Elon Musk Calls Transit Expert “An Idiot” and Says Public Transport “Sucks”

John Ransom

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Musk's traffic tunnel ideas are very much a pipe dream. An elevator would need to be extremely heavy-duty to lower and lift multi-ton objects quickly and would break down a lot. Getting cars into the tunnel would take too long and there would be massive bottlenecks at the entrances. A traditional underground ramp to a tunneled freeway is just the same old 20th century idea that's never worked well, and usually not at all. The only difference from Boston's Big Dig is better drilling equipment, which is not enough to make the idea workable.

Musk is very much wedded to the c1950 idea that there is some magical formula or road design where everyone can drive a gigantic metal box around, which is not surprising considering he is the CEO of a company that sells gigantic metal boxes. Most people acknowledge that traffic sucks in their city, but they blame the local government and assume there is a better way to design roads so that it does not take forever to get through a commute and find parking. The truth is that no one has found such a solution because it does not exist. Car-based transit requires more road and parking space than any city can ever build. Cities like Los Angeles have hit the limits of sprawl and are still nowhere near the point where all the traffic can flow without creating jams and bottlenecks. Attempts to remedy the issue by expanding roadways (like the recent 405 expansion) cost billions of dollars and do not reduce congestion, but only incentivize more people to drive and at peak hours.

The upshot is that auto-centric transit models only work in areas of low population density and only with massive subsidies from high-density areas because the infrastructure does not generate enough economic activity to pay for its construction and maintenance. In fact, driving in general requires massive taxpayer subsidies to work, to the tune of about $1.20 per mile. Since the average vehicle is driven about 15,000 miles per year, that's $18k per year per driver! You can trot that out the next time someone says public transit is too expensive.

The problem, of course, is the question "what's the alternative?" No one likes taking the bus, and with spread-out cities the distances are too long, and you would need an impractical number of buses and routes. The answer is bicycle infrastructure and mass transit agencies that assume people will have bikes. It is not feasible to send a bus within walking distance of everyone's house in a city like my hometown of Stockton, CA, but you could easily put a major stop or station within cycling distance (about 4 miles) and have physically separated bike lanes that can move 50 times the traffic density per lane. Even if most people keep driving, everyone who switches to bike will mean one less car causing traffic jams, adding wear and tear to the roads, and increasing the burden on the health care system, which means a nicer and cheaper place to live for everybody. People who cannot afford to drive would still be able to get around, leading to a better economy with fewer people trapped in food deserts with no practical way to get a job, which means fewer people who need government assistance. It also means fewer drunks on the road and drivers not having to share the road with slower bicycle traffic. The only people who don't benefit are auto manufacturers and oil + gas companies, which is why our governments keep pushing car-only transit models that have failed miserably for 7 decades. Personally, I don't think it's worth it for everyone to suffer a dysfunctional transit model just so that a couple of industries can make a higher profit.

I stopped reading after comments about elevator, elevators are just electric motors, if they can use them reliably on aircraft carriers then can use them for cars no problem.
 
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I stopped reading after comments about elevator, elevators are just electric motors, if they can use them reliably on aircraft carriers then can use them for cars no problem.

Aren't arcraft carrier lifts usually hydraulic? That's more of a PITA for maintenance than a simple electric motor.
 
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I stopped reading after comments about elevator, elevators are just electric motors, if they can use them reliably on aircraft carriers then can use them for cars no problem.
Why stop there? Let's also use the catapult launchers to get cars around really fast! After all, it works on an aircraft carrier, right?
 
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I have to call shenanigans on that statement; American's drove 3.22 trillion miles in 2016. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo...ecord-number-of-miles-driven-in-u-s-last-year

A subsidy of $1.20 per mile would cost $3.86 trillion dollars. Now, the entire Federal budget for 2016 was $3.54 trillion; even with state spending there is absolutely no way possible for that much to end up with that much road spending. Now, for some more reasonable numbers, total spending for highways & street construction that year was ~$92 billion https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/TLHWYCONS#0 ; lets call it $100 billion to account for misc projects that weren't counted with that figure. $100 billion divided by 3.22 trillion miles traveled equals 3.1 CENTS per mile subsidy. For your average 15,000 mile a year driver, that is $465. Given how useful roads are, and how much productively they enable, that seems entirely reasonable to me.

Now, for public transport, the US spends about $22 billion a year, at least according to the pro-public transport advocate above. According to the American Public Transportation Association, Americans traveled about 60 billion passenger miles last year on public transport. So that works out to about 36 cents per passenger mile, or about 10 times the subsidy that drivers get.

One final quick edit - the top figure is for vehicle-miles , not passenger-miles, and since the average car is carrying more than one person, that tilts things even further in favor of cars.
Sorry, I meant $1.20 was roughly the total cost to society, not a direct taxpayer subsidy. Should have written that sentence more carefully. I used the 2012 Seattle study's $1.82 / mile total cost of driving and backed out the IRS re-imbursement rate (rounded up to $0.62 to make the numbers even). This counts every direct and indirect cost, including the value of time spent stuck in traffic, effects on the health care system from lack of exercise, pollution, vehicle accidents, etc., value of land and buildings dedicated to parking, pollution, climate change, and runoff / spills from oil production and transportation, and wear and tear on roads.

