Friday, July 4, 2008

Another Solution

Here in BC the biggest source of greenhouse gases is from driving, though if we had account for the cow farts et al of our meat consumption, that would be up there.

When it comes to cars we have to keep in mind that we need to work on ways that assume we will keep driving. Assuming we are going to quit driving goes against the global love affair that comes with the freedom having a car offers.

What can be controlled is how much CO2 a car produces. Better fuel efficiency for new cars helps, as does educating the public in how to maintain and drive their cars to reduce demand. Higher gas prices will promote these things. But we still need to do more to encourage less gas being used.

The biggest source of high gas use by a driver is from driving fast. The faster you go the faster you suck the gas out of the tank. It is time to make it much less appealing to drive over the speed limit.

First off, there needs to be a return to photo radar. The chances of being caught with photo radar are much higher than the status quo and therefore people will take the threat of being caught much more seriously.

Second, the time has come to make the fines for speeding hurt. Since most people rarely get caught speeding, when you get a speeding ticket, the cost is amortized over tens of thousands of kilometres. The cost per kilometre driven is so low as to be pointless. The fine for speeding should be high enough to hurt and make people think again about driving. The fine should be in in the range of $500 for up 10% above the posted speed and then another and then another $100 per 1% over the posted limit with no end fine. For a second fine within five years, double the amounts.

With high enough fines and a real threat of being caught, the marginal cost of speeding becomes too high and people will slow down.

If you can get the traffic slowed down 10% on average on highways, there would be a drop in the amount of fuel purchased in BC and therefore a drop in CO2 emissions. Knock benefits would be that the cost of gas would fall as demand falls. Traffic problems at major choke points like the Port Mann would also be eased as the traffic coming into the problem area would be arriving slightly slower.

A quick note on traffic choke points such as the Massey Tunnel or the Port Mann bridge. Translink should introduce variable speed limits based on volumes of traffic. If traffic is building up, slow the traffic coming into these chokepoints and the traffic will move through the chokepoint at a reasonable speed. High speeds and stop and start are two of the worst situations for gas use in a car. Getting all the traffic through the Port Mann at 40 Km/H would reduce fuel use.

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