Friday, May 30, 2008

Some More Google Map Hacks

As I've mentioned before, I have some more Google Map Hacks for you of rail transportation networks in select cities. I have also included bus-ways if they run on a separate right of way. You can view my previous Map Hacks here.

American Cities
Baltimore - Baltimore Subway and Light Rail
Buffalo - Buffalo Metro Rail
Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh Light Rail & Bus-ways
Sacramento - Sacramento RT Light Rail
San Diego - San Diego Trolley & NCTD COASTER and SPRINTER

Updated Maps
Los Angeles - LA MetroRail including Metrolink

As some of you may know I live just outside the City of Cleveland. I like to play around with how an expanded system my look in the city if we actually cared about transit. Here is what I came up with.

Red Line - Extended to I-90
Blue Line - Extended to North Randall, possibly to I-480
Green Line - Extended Pepper Pike and I-271

New Lines
Heavy Rail
Yellow Line - Heavy Rail to Southeast side on existing right of way. Route would start in Terminal tower and terminate in Bedford. Would replace a number of bus routes including #19, #14, #15, all with ridership over 1 million annually.
Brown Line - Heavy Rail to West side on existing right of way. Route would start in Terminal Tower and terminate near Rocky River. Would replace portion of #326 and and Gold Line.
Light Rail
Orange Line - Light Rail to East Lakefront on existing right of way. Route would replace an number of east side bus routes.
Purple Line - Light Rail to Southwest side on E25th and Pearl Rd. Would replace busy #20 bus.
Rock'n Roll Streetcar - Streetcar service downtown that would replace the two bus trolleys that currently operate. Service would hit all the major employment and tourist areas.
Steel City Streetcar - Streetcar service in University Circle area. Service would connect Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western, Murray Hill, and Conventry.
Diversity Streetcar - Historic Streetcar that would run along Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Service would connect impoverished neighborhoods along MLK with employment centers.
Health Streetcar - New Streetcar line that would operate on Euclid Ave connecting University Circle with downtown. This new streetcar would replace the existing BRT line that is being built.
Commuter Rail (not shown)
East Line - Lake County
Lower East Line - Solon, Aurora
West Line - Lorain, Sandusky
Lower West Line - North Olmsted, Elyria
Southwest Line - Strongsville, Medina
Southeast Line - Hudson, Cuyahoga Falls, Akron, Canton
Akron/Youngstown Line - Connecting Akron and Youngstown

I hope that's fairly interesting to you all. I will have more maps for you in the future.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fuel from Algae? I guess it could work.

San Diego start-up Sapphire Energy says that it has plans to produce 10,000 barrels of light sweet crude algae green oil. The fuel is renewable and carbon neutral and can be used as an alternative to gasoline.Company CEO Jason Pyle says the algal oil is chemically identical to light sweet crude and compatible with America's $1.5 trillion petroleum infrastructure, making it a direct replacement for oil. Although the algal fuels refined from it emit as much carbon dioxide as conventional fuels, the company says the emissions are offset by the photosynthetic process that uses sunlight, water and C02 to create algal crude.

It's a small portion of the 20 million barrels of fuel that we use a day in the United States, but Sapphire Energy says that production can ramp up to a level that will alleviate the pain we currently feel from foreign imported oil.

You can read more about the process from the Press Release that was announced today.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rocket Train: NYC to Washington DC?

That's what the NY Post is reportedly calling the High Speed Rail line that congress is currently debating over in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The goal is to have the train run at an equivilent to Japan's Shinkansen HSR Trains or France's TGV. Both those trains run at speeds of up to 300mph and would improve the NYC to Washington DC route by over 45 minutes on its current time.

One of the largest proponents of the HSR line is NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Mayor Bloomberg has recently been promoting the idea for increased funding for national infrastructure. It was reported earlier that infrastructure in the US is severely lacking in comparison to other developed countries.

Several key politicians support the idea of the HSR line from NYC to DC. However, it still faces the largest huddle that every other infrastructure bill in this country faces. That would be the pen of President Bush.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $14 billion of five years. This is significantly less than the $40 billion that the California HSR project is expected to cost. That project is up for a vote this November. The Northeast Corridor HSR project would supplement the Amtrak lines in most circumstances and may even be operated by an authority other than Amtrak.

