Category Archives: blogs

How much does driving your car cost, per minute?

Kevin Hartnett writes in the Boston Globe: “How much does driving your car cost, per minute?”  about my recent post.

It’s often argued that the only way Americans will drive less is if driving becomes more expensive, through something like higher taxes or rising oil prices. A pointed blog post this week by David Levinson, a transportation systems expert at the University of Minnesota, suggests an even more straightforward approach: Show people that driving already costs a lot more than they realize.

Levinson begins with the fact that in Minneapolis, the car sharing company car2go charges $.38 a minute. That seems like a lot if you think of the cost of operating your own car as merely the cost of gasoline—at current prices that’s about $.05-$.10 per minute. Of course, you’re also on the hook for the purchase price of your car, plus insurance, taxes, and maintenance. Levinson tallies those costs and estimates the true out-of-pocket cost of driving is around $.235 per minute. He goes one step further and figures that when you add in the costs of driving-related externalites like noise, pollution, and traffic—costs that are ultimately shouldered by society as a whole, rather than any one person directly—driving costs $.34 per minute.

At that rate, the decision to hop in the car starts to look a little diffrent. The “true cost” of a 25-minute drive to mall comes to around $8.50, and another $8.50 the other way. That’s $17 for a trip to Best Buy.

Levinson wonders how much less people would drive if they took this all-in view. We know that when the price of gasoline doubles, people tend to drive about 5 percent less. If suddenly you revealed that each driving trip has been costing almost six-times what we thought it did, Levinson estimates we’d all cut our driving by 29 percent, nearly overnight.

Or maybe we wouldn’t. For one, it’s probably not fair to assume people are completely oblivious to the non-fuel costs of driving—we might not think about our monthly car payments every time we take a trip to the store, but that cost certainly factors into our decision to own a car in the first place. And second, as Levinson allows, there’s some amount of driving we’d do almost regardless of how much it costs. This isn’t to say that higher fuel taxes wouldn’t push people toward mass transit (they almost certainly would). The lesson might be, as Levinson suggests, that “pay-as-you-go” driving would reduce our use of cars—but it might equally be that driving is deeply embedded in our culture and our daily routines, and Americans are willing to pay seemingly irrational amounts of money to keep it that way.

Kevin Hartnett is a writer in South Carolina. He can be reached at kshartnett18@gmail.com.

The Transportationist’s most popular posts of 2013

Below is a ranked list of the 39 most popular posts on the Transportationist blog in 2013 (from the new WordPress site since late May, no stats from the old site). People like forecasts and lists.

What happened to traffic?
14 Trends Shaping Transportation
7 Ways to Reduce Transportation Waste
Pricing with and without Reservations
People and their Paths 1: Do People Take the Shortest Path?
Path dependence
Walking Distances
Structural errors in forecasting
“Big” Data as a Foundation for Measuring and Improving Public Transport Operations
Are there too many roads?
Car2Go – A Review (updated)
5 or So Transit Books You Should Read
Time and Space: Happiness, Mobility, and Location
Does BRT have Economic Development Effects?
Cost per daily rider
HOT or Not: Driver Elasticity to Price on the MnPASS HOT Lanes
Faculty opening at the University of Minnesota
Why HOV lanes often don’t work
Bikes still outsell Cars in US
AsymCAR 7
The Hyperloop Boarding and Alighting problem
Altoona Pennsylvania adopts Land Value Tax
5 Or So Books on Streets and Traffic You Should Read
Thinking outside the Right-of-Way
5 or So Books about Transportation History You Should Read
Number Crunchers: Addressing the Pitfalls and Practices of Dynamic Pricing Schemes
Call for Papers: World Symposium on Transport and Land Use Research 2014: June 24-27, 2014 in Delft, the Netherlands
People and their Paths 3: Not all time is created equal
The Traffic is Falling
The End of Driving — Money and Politics Podcast
5 or So Books on Transportation Economics and Policy You Should Read
Bus stops by Metropolitan Area
5 or So Pieces of Transportation Fiction You Should Read
Why we should raise gas taxes now, but implement road pricing soon.
Enterprising Roads: Improving the Governance of America’s Highways
Seattle Metro’s New Bus Stop Signs
Why transportation doesn’t get the money it “needs”
Modeling the Commute Mode Share of Transit Using Continuous Accessibility to Jobs
A personal history and forecast for Modems, or “Is @Comcast the worst company in America?”

Crossroads | A Minnesota transportation research blog

MnDOTCTSThe University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies and MnDOT have a Blog! Crossroads | A Minnesota transportation research blog

“Crossroads is a collaborative effort between MnDOT Research Services and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies. This jointly produced blog is devoted to highlighting the latest news and events in transportation research and innovation in Minnesota.”

No comment

In short, I have turned comments off on this website.
Since the middle of our brief sojourn in the 21st century, social media has exploded. Facebook has peaked (by which I mean, of course, my use of it has peaked), Twitter is still on the rise (by which I mean, my use is continuing to increase). Overall we may have passed Peak Blog (although we just may be in the Trough of Disillusionment).
Many people read this blog from an RSS feed (usually Google reader or some frontend for Google reader: I use Reeder on the iPhone and PerfectRSS on the iPad and Google Reader on my computers).
Others see posts on Twitter. Some actually come to the blog website itself. A very small fraction post comments. A slightly larger fraction see them (those who click to comment themselves, or come to the blog via Twitter, but not those who read it on RSS or even the website, since unless you are sharing the post, or explicitly want to read comments, there is no reason to click through to the page). I wish everyone would just use RSS to read links and we could be done with it. But that is not the world we live in.
Most of the few comments were useful. A small fraction of prospective commenters also complain to me the commenting system is painful or broken. This blog is a MoveableType blog administered by the University of Minnesota UThink service, so I have very little control over the system. Authentication is aimed to reduce spammers, which it does at the cost of annoying non-spammers (Security is the enemy of efficiency).
The Transportationist was never really intended to be a community, though of course it has its partisans. I am not making a living off my blog (or from book sales) so I have not done much in the way of SEO or attempting to drive traffic. My blogging earns no academic credit, it does not appear on my CV, and is probably viewed by colleagues as a distraction or waste of time. At best it earns me fame, at worst, infamy. Given the number of readers (which can be measured in Micro-Grubers), I doubt either is the case. I doubt I got any research projects funded due to blogging. My views are eclectic on the conventional political axes, and so no one is really sure if I am on their team.
Where else I write:

