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Re: "The Future Isn't What It Used To Be"

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  • Todd Alexander Litman
    Dear Mr. Oster, Thank you for sharing this information, but you had already sent it to me days ago. It doesn t make much sense for you to broadcast it to
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 4, 2005
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      Dear Mr. Oster,

      Thank you for sharing this information, but you had already sent it to me
      days ago. It doesn't make much sense for you to broadcast it to multiple
      lists. Over the last few weeks, since you've become aware of our
      institute's work, you have several times posted misguided and inappropriate
      insults about us on the Internet. You have accused me of producing
      arbitrary and "bogus" analysis, claimed that my work is biased by rail
      industry bribes, and criticized my work in ways indicating that you had not
      even read it or tried to understand the concepts (for example, to
      economists, free parking is clearly an underpricing of automobile travel,
      and the cost of vehicle waste is not simply littering).

      While I admire your youthful enthusiasm in support of Evacuated Tube
      Transport (I suggest that you spell it out in correspondence, many people
      will not understand the acronym), I hope you will understand that those of
      us who are a little older and more experienced look at the issues a quite

      Like a lot of young technological enthusiasts, you seem to think that
      transportation planning is a horse race, simply identify the option with
      the best legs and run with it to become the next Henry Ford or Bill Gates.
      The Innovative Transportation Technologies website
      (http://faculty.washington.edu/~jbs/itrans) identifies several dozen new
      technologies, mostly new drive systems or a variation on public transit,
      and each has its advocates who will argue that it is superior to all
      others, and if given a chance can easily solve all of our transportation
      problems, usually defined as either traffic congestion or depletion of
      energy resources.

      As a transportation planner and economists I look at things a little
      differently. I see a much broader set of problems and potential solutions.
      I don't think that any one solution will revolutionize future
      transportation, rather, many solutions have their place, some of which are
      quite low technology, such as improved walking and cycling conditions. You
      start with a technological solution, and then search for the economic
      reforms to support it. I start with the economic reforms, and let the
      technological solutions find their place. There is a pretty good case for
      concluding, as many of us do, that the starting point for implementing
      sustainable transportation technology is to correct transportation planning
      and market distortions that result in economically excessive automobile
      travel, which is why I am concerned about things like underpricing of road
      and parking facility use, and urban sprawl. If you are smart, I think you
      will realize this too. Let me explain.

      Whether you recognize it or not, ETT, PRT, LRT, and the rest of
      transportation alphabet soup are forms of public transit. They all
      experience large economies of scale: to be economically justified and
      successful they need maximum ridership. For example, a particular new
      technology might fail if it only serve 10% of trips, but very successful if
      it serves 15%. So maximizing ridership is essential.

      But ETT and the others face the same problem as current transit: since most
      households own a car, the variable costs of vehicle use are relatively low,
      and travelers receive free or subsidized parking at most destinations,
      there is little justification for most people to use alternatives. To be
      successful, ETT requires market reforms, such as road and parking pricing,
      and options such as carsharing, which allow households to reduce their
      vehicle ownership and rely more on public transit. Since common
      destinations are dispersed due to sprawl, and nearly all transit trips
      involve walking links, land use reforms (Smart Growth and New Urbanism) and
      improved walkability are important for the success of your technology. Our
      institute is concerned with these reforms because they make sense,
      regardless of the specific propulsion used in public transit systems.

      Our institute is not concerned with any individual technology. You have
      accused me, in a most inaccurate and inappropriate way, of being biased in
      favor of rail and against new technologies. But if you examine the
      publications on our website you will only find two about rail transit
      ("Rail Transit in America" and "Evaluating Criticism of Rail Transit").
      There are dozens dealing with planning and market reforms, mobility and
      land use management, and nonmotorized transportation. If you really want
      innovation that improves transportation system efficiency you'll need these
      reforms as a foundation.

      Please, in the future, refrain from criticizing ideas and information
      before you have investigated them carefully, and don't broadcast insults to
      multiple lists.

      Best New Year Wishes to all,
      -Todd Litman

      At 12:20 PM 12/28/2004 -0500, Daryl Oster wrote:
      >The summary mentions that in 1990 most worked and lived on farms; did you
      >not mean to say in 1890?
      >Thanks for mentioning ETT under your heading "New Technologies". Bracketing
      >ETT with old jetpacks and flying cars is unfair, as is the blanket
      >dismissal. This is especially true since ETT: increases energy efficiency
      >by more than a factor of 50, maximizes use of lower cost and alternative
      >fuel, and improves navigation and vehicle flow. Clearly jet packs and
      >flying cars decrease fuel efficiency, and have a narrow dependence on
      >specialized fuels (as was the case with SST).
      >There are at least two possibilities explaining your blanket statement: you
      >have not fully investigated and understand ETT, or you are attempting to
      >discredit ETT to protect other agendas. If you have any criticism of ETT
      >that supports your view, please be specific.
      >As far as the data you seek, Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Ph.D., Hofstra University,
      >Hempstead, New York, has some good data on shipping costs with a wide time
      >scale. I saw the detailed information you seek in graphical form somewhere
      >on the website: http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/ . The material is
      >extensive, I am sorry I do not have time to be more specific as to the exact
      >Daryl Oster
      >(c) 2004 all rights reserved. ETT, et3, MoPod, "space travel on earth"
      >e-tube, e-tubes, and the logos thereof are trademarks and or service marks
      >of et3.com Inc. For licensing information contact: et3@... ,
      >www.et3.com POB 1423, Crystal River FL 34423-1423 (352)257-1310
      > > Dear Colleagues,
      > >
      > > I'm writing to let you know about our latest draft publication, "The
      > > Future
      > > Isn't What It Used To Be: Changing Trends And Their Implications For
      > > Transport Planning" (http://www.vtpi.org/future.pdf).
      > >
      > > This paper examines various demographic, economic and market trends that
      > > affect travel demand, and their implications for transport planning during
      > > the next century. During Twentieth Century per capita motor vehicle travel
      > > demand increased by an order of magnitude. Many of the factors that caused
      > > this growth have peaked in developed countries and are likely to decline.
      > > This indicates that future transport demand will be increasingly diverse.
      > > Transport planning can reflect these shifts by reducing emphasis on
      > > automobile travel and increasing support for alternative modes and smart
      > > growth development patterns.
      > >
      > > I would appreciate your feedback. Please let me know if you find any
      > > errors
      > > or omissions, or if you have any other ideas of factors that affect past
      > > and future travel demand. Also, please let me know if you know a source of
      > > good time-series shipping cost data, such as the real cost of transporting
      > > a ton of freight from New York to London or San Francisco for each decade
      > > from 1900 to 2000.
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > Sincerely,
      > > Todd Litman, Director
      > > Victoria Transport Policy Institute
      > > "Efficiency - Equity - Clarity"
      > > 1250 Rudlin Street
      > > Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada
      > > Phone & Fax: 250-360-1560
      > > Email: litman@...
      > > Website: http://www.vtpi.org
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > --
      > > This message has been scanned for viruses and
      > > dangerous content by Netsignia Online, and is
      > > believed to be clean.
      > >
      > >
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      Todd Litman, Director
      Victoria Transport Policy Institute
      "Efficiency - Equity - Clarity"
      1250 Rudlin Street
      Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada
      Phone & Fax: 250-360-1560
      Email: litman@...
      Website: http://www.vtpi.org
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