The next step for the legislation is to pass the Senate select committee and to carry the Senate floor. Speculation is showing that it should have little problem passing both of those, but could be held up in the President's Office.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

LA Gold Line Nearing Completion

That time of year is upon us and it looks like traveling is going to be down this year. Hopefully, those of you that are traveling are doing so with a fuel economic vehicle, public transit, or AMTRAK.

With that said, that's take a look at the Gold Line Extension in LA that is about 80% complete and on target for completion next year. The Gold Line Extension will connect Little Tokyo and East LA with Union Station in LA. The Six Mile long extension has a budget of $898 million with eight new stations, two of which will be underground. Groundbreaking took place in 2004 with completion slated for Mid-Summer of 2009. Check out some pictures below. You can learn more about the Gold Line at LA MetroRail's site.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Global Economic Leader, Transportation...Not So Much...

Over at the Seattle Transit Blog, they have a link up to a story about how far behind Seattle is in getting transportation funding in comparison to the rest of the country. The story also mentions the complete lack of infrastructure funding in comparison to other modern and modernizing countries in the world. 1960, the U.S. spent 12 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure and now spends 2.4 percent. Japan spends 10 percent, China 9 percent and India 4.6 percent...
Doing some simple calculations, this translates to something roughly like...
United States - $315 Billion
Japan - $430 Billion
China - $292 Billion
India - $46 Billion
Everyone knows that Japan spends a lot of money on infrastructure so that's no big surprise. However, are we really at the point where we've cut infrastructure funding in this country to where we are about to be passed by China? Looking at our GNP (13.8 Trillion), we have an economy 4.3 times the size of China (3.2 Trillion). So all the goods we buy from China aren't helping us improve our infrastructure, it's helping us improve their's. I'm completely pro-free trade, but as our economy continues to suffer we need to invest locally so that we can be sustainable and extreme prosperous once our economy experiences growth again.

What's also sad is that these numbers are for infrastructure funding including science, health, transportation, information technology and a bunch of other crucial areas of development that our country must invest in if we are to be a global player after our economic situation stabilizes.

We must increase our infrastructure spending and we must improve our transportation network. Some of our most prosperous times economically were during investment in our country (New Deal, creation of the Interstate Highway System, privatization of the Internet). As we look towards the future, the most obvious investment we can make is developing green alternatives. Whether they be for transportation, energy, chemical, food: We must redevelop how life on this world so that we can make it a more stable environment to live in.

Rail Transit Highlight: San Diego

The San Diego Trolley is a trolley-style light rail system operating in the metropolitan area of San Diego, California. The operator, San Diego Trolley, Inc. (SDTI) is a subsidiary of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). The Trolley began service on July 26, 1981, making it the first modern light-rail system in California and operates three different lines designated by the colors Blue, Orange and Green. The San Diego Trolley is currently the fourth most-ridden light rail system in the United States, with 118,000 daily riders.

The San Diego Trolley recently added the Green Line which connected Old Town San Diego with the communities of Santee and others in Mission Valley. The Green Line also provided a pivotal connection to San Diego State University. This extenion for the Trolley grew the system to 53 stations throughout Southern California with a total track length of 51.1 miles. The San Diego Trolley also operates a special event service between Qualcomm Statdium and Petco Park for higher capacity.

The San Diego Trolley offers fares between $1.25 and $3.00 one way depending on the length of trip. Monthly passes are available for $90 and can be used on all MTS operated vehicles along with North County Transit District Light Rail, Buses and Commuter Rail.

Currently, the only expansion of service that is being planned is the Mid Coast Trolley would add service from Old Town Station to the University City community using existing right of ways. This will connect the system to the other major university in the area, University of California, San Diego along with University Towne Shopping Center. Currently, a cost of $1.2 billion is calculated for the 11 mile extension.

Outside the city of San Diego, you can take the COASTER Commuter Rail to the Oceanside in the North. This 41 mile Commuter Rail Line also connects to MetroLink Commuter Rail Lines that lead into Los Angeles. With the COASTER, you will also be able to travel by the newly opened SPRINTER Light Rail Line that travels from Oceanside to Escondido.

If you are interested in the Rail Transit that is available in San Diego County, check out my Google Maps Hack that shows the transit options that are available. You can view the map here. Please note that I do not include the MetroLink Commuter Rail lines that serve San Diego County as their coverage within the county is limited to only Oceanside.

