The next big idea in renewable energy might be right below our feet and under our tires. Idaho inventor Scott Brusaw has an interesting vision for the future of America’s roadways and it involves turning each one into its own powerhouse, the Associate Press reported last week.
While the millions of miles of U.S. roads work each day to transport people and goods, Brusaw came up with a new way to put them to work by replacing asphalt with solar panels. Brusaw’s invention involves hexagon-shaped panels that can replace traditional road surfaces and at the same time they function as normal highways, they can also use energy from the sun to create electricity.
The AP said the panels are quite durable and “can withstand the wear and tear that comes from inclement weather and vehicles, big and small, to generate electricity;” a seriously need when considering our traditional highways span mountains, valley, deserts and all sorts of terrain and weather. The product is already in use at Brusaw’s company headquarters in Idaho, where it’s parking lot is comprised of 108 panels that vehicles have driving on without damage, according to AP.
Brusaw’s company estimates that if every road was covered with solar panels, it would produce three times more electricity than the U.S. consumes each year. The company also highlights the added benefit of construction and engineering jobs to install the panels nationwide.
Solar roads could provide more services than just roadway and energy production though. The AP reports the panels are heated, which would melt ice and reduce hazards in colder climates, and each panel has LED lights that can be used to configure parking lots, lane lines, or notify drivers of upcoming hazards, reducing the need to repaint and re-asphalt roadways.
For Brusaw, the applications are endless and his company would like to see the panels installed not just on roadways, but bike paths, driveways, tarmacs and parking lots as well.
It’s quite rare when citizens are begging police officers to hand out more speeding tickets. But that’s exactly what happened this week at a citizen comment meeting in Chicago about how to fix up a seven-mile stretch of Lake Shore Drive, according to the Sun-Times.
Ctizens urged police to start dealing with an out of control speeding situation, the Sun-Times reports. Staggering numbers of drivers along the drive are speeding as they enter and exit the city. According to the Sun-Times, “During the week, 95 percent of drivers headed out of the city and 78 percent of the those traveling into the city are speeding — some by as much as 30 mph over the 40 mph speed limit.”
That has encouraged even residents of the area to ask for more enforcement of speed along Lake Shore Drive.
“Get those cops out there and give tons of tickets,’’ said resident Steve Kungis to the Sun-Times. “It’s a revenue pool right there, just waiting to happen.’’ Continue reading
On the heels of large Uber protests across Europe, The Atlantic reports the mayors of Atlanta and New Orleans believe Uber will eventually beat out the taxi companies. There’s one more thing the two mayors agree on: it will be a long and bitter battle between the two.
Calling it a 15-round fight, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said he thinks Uber will eventually force taxi companies to alter their business model. Reed told The Atlantic, “In the interim, they’re going to flat out fight it out … because the taxicab industry is so old and staid and never had real competition, and now it’s being forced to innovate.”
The only reservation Reed seemed to express about Uber is its rapid growth and the question of where the company, and its quality, will be a few years down the road.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu echoed similar concerns about the company’s political skills, but called Uber’s business model superior to taxi companies. Continue reading
When tens of thousands of cab drivers took to the streets of major cities in Europe to protest of Uber this week, blocking streets, shutting down traffic and in some cases even becoming violent, an unexpected consequence may have come out of the protests called the ‘Streisand effect,’ according to Forbes Magazine.
Contributor Tim Worstall writes that the Streisand effect refers to an incident years ago where singer Barbara Streisand tried to stop a photo of her home being posted online, which only brought more attention to the photo resulting in it being seen around the world.
Courtesy of Free Republic
After demonstrations across Europe, the attention brought to Uber by its protestors may have had the opposite affect and instead helped grow its popularity. According to The Telegraph, Uber’s UK and Ireland general manager, Jo Bertram said the company saw and 850 percent increase in downloads in just one week.
Thousands of protesters in cities across Europe took to the streets against ride sharing services such as Uber this week, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The protests were led by taxi drivers, who complain that Uber, which allows users to hail private cabs through a smart phone app, is undercutting their business by getting around regulations and using unlicensed drivers.
