Sunday, March 11, 2007

Electricity Like Transit

All I'm sayin' is that there just plain isn't enough money to use rail transit for anything but a fraction of our mobility needs.

I love analogies. For instance:
There's lots of things wrong with centralized generation, high voltage transmission and alternating current. What say instead of expanding that system and all of its problems instead we build low voltage DC networks parallel to the existing wires. Oh and just to be extra clever we'll tax the AC users and make sure all the DC systems we build are incompatible. We'll get people to use the stuff by running the wires and building the plants for free and then charging 20¢ on the dollar for useage.

We'll Call this "If Electricity Were Like Transit."


I am not a Stute said...

Now someone else can't be first.

BadjerJim said...

A cheap inverter turns DC into AC. Guy like me would be using lots of DC!

YouSoSpecial said...

I am confused by your analogy, because a system of roads and private automobiles depends on a highly dispersed distribtution network (local streets and collectors feeding into major arterials and freeways), available for use for free, built by taxing everyone whether they use it or not, and dependent on each user purchasing, maintaining, fueling and operating their own power plant.

So while I think you mean to be critical of transit, your analogy works just of well at being critical of a system dependent on private autos/public roads.

Chief Electron Organizer (CEO) said...

We are actually approaching the analogy.

Because standard power distribution does have transmission losses (in spite of AC & very high voltages), there is some value in locally-produced power.

Some examples:

Cogeneration uses the waste heat from power generation to provide heating for large institutions & factories needing the heat.

Dairy farms & landfills can extract methane (ozone reactivity 22 times higher than CO2), & produce enough power to run the farm & export power, too.

Solar arrays, from bus farm size to individual homes, can actually export power at the time of day when all the air conditioners are running & the distribution system is stressed.

Tests are being run on single family to block-wide cogens. Basically a IC engine running on natural gas, the generator provides power and the "waste heat" provides heating & cooling. Again, power may be exported.

All these approaches sort of map onto the privately-owned bike/car/pickup/truck entities, whilst being connected to the master distribution system.

And apart from power efficiencies and self-determination, consider the terrorist-attack angle. If every home, for example, had a cogen/solar whatever, and the power network was just used for load balancing, the whole thing would function more like the internet than a railroad.

CEO afterthoughts said...

Here are a couple of pointers to illustrate the small cogen approach.

Anonymous said...

Not too sure about the "Terrorist Attack Angle", but I do love trains!

How's about a little movie:

Rob Dawg said...

Some of the criticisms gloss over some important facts. Keep in mind as well this is analogy not equivalence.

First the existing national power grid is compatible and user funded.

Second the roads are not free nor is driving on them free. On average fees just about cover costs. If you want to argue about 1/2¢ per mile subsidy fine. Just remember the times when the overage was 4x that.

Third, I didn't mean for this to be morphed into emerging technologies... yet. For now stick with the way things are.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a bit of motivation - a nation decides to build a suburban dream, and then decides that rail transit doesn't work, after having destroyed a fully functional transit system covering its entire industrial coastal region 75 years before.

But I have to agree - rail transit won't work in keeping suburbia running. But then, nothing will, unless you think the Earth is an oozing ball of creamy oil just waiting to burn - and of course, if climate change has nothing to do with burning fossil fuels so as to create a planetary scale climate experiment involving geologic scale amounts of material.

And of course, all those people in NYC or London or Paris or Toyko or Moscow must be idiots not to drive everywhere, as the mobility offered by their transit systems is so clearly inferior to millions of people owning a car.

Anonymous said...

"For now stick with the way things are."

Great Idea!

Rob Dawg said...

"We" didn't destroy rail transit. Rail transit could not evolve. The BTS data are clear. We have more rail passenger capacity than ever but it is increasingly underutilized. Railt transit used to be fast and moderately costly. Today it is slow and expensive. RELATIVE to alternatives.

Anonymous said...

The OC cities are being wooed to build a Magrail system from Irvine to the Antelope Valley. The only cities down with this are Los Alamitos, Palmdale, Lancaster and Irvine.