Road spending may not seem like a big deal until you realize that most of these roads were built in areas that were never going to generate the economic activity for them to make sense, and we now have trillions of dollars in deferred maintenance on infrastructure that had no business case for ever being built and will only ever return 20 cents on the dollar. Claiming a total road cost of $100 billion is like saying that the cost of a car is only the fuel because you don't have insurance, aren't making the payments, and made no allowance to fix anything when it goes wrong. It's a financial ticking time bomb.
 

/dev/null

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Sorry, I meant $1.20 was roughly the total cost to society, not a direct taxpayer subsidy. Should have written that sentence more carefully. I used the 2012 Seattle study's $1.82 / mile total cost of driving and backed out the IRS re-imbursement rate (rounded up to $0.62 to make the numbers even). This counts every direct and indirect cost, including the value of time spent stuck in traffic, effects on the health care system from lack of exercise, pollution, vehicle accidents, etc., value of land and buildings dedicated to parking, pollution, climate change, and runoff / spills from oil production and transportation, and wear and tear on roads.

Road spending may not seem like a big deal until you realize that most of these roads were built in areas that were never going to generate the economic activity for them to make sense, and we now have trillions of dollars in deferred maintenance on infrastructure that had no business case for ever being built and will only ever return 20 cents on the dollar. Claiming a total road cost of $100 billion is like saying that the cost of a car is only the fuel because you don't have insurance, aren't making the payments, and made no allowance to fix anything when it goes wrong. It's a financial ticking time bomb.
I think indirect costs are impossible to accurately predict.

So the person took a car instead of a bike to work, but rides more on weekends than what his commute would be. That's a negative cost, right? Impossible to have any kind of accurate discussion with "indirect costs"...
 
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The negative cost of cycling mostly has to do with reducing traffic congestion and healthier people who will not need as much health care. If someone rode for recreation on the weekends, they would be healthier but would not reduce congestion so they would have to ride a lot to offset weekday driving. They would generate just as much savings for society by going to the gym or doing swimming laps.

The main event is congestion, which is a consequence of transit policy that pretends that it's mathematically possible for most people to drive in communities with more than a low-medium population density. The main problem is not that cars themselves are so large, it's that they need so much clearance to be operated safely and thereby occupy many times their own footprint. This can be solved with self-driving cars that talk to each other and can drive bumper-to-bumper and door-to-door, but only if human drivers are completely banned from the roads. Introducing a single human into that system necessitates the wide clearances that make car-only transit models unworkable. I don't see such a ban happening for many decades, and with continuing increases in population and urbanization, traffic is only going to get worse. Bike lanes that can transport 50 times as much traffic* for a given amount of road width are a cheap way to address the problem that saves money and also makes a city a nicer place to live.

*To get the 50x figure from the link, you have to look at the allocated road space for autos and percentage of car trips vs allocated bike lane space and percentage of bike trips. 7% of road width for bike lanes accounting for 62% of all trips and 66% of car lanes accounting for 9% of all trips ~= 50x efficiency.
 

Emission

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Anyone who's had a taste of NJT in the past few years, or even recently, knows how much of a piece of shit it is.
 

gtrguy

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I just got my first bicycle & have already done several trips and have absolutely loved it. I've bicycled into Wisconsin from my house! The only really big issue is theh 60mph traffic that flows next to me on roads that are supposed to be 45. It's terrifying. These are NOT highways but local main roads. I think I stopped in October due to weather. I would never do this on my commute as It's simply too far (35 mi. each way) with no bike lanes.

As a new bicyclist, I love getting on the bike and going out & riding, but it's more terrifying than going out & getting on my motorcycle.


I ride all year long and we have snow and sub zero temps for most of the winter. Studded tires are amazing, I seek out the ice, it's like riding on pavement. Having said that, I only ride off road- screw riding on roads with drivers who don't know how to drive or don't bother with snow tires and are sliding all over the place. Too damn dangerous!
 

nilepez

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It's a bit complicated to assign blame in this case. When planners design routes that are indirect, a certain percentage of people will ignore them. You almost never see auto infrastructure designed for anything but the straightest, most direct route, yet planners will often design bicycle and pedestrian paths using meandering lines most suitable for an old-timey aristocratic daydreamer out for a stroll. Then they are shocked and chagrined when people walk across the grass or otherwise violate their perfect design by taking the shortest route. Is it the users' fault or the designer's? Probably both, but I'd put more weight towards the latter, personally.
It's not that indirect, but it's not the highway (and Natchez Trace is a highway). It goes into the woods and once in there, it's mostly straight. Regardless, on a 2 lane highway, it's ridiculous for someone to be riding their bike at 15-20 mph (assuming they're not going up hill) when the speed limit is 45-50.