I hope you enjoy and please add any additional information to the comments.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Anti-Diesel Delivery Vehicle

For years, large box trucks running on diesel have been performing the important task of transporting goods from distribution centers to doorsteps. As the price of oil, gas and ultimately diesel increases, alternatives are needed.

A small delivery company in France has developed just what is needed for the densely populated urban environments of Paris, Bordeaux, Dijon and Rouen. La Petite Reine operates 60 Cargocycles on the city streets delivering to the hard to reach areas of the city where 24 foot delivery trucks can't go.Founded in 2001, Le Petite Reine translates to "The Queen of the Roads" which was the original name for the bicycle in France. The typical Cargocycle has a capacity of 400 lbs, 50 cubic feet all within a 18 mile delivery radius. Le Petite Reine currently operates a fleet of 60 Cargocycles and plans to expand to other cities while serving their partners like global delivery company DHL.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

$5 Dollar a Gallon Gas by September

CNBC Star and Financial Analyst Jim Cramer stated on tonight's NBC Nightly News that he predicts that Gas will be at least $5 a gallon and possibly $6. This was in response to guests on his show stating that $12 a gallon gas is possible. Jim stated that he doesn't think that will happen but $5 a gallon gas is definitely possible and very probable.

So while our government sits idle in Washington proposes no fixes other than attacking the Oil Companies and drafting a bill that will allow us to sue OPEC countries. The reality is that we should address the problem in a pro-active way like developing alternatives quicker such as more fuel efficient cars, mass transit infrastructure and the commercialization of green alternatives such as Cellulosic Ethanol, Bio-diesel, Regenerative Energy. We should also the increase in taxation of gasoline and the tax on vehicles that receive less than 20 miles per gallon highway. These taxes will help fund infrastructure improvements and research towards alternatives.

Fortunately, we have the private sector that is already working on alternatives, but how soon will it take for them to get to the market and can the people that need them most afford them? Most expect Plug-In Hybrids to enter in the market in 2010. We need options now as the price of gas nearly increases $0.10 per two weeks on average.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nissan, NEC Charging $115 Million for Battery Factory

Nissan Motor Co. and technology conglomerate NEC Corp. have joined forces to create Automotive Energy Supply Corporation. AESC is a joint venture between the two companies as an effort to beat other companies to the eventual Electric and Plug-in Hybrid Car Market. The $115 million dollar investment in a factory by the two companies will have the capability to produce 65,000 Li-Ion Electric Car batteries by 2011. Just recently, Nissan announced they'll have a Plug-in Hybrid available to the US Market in 2010.

Nissan has mostly sit on the sidelines while their two main competitors have profited greatly from Hybrid Vehicles. Toyota just announced that they have sold 1 million Prius Hybrids since they've debuted in Japan in 1997 and worldwide in 2001. Honda has plans to release the Honda FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle next summer.

This could be a large advantage for Nissan as other car companies are racing to find suppliers for Li-Ion batteries as we jump into the Electric vehicle era. The great question that everyone is asking is what will the price of these vehicles be and will they be affordable enough to trade in that gas guzzler for something fuel efficient and safe for the environment.

Say Bonjour to More Trams, Paris

One of the largest Metro Systems is going bigger, but that isn't the news that came out today from Paris. The RĂ©gie Autonome des Transports Parisiens, or the local transit authority in Paris announced that along with extending several of the Paris Metro and RER lines in and around the city, they are extending the T3 Tramway approximately 10 miles to meet the demands of the public.

Currently, the T3 is the busiest Tramway in the city with average daily ridership of 100,000. The T3 drives along a separate right of way along the southern portion of the city and connects passengers with their choice of five metro lines. The T3 Tramway was opened in December of 2006 and ridership is already double of the capacity of the bus line that it replaced.

The RATP has stated that they have two goals in mind when they extend their Tram lines throughout the city. The first is improving overall mobility throughout the city by connecting neighborhoods that previously weren't connected. The second goal is to redefine the quality of life for residents in the city.

