Monday, December 1, 2008

recycling subway cars

I've never heard of Inhabitat until today... But am so pleased a friend (Thanks Geoff!) shared this link on good ol' Facebook on "Recycled Subway Cars Turned into Studios in London." As I commented... Très cool!

That's all for now folks. Am back in Toronto, and just re-climatizing myself figuratively and literally after all the travel this past month. In fact, traveled ViaRail/Amtrak back to Toronto which made the recycled subway cars article cool semi-relevant food for thought!



Michael said...

I'm a big fan of trains. The economics don't make sense though... seems it is cheaper for two people to rent a car and drive to Windsor from Toronto (and back) than for two people to take the train. I'm not sure how this is possible. With one person the train looks like a win.

ecojotter said...

I hear you Michael... If only train accessibility, efficiency and savings in North American were like they are in Europe!

P said...

There are several problems here; one is hidden costs.

When you pay to take the train, most of the costs have been accounted for, less whatever subsidies they get, and they're part of your ticket. So you pay for fuel for the trip, but also things like train and track maintenance, all the signals, the stations, the insurance, train company debt servicing, various other overheads, and so on.

When you pay to take your car, on a per-trip basis you are only paying for fuel, and fuel taxes do not cover everything to do with your trip that you're not paying for explicitly. You're also not taking into account the maintenance and insurance costs of your car or the money you're losing through depreciation of your car and interest on the car loan. Finally, our current market does not account for the inefficiencies of the car - the higher per-capita emissions, the extra space requirements, etc.

The other issue is economies of scale, which is where Europe gets ahead. There's no commitment here to intra-city mass transit so Via can be small and inefficient and passes the costs onto you. In Europe the amount of track laid and the number of trains available means you can spread the overhead amongst more passengers while being more convenient for them, maximize the use of various resources and generally be really clever about things. On the other hand, here you have a big wide highway on which to drive, which you can take whenever you want, and you'll be going probably close to as fast as the train and not have to stop unless you want to.

Last, there's the pricing model. When you drive, you pay for exactly what you're getting. If you add people to the car the fuel consumption goes up slightly but you're now splitting the bill two or three ways. On the train, they cannot take the total cost of the trip + overheads and divide it by the man miles traveled on it by the passengers and present you with the bill at the end. This is probably good, though - taking a late night train on a weird date could get pricey. The ticket is just an approximation of how much it might cost and how much you might be willing to pay given the demand/supply of the service. So when you go with two people, the trip cost is now shared between you like in the car but the train company charges each of you whatever its per-person approximation is, and the apparent costs to you go up.


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