“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Friday, February 18, 2011

How to get to Berkeley (other than study)

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.


Steve Bloom said...

I usually just ride my bike, or if it's raining take the convenient AC Transit 1 bus. :)

Actually I'm a little surprised about the bus leg on Amtrak. Is it a temporary problem? In any case I suspect it wouldn't have gotten you there early enough even without the bus, given your timing.

Brian said...

As his business partner, I am thrilled to do my part by loaning my Prius. It will pain me to drive Rob's gas guzzling LR3, but I'll be ok. By the way, all of his fuel consumption calcs will be %$&#!& by the time I'm done driving it.

King of the Road said...

Steve, I don't have solid information on whether it's a temporary problem. It's just the routing that came up on their web site when I investigated the trip.

If you're at Berkeley are you, by any chance, attending the conference?

Steve Bloom said...

I'm not much of a conference attender, but regardless I don't think technology availability is the heart of the problem. Political will is IMHO, so I tend to focus on barriers to adoption (in a climate mitigation context) of one sort or another.

King of the Road said...

I tend to think that climate change will not grab the public's attention in such a way as to motivate political consensus in time to help. Energy may because of price signals and the ability to animate the "let's stop sending money overseas" emotions.

With respect to technology availability there are many technologies that offer partial solutions but each has shortcomings that must be addressed (intermittency, low concentration, transmission, efficient storage, etc.). There are smart people working on all of these, I like to keep up with what they're doing.

All that is not to dismiss your very valid point about barriers to adoption but these tend to be political and involve consensus building and it's not an area to which I am, by my nature, inclined to participate.