The T3 currently travels along the Boulevards des Marechaux Sud in Southern Paris. The plan is to extend the T3 to the East and North 14.2 Kilometers. The planned extension will nearly double the length of the T3 and increase ridership to 255,000 per day. The proposed cost of the extension is €650 million ($1.02 billion US) with construction starting in 2009. The T3 extension is expected to start operations in 2012.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Google Map Hacks for Mass Transit Lines

I'm a big fan of Mass Transit and also a big fan of Maps. When I was a little kid I used to look at maps for hours. I couldn't tell you why I am so fascinated with them, but they are just really interesting to look at. Not too long ago, Google launched the ability to create your own maps on Google Maps. I took advantage and started mapping transit lines so that you can see the true scale of the transit network in each city. It's amazing on some cities in Europe serve pretty much every neighborhood in their city while American cities are so far behind. As I make more I will post them. I started to put the stations on the map, but most cities already have that implemented by Google Maps so there is really no need.

American Cities
Atlanta - MARTA Rapid Transit
Cleveland - GCRTA Rapid
Dallas - DART Light Rail
Houston - Houston METRORail
Los Angeles - LA MetroRail
Portland - Portland MAX Light Rail

European Cities
Krakow - Krakow Tram System
Prague - Prague Metro, Trams and Esko Commuter Rail

It's amazing how large the systems in Europe are compared to American systems. A smaller city like Krakow has a vast Tram system and Prague which is a city over 1 million people has a rather small metro population but has a huge Commuter Rail System. I've also done a few Map Hacks to show what Portland and Los Angeles will look like once their current expansion plans are complete. Both cities have expansion plans that are much more vast then what I show but little details are known about them.

Future Expansions in the US
Los Angeles - LA MetroRail
Portland - MAX Light Rail

Los Angeles expansions include the Expo Line and the extension of the Gold Line. However, there is talk about extending the Purple Line to Beverly Hills, extending the Green Line to Anaheim and creating several new lines on the west side of the city.

Portland has plans for creating the Orange Line to Milwaukie, Purple Commuter Rail Line from Beaverton to Wilsonville and two new Streetcar extensions; one on the east side of the river and the other all the way down to Lake Oswego using existing tracks.

So there you have it for the time being. I am working on mapping out Budapest's Trams, Subways and HEVs and I think I will also map out Salt Lake City and a few other cities.

If you are interested in some of the more popular systems, has Washington DC, Philly, Chicago and Boston mapped out. OnNYTurf has a Subway map of the very impressive NY Subway System. Finally, check out the Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn system at

Friday, May 16, 2008

Even Oil Countries are Trading in Oil for Mass Transit

The city of the Dubai in the The United Arab Emirates is ready to trade in their 5.3 million cars for a ride on the Dubai Metro. Dubai has more cars than New York City and London and they have the congestion to prove it. It has been reported that not having a Metro system is costing Dubai $1.25 billion a year in lost productivity. As the country steps out of the oil business and into a world trading economy, a subway system was a must.

The first two lines of the Dubai Metro will total 44 miles and cost an approximate $4.2 billion dollars to construct. A large number for such a city that isn't so densely populated (408 people p/km, the most sprawling US Cities of Houston and Phoenix are 3 times as dense). However, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority calculates that 547,000 people will ride the Dubai Metro each day.

Officials hope to have 200 miles of subway built by the year 2020 which would make the system one of the largest in the world. City leaders say that the project will be open by 2009 and create hundreds if not thousands of jobs to the city. The Dubai Metro is the first system of its kind in the region and one of only few rail transport services in the Middle East region.

Why Fund Mass Transit When you can Fund More Highways!

The latest proposal from the Governor of California's office shows that there is a $13.8 billion budget for the transportation budget next year. While this is a very high number, its actually a decrease of 1% from last year. The latest plan calls for $1.4 billion from fuel taxes that would normally go to public transportation networks to go to the general fund. The original plan called for $455 million in January , but has since been revised to this latest proposal. The removal of these funds can cause problems in systems such as the Bay Area's BART and Muni Metro systems, the San Diego Trolley and LA's MetroRail just as demand has risen.

More commuters are looking for relief from the $4.00 or more gas prices that are common in California, but these latest budget proposals could remove much needed operating funds that could cause them to reduce service in some areas and hold back from much needed expansion.

San Francisco has one of the few mass transit systems set up in the country where rail transit is efficient and effective, but as more riders are riding BART trains and Muni Metro, the service has suffered because the system can't keep up. Funds are needed to increase service to meet the demand as more commuters look to save money, time in traffic and the environment.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Volt on the way to being Fully Charged

General Motors stated that a fully charge battery of Lithium-Ion construction are getting 40 miles per charge in road tests. This is a big hurdle because battery technology is the biggest hurdle that PHEV and PEV cars face as they try to run off of a small gasoline engine that fuels a battery powered drive train.

