Pie in the Sky Bakery, Woods Hole, MA. Note the free-use tire pump chained to the bike rack (6) Smithsonian hybrid electric bus (7) Washington DC Metro subway stop (8) Natural gas-powered city bus, Washington, DC.
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China rockets ahead with high speed rail

On December 26th, China announced the fastest passenger train in the world, running the 1,069 kilometers between "Guangzhou and Wuhan at an average speed of 350 kilometres (217 miles) an hour," Agence France Presse (AFP) reports. ("China unveils 'world's fastest train link'") The train can reach a top speed of 394.2 kilometers / hour, a Chinese transport official told the Chinese news agency Xihnua. To view one of a number of videos of the train available via YouTube, click here.

Work on the project began in 2005, says AFP, showing how fast high speed rail can be implemented when it has serious governmental support. The Financial Times reports that this 4 1/2 year Chinese rail project cost $17 billion dollars. That's only a few billion dollars more than Boston and the federal government spent on the two mile long "Big Dig" highway tunnel project, and about what the Obama administration will spend in seven weeks for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. "In September, [Chinese] officials said they planned to build 42 high-speed [rail] lines by 2012 in a massive system overhaul as part of efforts to spur economic growth amid the global downturn", AFP reports.

Denmark charges up electric car program

The largest Danish power company has joined forces with a Silicon Valley firm in a $100 million initiative to wire Denmark with electric car charging stations and to create roadside centers that can install a recharged battery in minutes, the NY Times reports ("In Denmark, Ambitious Plan For Electric Cars," 12/2/09). The Silicon Valley firm, Better Place, is reportedly launching a similar pilot effort in Israel.

The Euro-Japanese car maker, Renault Nissan, has agreed to make its new electric cars compatible with Better Place's robotic battery swapping equipment, reports the Times. If recharged batteries can be quickly and cheaply swapped out, much like stopping at a gas station now, it could decrease consumer worries of running out of battery charge in the middle of a day's travel, increasing the appeal of electric cars. Batteries in electric cars already can carry enough charge to travel several times the average day's travel for most American drivers, but a battery swapping system could also address longer haul electric travel, if widely adopted.

To further spur the use of electric vehicles, Denmark offers $40,000 in tax breaks for each new electric car and free parking for the cars in downtown Copenhagen, according to the Times.

In the U.S., which generates much of its electricity from coal, increased use of electric cars could actually increase global warming gases in the near term, because of the coal generation, according to one recent study. (As the U.S. converts to renewably generated electricity that problem would go away.) Denmark, however, already generates about 20% of its electricity from a vast array of on-shore and off-shore wind turbines. Recharging electric cars at homes overnight there could serve as a perfect match for storing excess night-time wind-generated electricity, decreasing global warming gases by reducing use of gas-powered cars.

General Motors had pioneered a new generation of electric cars with its pathbreaking EV-1, in the U.S. in the mid 1990s. But the corporation began to phase out its electric car program just a year after it acquired the Hummer line of oversized gas-guzzling SUVs. GM refused to renew the consumer leases on any of the EV-1's, towed them all back to company lots and literally crushed and shredded nearly all of the cars -- a disturbing example of Detroit's short-sightedness, damningly chronicled in Chris Paine's documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? Electric car production in the U.S. was set back by at least a decade as a result of GM's and other car companies' decisions at that time.

Patrick administration seeks federal stimulus funds for Connecticut River rail corridor

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's administration has applied for $69 million in federal stimulus funds to upgrade the Connecticut River rail corridor, according to an 8/24/09 Associated Press report. The funds would be used to improve and reroute Amtrak's Vermonter line service to Greenfield and Northampton, MA. Funds are also being sought to increase the speed of rail service from Boston to Worcester and Springfield. (AP / WWLP rail corridor story, 8/24/09)

For organizational and informational resources on transportation issues, go to the Sustenance Transportation Resources page.

Page last modified: 1/8/10

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