I tried, I really did. I'm going to have a transportation-intensive eight days beginning February 26. I'm flying to Washington, D.C. and returning, followed by a trip to Berkely, CA. Ironically enough, the Washington trip is for the arpa-e Energy Innovation Summit and the Berkely trip is for the American Physical Society Second Conference on the Physics of Sustainable Energy: Efficiency and Renewables.
While travelling to D.C. by any means other than airlines is out of the
question, I thought that perhaps the Berkely trip might be a good
opportunity to utilize something less energy intensive. My first
thought was Amtrak.
I was willing to leave from Anaheim and get somewhere near Berekely and
fend for myself after that.
The one-way rate is extremely competitive at $53.00 but I need to
depart Anaheim at 6:01pm, change to A BUS (!) in Santa Barbara at
9:45pm and arrive in Oakland at 5:55am Saturday morning. I would not
envy the experience of those sitting next to me at the conference, to
which I'd go directly by taxi from the bus station. Out of the question.
How about an intercity bus? Various sites
claim that this is the most fuel-efficient form of transportation
available (though, of course, factors such as frequency of stops,
proportion of urban travel, load factor, etc. will cause individual
trips to vary). So I checked Greyhound.
For $51.92 I can leave Long Beach at 8:35pm and arrive in Oakland at
5:05am. This is a bit better but still leaves no time for a shower.
I did a perfunctory
analysis of an arbitrarily designed merit index of different
modes of transportation in a previous post and determined that, for a
trip of intermdiate length such as this one, the order of preference of
transportation modes would be: airline, driving my Land Rover;
flying a business jet (if I had one); bus; and my Saratoga. I didn't
include trains in that analysis but it hardly matters here since Amtrak
will put me on a bus for the vast majority of the trip. This experience
certainly bears that anlysis out.
One final option would be to switch vehicles with my partner and drive
his Prius. Google Maps shows this to be a 396 mile trip taking
somewhere between 6 1/2 and 8 hours (depending on traffic). I'd likely
spend $56 on about 16 gallons of gas. In the Land Rover it would take
about $143 to buy 38 gallons of more expensive (premium) gas. Since I'm
alone though, and the airlines typically get somewhere in the range of
50 miles per gallon per occupied seat, it's a toss up for fuel with the
Prius and quite a bit quicker.
Strictly in dollar terms, the Prius wins by a factor of about 9 (since
I'd be purchasing tickets late). But it's symptomatic of where we stand
in transportation that the two modes of transportation of which the
green community is most enamored are completely out of the question and
the villians of the eco-movement (airlines and owner occupied vehicles)
are my realistic choices.