The next step for GM is smoothly integrating a battery engine with the gas powered recharger. This is a much different process from the typical Hybrid vehicle that is currently on the market which uses a gasoline engine and battery engine in combination.

GM has designed the Chevy Volt to average around 40 miles a day using only electricity from the grid with a number of range extenders using gasoline, e85 ethanol and in the future hydrogen. The goal for GM is to have the Volt get a range of approximately 640 miles using the battery and fuel of choice.

PHEV Vehicles are a great step in the right direction but ultimately our future lies in vehicles that produce zero emissions, cost the same as vehicles do now, and have all the amenities that drivers these days expect. When a vehicle like that is released, it will provide that alternative that all of America is looking for. Until that time we should focus on using the green alternatives that are available to us now: public transportation, walking & bicycling, and vehicles that get over 35 mpg.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bicylists Break Speed Limit on Santa Monica Freeway

Cyclists, Criminals or Revolutionaries? All those words have been used to describe the Crimanimalz Bicyclist Group that has weaved through gridlock in Urban Downtown freeways to show that Bicycles are faster than American Freeways during rush hour.

About 30 cyclists rode on the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) on Friday, May 9th 2008. They made a two mile trip to the San Diego Freeway (I-405) before making their exit. Bicyclist Morgan Strauss told the Santa Monica Daily Press after the ride. "I just wanted to raise questions about the transportation infrastructure." He went on, "In a city ruled by cars, why is it you can get places faster on bikes?"

The Crimanimalz aren't the first riders to cycle where they shouldn't. In the past, rallies have been held by Critical Mass who holds rallies throughout the world. Bay Area riders have been busted going over the Golden Gate bridge as part of a campaign to add a bike lane to the historical structure.
If you ask me, all I have to say is ride on you crazy diamonds, ride on. In a country full of cars, perhaps you showed someone that Automobiles aren't the only way to get from point A to point B. In fact, countries like the Netherlands prefer it that way.

Nissan Enters the PHEV Foray

As companies realize that a lot of people are tired of paying $4 a gallon for gas, they are rushing through production of alternative transportation sources. Nissan was the latest to enter announce their entrance into the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle market.

Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn this week declared that he wants to lead the world in producing all-electric, zero-emission cars. But the head of Japan's No. 3 auto maker by sales volume is hedging his bets in the race to mass market environmentally friendly vehicles.

In an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Ghosn said not all of the electric cars Nissan manufactures will be purely electric or emission free. He said Nissan would make some models available with an optional "range extender" – a gas-powered engine that recharges the battery and allows the vehicle to continue going after the initial plug-in charge expires.

"The basis is electric, pure electric, zero emission. But you always have the possibility of having a range extender," he said.

Such a device would allow Nissan's electric car, which will be introduced in limited numbers in the U.S. and Japan by 2010 and marketed globally in 2012, to compete with rival vehicles planned by General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.

In 2010, GM is planning to launch the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with a gas-powered engine to recharge the battery while driving. The same year, Toyota is expected to roll out its "plug-in" Prius hybrid.

Nissan says its electric car will have a range of 100 miles on a single charge. With the range extender, the car would be able to travel an additional 300 miles before refueling or recharging.

Mr. Ghosn said that his vision is to put the world behind the wheel of a zero emission vehicle to address growing concerns tailpipe emissions about the environment. Outfitting vehicles with gas-powered range extenders would fall short of that goal, but such a compromise may help make Nissan's vehicles more appealing to consumers, who are likely to be concerned about the limited range of a purely electric car..

"The more practical solution is the hybrid. You can plug in hybrid. It's more consumer friendly," says Tatsuo Yoshida, an auto industry analyst at UBS Securities Japan in Tokyo.

Several years ago, Nissan debated over whether to pursue hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, as Honda Motor Co. is doing, or electric cars in the U.S. market, but settled on electric cars because of the high cost of producing fuel cell vehicles and the difficulties in creating widespread hydrogen refueling points. Mr. Ghosn added that Nissan will continue to pursue fuel cell technology, which he believes is the long term solution to power vehicles in the future.
You can read more about Nissan's announcement on the Wall Street Journal.