And there's a simple way to solve it. Cars stay out of bike lane and bikes are banned from car lanes (unless there's not an available bike lane...esp if it's between 7am and 9am and 4pm-6pm.


I drive ~ 20k miles/year...probably a bit more if I count my wife's car & rentals.
The most fuel efficient car we have gets (maybe) 400 miles on 12g. @ $0.19/gal tax * 12 gal = $2.28 per fill. Our other cars get 21/22, and my bike gets about 45mpg.

I do 16k/year in the most efficient car, so lets take that alone. 16000/34=470.58 gallons * 0.19 = $89 in fuel taxes. Pretty cheap. Now I pay $0.95 each way ~ 15 times per month (30 times total) as pure tax to the tollway to use I-94 ("Toll free in '73!" they said...) That's another $342 in taxes or $431. Now I have what 20-25% fed income tax, 5% state income tax, $8k in property tax to the county, and another 8.5%-10.25% in sales tax (depending which city I'm in). Buying from Amazon sends another 6.5% to the state.

Remember, this doesn't count the mileage on the motorcycle, the 10k miles we put on my wifes car (21mpg) or the 2k-4k miles I put in my sports car (21mpg premium) (gasoline tax on all 3) as well as the additional tolls all those pay.

So why are the roads crap? (Surprise: The road funds are used for unrelated pet projects...)

Fuel taxes are too low. It hasn't gone up in roughly 25 years and inflation is roughly 60-70% over that time frame, so what was once 24.4 cents is not (in 1993 dollars) around 8-10 cents. That is why the roads suck.
 

/dev/null

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It's not that indirect, but it's not the highway (and Natchez Trace is a highway). It goes into the woods and once in there, it's mostly straight. Regardless, on a 2 lane highway, it's ridiculous for someone to be riding their bike at 15-20 mph (assuming they're not going up hill) when the speed limit is 45-50.

And there's a simple way to solve it. Cars stay out of bike lane and bikes are banned from car lanes (unless there's not an available bike lane...esp if it's between 7am and 9am and 4pm-6pm.




Fuel taxes are too low. It hasn't gone up in roughly 25 years and inflation is roughly 60-70% over that time frame, so what was once 24.4 cents is not (in 1993 dollars) around 8-10 cents. That is why the roads suck.
Doesn't matter if "fuel taxes" are too low, but I'm taxed 5 other ways for the same purpose.
 

Krazy925

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My roads still suck and guess what?

I pay waaaay more than 24.4c.

The state excise tax on gasoline increases today by 12 cents per gallon, going from 29.7 cents per gallon to 41.7 cents per gallon. The state sales tax on gasoline will remain at 2.25%.

Closer to 50c for us Commiefornians. That’s how I disparage my state here right??

I’m roughing my estimate at 3.00$/gal of gas too. Which is pretty common in the Bay Area. I paid $2.89 this morning.
 
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http://www.api.org/oil-and-natural-gas/consumer-information/motor-fuel-taxes/gasoline-tax PA, my state. Massive BS Taxes. So much waste in PennDot. Quit WASTING my money and you will not need as much. I don't spend above my income or earnings. Most well run business don't either. Why should Government be given a pass when they do? BTW, just got my final pay stub. I payed in excess of $24,000 in local, state and fed taxes and some pecker head low income loser will get to claim an earned income credit in a couple weeks and take home $7-9k that they DIDN'T even pay in and I will possibly have to pay MORE like I did a back in 2016. ($1800 extra because my wife had to work full time to fill in for her boss that got cancer) Sad system we are locked into. We need a FLAT tax so everyone pays equally. Rich, poor, mid. Not matter, just a flat % of your income.
 

rudy

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Chill, it was just an old Margrett Thatcher quote. I know public trans is a necissary evil for most incomes.

Not it isn't necessary its a nice little trick that you and everyone else has been duped into believing.

So this is the very simple economics of it.
The government forces some group of people to pay taxes to support public transportation. Largely people who will see no benefit from it, IE those that live in suburbs that drive to work.
These taxes are taken from the people and businesses that interact in an area.
The money is used to lower the cost of fare for public transportation.
Now poor people find it cheaper to be transported into the city to work
Now poor people can work for lower wages in an overly expensive area.
Now they live in a lower cost of living area further away.
Businesses and rich people can hire those poor people for lower wages and use their work making themselves rich off of it.
But every night when the poor people go home, they leave the city center.
So the rich people and the businesses do not have to stay near them or deal with them or their problems.
Then the price and competition for living in the city just keeps climbing as it lacks a proper market force to increase wages and cool off growth and gentrification.

Public transportation was never meant to be good for anyone but the rich, a wolf in sheep's clothing.
 
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Notice he said "rich people" can hire. Haha...that statement always puts a damper on the rich vs poor argument about wages and taxes. Lower the taxes of POOR people and how many rich (or poor) people will they hire? About zero. Change it around and what do you get? Economic development and higher wages for everyone. (Except illegal aliens who drain the economy) BTW, last time I heard anything about housing and cities, not many "rich folk" living in the inner city.

Bernie Voters, pffft! lmao
 
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