  • Books (and Wikibooks) [In engineering, Books earn almost no academic credit. You should read (and write) them anyway.]
  • Articles and Reports – Typically in peer reviewed journals, at conferences, or working papers, linked to on my website.
  • Streets.MN – Approximately biweekly, approximately 1000 words, approximately on something transportation-land use related in Minnesota.
  • Twitter – Public, but short, usually for links … this is where the energy on Linklists has gone. Some have noted that there are a lot less linklists than before. This was about a 1 year experiment. I know it was relatively popular, but the effort was high, higher than it should be due to the wrong tools. In particular, if I read on an iPad, it is a pain to share a link via the blog (my workflow entailed emailing it to myself, loading the link on my desktop, sending that to the blog), but quite easy via Twitter. Since much of my blog reading has migrated to 5:00 am in bed on an iPad, this is how it has worked out. Twitter also gets a twitterfeed from my blog, since by definition, everything I write here I think is link list worthy.
    There are also a slew of other blogs (TransportationNation, The Other Side of the Tracks, Autoblog, Politico: Morning Transportation, etc.) that do similar link lists (I know a few follow me), so my value-added here is fairly low, maybe catching an interesting article or promoting a story earlier than it otherwise would be. They are paid for this, I am not.
    Anyway, if you like my curation of links, follow me on Twitter. The reason I do this is mainly for my future reference rather than what I think others are interested in, but if you are interested in some of what I am interested in, it will work for you.
  • Emails (one to one or one to few conversations). I try to keep these as brief as possible. In some cases, down to a single letter (Y, N). If you don’t ask an explicit question requiring a response, you may not get a response.

And then there are the Other Social Networks:

    1. Facebook. I used to automatically feed my blog here, but it stopped. I just it started again with Twitterfeed. I assume most people will ignore or block me. I occasionally comment on someone’s post, or like something. I don’t know why. I occasionally post pictures of the kids, but I am torn between that and Flickr, and lately Flickr gets more love. If I know you in real life, feel free to FB me.
  • LinkedIn. I still don’t know what it is for, but I have lots of contacts. I don’t write here and stopped feeding the blog here when they had some technical issues (posting a picture of Jenny McCarthy with my post). I just started again with Twitterfeed, since there are a few readers there. Feel free to Contact me there.
  • GooglePlus. I send my posts to Google+. I don’t know why, though there are a few readers there. Feel free to Encircle me there.

The Transportationist dates from April 2006 (notably post-tenure). So what is the purpose of The Transportationist: It is temporally random, featuring posts of random length but almost always less than 5000 words and often less than 500, generally something transportation-land use related or an announcement of something I or my students have written or edited elsewhere, or a conference, or a talk, etc. In short it is my and my research group’s blog (but I am solely responsible for its content). It is not a community website, or intended for comments generally (in contrast with e.g. Streets.MN), though some posts in the past have drawn quite a few. If you think what the blog says is interesting, follow it. If not, keep calm and carry on.
If you have comments, you should get a blog (or if you have one, post there). As someone on the web remarked, that will get a lot more attention for both of us due to Google’s PageRank formula than posting on comments with a nofollow tag. If you think I should post something, feel free to email me, I sometimes posts “A reader writes” type of posts, or “A reader responds”. Let me know if you prefer anonymity from the rest of the world, but I still need to know who you are.
Another complaint about comments. I don’t much like anonymous speech (though I understand the need in the case of totalitarian dictatorships, that is not the situation here). Most comments are anonymous. If I ever migrate to a new platform, I will reconsider. As someone said, never read the bottom half of the internet. Also don’t feed the trolls.
If you want to get in touch with me, there are lots of channels, frankly too many. Email is probably best. You are smart, you can find it.
So if you are still with me, thanks for reading to the end of the post.

What sort of town is Richard Scarry’s Busytown?

The Transportationist made Kottke’s blog: What sort of town is Richard Scarry’s Busytown?:

” From a planning and transportation professional, a deconstruction of Busytown, the fictional town that features in many of Richard Scarry’s children’s books, including What Do People Do All Day?, Busy, Busy Town, and my personal favorite, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.

“Scarry moved to Switzerland in 1968, and if nothing else, Swiss architecture permeates the old town center of What Do People Do All Day. The Town Hall of Busytown on the cover is nothing if not Tudor. There is a small gate through which a small car is driving. Something to note about the vehicles in Busytown is that they are all just the right size for the number of passengers they carry. The Bus on the cover is full, with a hanger-on. The taxi holds one driver in the front and one passenger in the rear. The police officer (Seargant Murphy) is riding a motorcycle. When he has a passenger, the motorcycle always has a sidecar. Similarly, each window in town has someone in it, sometimes more than one person. Of course, this is a busy town, so the activity makes sense. The cover of this includes the grocery store, butcher, and baker (no supermarkets in 1968 Busytown), one block in front of Town Hall. One thing to note about the Butcher is that he is a pig, and clearly butchering sausages.