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2007's Best: Transportation
Alex Steffen, 31 Dec 07

Erica's Paris Buys Citizens Bikes and Bicing in Barcelona, two stories about the cutting edge in urban bike systems

These people are riding bicycles provided by Bicing, a nine-month-old service that bills itself as “your new public transport in Barcelona!” (I’m sure it sounds better in Spanish or Catalan; I’m reading the translated web site). We wrote about Bicing shortly after it launched last March. Since then, the service has expanded dramatically -- from 100 bicycles at 14 bike stations around the city to more than 1,500 at 100 stations. The stations are so numerous, they're almost ubiquitous -- at least within the urban core you literally can't walk more than a half-dozen blocks without running into one.

The service functions much like a car-sharing service. Once you register with the company (you have to be a resident of Barcelona, and it costs 24 euros) and activate your swipe card, you can use any one of Bicing's 1,500 bikes, which are designed to prevent people from stealing parts, and to be recognizable. The first 30 minutes of every trip are free, and you can return your bike to any Bicing location around the city (there are at least 100)--one key improvement on car-sharing services, which typically require a user to return the car to the location where he or she picked it up. Every half-hour over the initial free half-hour costs 30 eurocents, making Bicing the cheapest public transport system in Barcelona. You can keep any one bike for up to two hours, and you can always return a bike, run your errand, and grab another for no charge. The bikes seem to be very well-maintained, and everyone uses them—old people, little kids, teenagers on cell phones--everyone.

Jer's Google Transit 2.0

One of the big barriers to public transit use is the knowledge required to use the system: where to wait, when to wait, where to transfer, how much to pay, etc. Some readers may remember that two years ago we helped cause Google Transit to happen, but it's taken off far beyond what we had suggested, and they keep getting better. What's more, they're doing it at no charge to the transit agencies (a perpetually under-funded sector of local governments). More cities are coming on board, as well; if you live in one of the eleven cities now participating, enjoy! If you live elsewhere, consider writing to your local transit agency and telling them to join the 21st century. (ahem... San Francisco, right in Google's back yard, no excuse... ahem.)

What are these tools? In addition to being able to type in your route and get comprehensive directions (including walking to stations, showing the bus or train route, walking directions between stations, how much it costs, etc.), you can plan trips by departure or arrival time and see when the next couple buses come if you miss the one you're aiming for. Now, if you zoom in enough on any Google map in the right city, all the transit stops appear, with different icons for bus, light rail, etc.; click on a bus stop and up pops a list of the buses or trains that stop there; click on the bus number, and up pops the timetable for the next several buses stopping there.

Electric Vehicle Roundup

It's been a while since we've looked at the state of the electric vehicle market. Everyone has heard of Tesla, but what else is coming down the road? And what's out there already?

...My favorite micro-car is the Myers Motors NmG--formerly the Corbin Sparrow. Just a one-seater, as small as a fat motorcycle with room for a couple bags of groceries in the back, it is the ultimate commuter vehicle: not limited to neighborhood streets, it can go 75mph on the freeway. And it's the cutest car ever.

The Tango is an impressively engineered micro-car. Like the NmG, it's about half the width of a normal car, but it can carry a passenger and go a startling 130mph, accelerating off the line almost as fast as the roadsters mentioned above. It's not pretty--actually it's miserably boxy-looking--but it's both fast and safe. Not in production yet, the Tango has been around for a few years, gathering advance-order deposits to demonstrate to investors that the market demand is there.

Erica's Taking Transit: The Most Effective Route to Cutting Carbon

The single most effective way to cut one's personal quotient of carbon dioxide pollution is switching from cars to public transit. That's the finding of the American Public Transportation Association, which this week released a new report on CO2 and personal transportation. According to APTA, "when compared to other household actions that limit carbon dioxide (CO2), taking public transportation can be more than ten times [more effective] in reducing this greenhouse gas." It's something we all know intuitively, of course--driving alone has significant climate impacts even if the car we're driving is a "green" one--but it's fascinating to see the specific impacts of our driving habits quantified.

Erica's Want Better Transit? Unionize!

Government increasingly demands that citizens view it as a business. Transit riders' unions tell government, "Okay. Then treat us like consumers."

Transit riders' unions have done some amazing things:

* In Los Angeles, California, the Bus Riders Union fought throughout the early 90's against a proposal that would have eliminated monthly bus passes. It won that battle, and managed to get the L.A. transit authority to reduce prices, link price increases to inflation, and provide new services to connect low-income and minority riders to job and medical sites.

* In Vancouver, British Columbia, the Bus Riders Union convinced Translink, the regional transit agency, to restore night bus service critical to the transportation needs of late-night workers.

* The Santa Clara, California VTA Riders Union has a detailed, step-by-step DIY guide to filing a complaint or compliment with the regional transit agency -- complete with addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail contact information for every conceivable type of feedback.

* In Atlanta, Georgia, the Atlanta Transit Riders Union has protected transit service for the disabled, restored service on several threatened bus routes, and halted fare increases on the city's regional rail system, MARTA.

* And in New York City, the New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign has created an awesome online resource that combines information about various transit lines; "Pokey and Schleppie Awards" for the worst bus lines; complaint forms and tips on how to file effective complaints; maps, polls, and reports; and rider diaries, forums, and much more.

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In Oslo, Norway we have had citizens bikes since 2003. And i think we have the best system and the most open. You have card and that cost only 9 euro per year. And it also possible for tourist to buy one. We have about 500 000 inhabitants and must have among most bicycles per inhabitants of all the citys i have been reading about. Perhaps Paris have more. We have now 850 bicycles in 90 places and Clear Channel that provides them i cooperatiopn with the municipal are preparing for aumenting it to 3000. Bikestation map
And user instructions in english. >

Phot from a Bikestation

Posted by: Heming Leira on 12 Jan 08



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