There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Monday, October 15, 2007

The green Prius pimps

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day Last Monday, The Sacramento Bee's Scene section launched a weeklong "Shades of Green" series of articles:

Going green is going mainstream, even as the debate about global warming continues. Many of us are changing our lifestyles in everyday ways, from the cars we drive to the cleaning products we use to the way we garden. This week, Scene explores this cultural shift and offers ideas for small changes you can make, too.
For seven days, the front of the Scene section and much of the very limited space inside was taken up with various "Shades of Green."

And where did riding Sacramento Regional Transit play into The Bee's "Shades of Green" report? An afterthought among "5 green tips":
Do you have Prius envy? It’s no wonder: Toyota’s hybrid Prius (and the Honda Civic Hybrid) average 51 mph on the highway. While you’re waiting to buy one, try riding public transit or walking, and save the change for that new car.
At least in "Readers share tips for going green," transit gets an honorable mention. Toshiye Kawamura of College Greens said:
I take care of my 97-year-old dad, and I go back and forth to his house on light rail and the bus. I always choose to take the bus or train whenever possible because it is much less stressful and you meet some very nice people in transit.
Just what is it about the environmental movement and supporters of all things green, that they can't see transit as an option?

Sunday's Scene belabored the obvious when it pointed out that switching from driving a GMC Yukon to driving a Prius would help the environment. But taking transit would help even more. "If you leave your car at home one day a week, you prevent 55 pounds of pollution each year from being emitted into our air," according to the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.

Over in the East Bay, AC Transit is proposing a bus rapid transit line that would run from the Bay Fair BART Station in San Leandro to downtown Berkeley. According to the report in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle:
The $400 million bus rapid transit project would look a lot like light rail, with elevated stops in the middle of the street and dedicated lanes free of cars. Buses would run every 10 minutes and sail through intersections. ...

Buses would run in center lanes, stopping at elevated platforms in the middle of the street. Each stop would be about a half-mile apart so that buses could go faster and bus drivers would have the ability to turn stoplights green using GPS technology. Each stop would have an electronic sign informing riders when the next bus is scheduled to arrive.
And yet the proposal is opposed in Berkeley, a city that has adopted a city ordinance that requires a massive reduction in the city's contribution to global warming.

Driving a Prius is not the only green transportation option, and the sooner environmentalists stop pimping for Toyota and start acknowledging transit's potential, the sooner real progress will be made.


wburg said...

The whole Prius thing is a big ol' terms of total energy consumption, it takes more energy to build a new car (especially a technology-intensive car like a Prius) than a used car will consume in gasoline etc. throughout its service lifetime. Buying a used car with halfway decent gas mileage has far less environmental impact than buying the newest gas-sipper. Although I suppose if you're going to buy new, that's the way to go.

Work proximity is another factor: a commuter in a Prius coming from Elk Grove to downtown, for example, uses more gasoline than I would driving my 20 MPG Volvo from midtown to downtown (assuming I drive it--I took light rail today.)

John said...

I've seen the reports that overall -- counting manufacturing and disposal -- the Hummer is better for the environment. I don't put a lot of credence to the claim.

My complaint isn't with the hybrid cars. After all, I own the Honda Civic hybrid. On my vacation, the wife and I traveled to Ashland, Oregon, for three nights of the Shakespeare (and others) Festival. The car made it to Ashland and back to Redding before we needed to think about gas. The mileage worked out to something more than 45 mpg.

For me, the Prius pimps are just another example of environmentalists who think transit is just for poor people. Sure, transit options suck in much of suburban Sacramento County. But the choice of riding transit is available for many people who currently drive, especially for those people who commute downtown and work regular hours.