How the road-congestion crisis can be thoroughly, prudently and properly resolved – 2

Toward the end of installment 1, I observed how if public transit passenger counts are “healthy,” this can be a pretty effective means of helping lower the amount of pollution in the air, or something to that effect. News for the uninitiated: Even if internal-combustion-engine-powered motor-vehicle use was significantly scaled back as a way to make air more breathable, it will take more than that alone to return it to a healthy state. Which leads to the next idea.

Only by curbing driving will air pollution be curtailed – not: true

It is true driving can lead to worsening air. Key point: Even if driving were to be barred completely, the air can still be harmed. Abandoning driving – don’t you think that is a bit extreme?

So, apparently, do Balaker and Staley in their book “The Road More Traveled – Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It.” They believe at the heart of the problem is a subset of all motor vehicles, those that are putting out the majority of harmful emissions among all those traversing America’s roadways. They, in fact, posit that five percent of the so-called “gross-polluting vehicles” are contributing half of all hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions coming from the road-based transportation sector.

So, the question becomes how best to go about reducing on-road emissions – specifically six pollutants – to acceptable levels coming from this “gross-polluting” group. What the writers seem to be saying, if I understand correctly what I read, is to work to get that sector of motor vehicle transport taken care of first, and by that I mean get those vehicles off of the road.

That makes sense.

Hydrogen_vehicle[1]At the same time, the authors in question appear to be placing little value on strategies like public transit as an effective means of cutting road-centric-produced airborne emissions. Moreover, these two assert that, in general, over the decades – I presume mainly from 1960 on – that urban air quality has improved and much of that improvement has been as a result of stricter regulations imposed by air regulatory concerns like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and cars that have become cleaner over time. Think emissions-free and hybrid vehicles.

At any rate, indications are, they believe, more improvement in this regard is, well, to be a bit cliché, coming down the road.

From personal experience, I can tell you that if roadway travel were all it could be, there would not be all the fervor that there is over futuristic concepts like Hyperloop and rail-based inventions like VECTORR™, skyTran™ and CyberTran, those last three I profiled in my book “The Departure Track: Railways of Tomorrow,” released in Dec. 2013. Balaker and Staley did, as a matter of fact, offer that if there were something better to come along people would gravitate freely to that better something.

Suffice it to say in 2006 (“The Road More Traveled” copyright date), Hyperloop and others at that time may have been little more than ideas pencil-sketched on the backs of napkins or envelopes. Some of these designs are already in the testing phase; some close to commercialization, and this being the case, these could very well be that better something.

Next up, the third in the series.

– Alan Kandel