Chart of the Day

via Not PC

Rail and public transport is supposed to be the most efficient, best, all singing, all dancing solution to transportation worries. There is some evidence that this may not actually be the case.

Rail is far from the most efficient means of commuter transport, as figures from the U.S. government bureau of transportation statistics figures and the U.S.Dept. of Energy Transportation Energy Data Book demonstrate.  Brad Templeton looked at the figures from these sources and produced this handy graph, below, which shows that the average passenger uses less energy to travel a mile in the average car (with an average load of 1.57 passengers) than if he travelled in a diesel bus, a trolley bus, a heavy rail train, or a light rail train—and only marginally more energy than if he travelled by jet plane. 

So if the Greens’ real goal were saving energy then instead of reciting the rail mantra at every opportunity, why don’t they simply encourage more car pooling?  After all, technology makes that easier and easier with every app.

But they don’t.  Because that’s not the Greens’ real goal, is it.trans-energy


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  • Might be a clutching straws argument there Cam. Heavy Rail is not that much more energy hungry than the car. Looking down the other way I see the New York subway is more energy efficient – but useless as a measurement here as we don’t have the density nor population.

    Going further down I see Commuter Rail is more energy efficient with “All rail” just slightly more energy efficient again than the car. So the point Cam is?

    Might need to see if the graph would move if the class of locomotive for heavy rail is changed from a diesel to an electric too.

  • spollyike

    So after the Greens get their train-set, they will have to create legislation to force people to use it in order for it to live up to these efficiencies they spout?

    No surprises there, more removal of decision making from the “ignorant” masses….

    Fucking Marxists!

  • Jman

    Just to play devils advocate here I would expect the average car during the morning commute has less than 1.57 persons in it and the average bus more than 9. It is an interesting graph though.

    I think car-pooling is a great idea, for other people. I’m not sure I want to spend every day driving into work with some person. Maybe if it’s a hot chick.

  • DangerMice

    I’ll stick to my motorcycle and feel just that little bit more smug. Cold comfort (ha!) as winter sets in though.

  • rouppe

    What I’d like to see is the cost per passenger to run a train unit for a day.

    It might be really cheap to transport that one passenger that one time, but the train has to run all day.

    What I see is the unit is packed during morning and evening rush hour, but is virtually empty the rest of the day. But it still runs, and incurs cost. So what is the cost of running a unit for 1 day, and how many passengers does it transport in that day, so we can see how much it costs per passenger to run a unit for a day.

    • BJ

      Very good point.

      A car being driven to work and back in any day needs its energy usage compared to the costs of running however many trips the train does in a day divided by its total number of passengers for that day – for this graph to be useful.

      If there were designated carparks well outside the CBD commuters could drive their cars to that point prior to any congested roads ahead, park for the day and from there get a bus or carpool

      • JC

        Another thing is that people walk, ride a bike or use the car to get to the train or bus station and once they get into town they have to walk to work. All these forms of locomotion have costs in fuel, calories and lost productivity that should be factored in.


    • Wellingtoncommuter

      Well, I have done this for Wellington with the following average per trip cost estimates:

      Bus Trips:
      * Deisel Bus: $3,37
      * Trolley Bus: $5.83

      Rail Trips:
      * Johnsonville Line: $11.59
      * WaikanieLine from or to Tawa: $5.70
      * Waikanie Line from or to Porirua: $9.10
      * Waikanie Line from or to Tawa: $19.85
      * Hutt Line from from or to Lower Hut: $6.94
      * Hutt Line from from or to Upper Hutt:$11.10
      * Wairarapa Line: $29.63

      -Most bus journeys are gerenally much shorter than rail
      -you need to double these estimates to get daily passenger costs
      -Bus fares cover about 60% of total costs (many are commercial)
      -Rail Fare recovery ranges between 10% and 40%

      • brian

        2 people from upper taking the train to wellington CBD

        We still have to drive to the station or bus stop. no busses or train stations near us. trasit time from door to door 1:30 to 1:45

        2 people driving from upper hutt to the CBD

        driving with the car and paying monthly parking, still cheaper over 1 year included running costs of the car. transit time door to door 30 to 45 minutes

        public tansport maybe if you a single person and dont mind wasting a hour of your day minimum sitting on public trasport, that either is running late or breaking down.

  • Gene O’Donnell

    This graph does not take into account:

    – energy usage of car manufacturing versus rail manufacturing
    – pollution of car usage versus rail
    – inner city congestion
    – energy usage of road construction/maintanance versus rail construction/maintenance
    – energy types i.e economical electrified rail versus increasingly expensive petrol

    And that’s just what I can pull out of my ring-ring! Once again obese-like-whale proves indignant petulance comes before analysis

    • Ronnie Chow

      Why would a graph that plots operating energy use include parameters outside of operation ?

      • Gene O’Donnell

        apologoies for muy lack of precision,

        I should have said” The egregious political point scoring the uses this very limited in scope summary of energy usage analysis does not tkae into account:”

  • Gene O’Donnell

    and people don’t tend to have to take out loans that demand 10 to 20 percent of their income to pay for train tickets