Thousands of cabs flooded the streets of cities such as London, Paris and Madrid, causing traffic to slow to a halt. Here’s a look at the protests.
Courtesy of @JoannaUK
London: In the largest of all the demonstrations, the Journal writes that London cabs filled the street of Trafalgar Square causing traffic jams for much of the afternoon on Wednesday.
London’s transportation agency put the number of cabs blocking traffic between 4,000 and 5,000, but others said there were as many as 12,000 cabs honking horns and holding signs in protest of smartphone-based ride companies. London cabbies are especially effected by the introduction of Uber as the company announced customers can use the app to hail black cabs, not just private drivers, according to CNET. The demonstrations may have hurt the protestors’ cause though, as downloads of the Uber app were up 850 percent compared to last Wednesday, likely due to the attention, CNET writes.
London, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal
Paris: Parisians also dealt with poor traffic as about 1,200 taxi cabs flooded the Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports in an effort to block private cars from picking up travelers, according to SF Gate. The demonstration brought nearly the entire city to a crawl, causing a 120-mile traffic jam with most of the city’s 15,000 cabs on strike. Continue reading
My parents went through the Great Depression. They were thrifty, to say the least, and we were recycling before we knew what the term meant.
Now, we and our children have been through another seminal economic event. Some call it the Great Panic, others the Great Recession.
No matter what you call it, the economic meltdown of 2007-2009 changed a lot of attitudes in the United States, including the way some people feel about the role of automobiles in our lives.
I look at the impact of the recession on driving in our new ebook. While it may not be the top factor why people are “driving light,” it’s definitely one of the considerations that plays into how they view cars.
The changes these consumers made during the worst of the recession have become permanent parts of their lives. Even as the stock market soared in 2013 and 2014, and as some economists declared that America had recovered (statistically at least), the feeling that all could be lost at any moment still resounds in a number of corners.
Read more about the economy and how it changed peoples’ attitudes in this excerpt from the book in Forbes.
You can buy Curbing Cars: America’s Independence From The Auto Industry at Amazon and Apple now.
Central Michigan University is redesigning its campus, as millennials rethink their use of cars.
By Micheline Maynard
US PIRG, the advocacy group that has been studying the decline in driving, sent us a copy of their latest study. It looks at the role that universities are playing in creating more-walkable communities, and reducing their dependence on automobiles.
“Americans aged 16 to 34 years of age reduced their annual driving miles by 23 percent per person between 2001 and 2009, according to research based on the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration that is included in the study.”
Granted, the numbers are a little old (2009 was five years ago, believe it or not) but that’s a pretty stunning figure. It’s the millennial generation that car companies are expecting to fill in behind the baby boomers in car purchases. And if millennials are driving less, it’s less likely that they’ll be interested in car ownership, or at least at the rate that their parents owned cars.
The report itself is worth a read. It looks at how universities are providing a wider range of transportation choices. These include buses, biking, various types of vehicle-sharing such as Zipcar, and apps that make it easier to navigate the options.
One of the benefits is that universities don’t have to invest in increasingly expensive parking facilities. In fact, a number of universities are finding ways to keep students from bringing cars to campus at all. Continue reading
More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.
By Micheline Maynard
Back on New Year’s Day (a mere month and three days ago), we asked our Curbing Cars audience to tell us how you planned to get around in 2014. We got a terrific response and now we’re sharing the results with you.
We’re ambulatory. Most of us still use cars, but not as much as we use other types of transportation in the mix of the ways we get places. The number one way Curbing Cars readers get around is on two feet. Almost 80 percent of respondents say they get around most frequently by walking. That was followed by public transportation, used by 69.7 percent; cars, used by 58.1 percent and other modes of transportation, which included running, Zipcars or car sharing programs, and taxis.
Several people told us that they use of a mix of transportation in a single day. “I walk to work every day, bus in bad weather, bike for some errands in spring/summer/fall. use my car mainly for weekend shopping and for getting out of town,” replied one survey participant.
In fact, I’m doing more walking this winter in Phoenix, where I’m a Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. I walk to school every day from my home downtown, and I’ve walked to the farmer’s market, the movies, to drinks and dinner, and to the Phoenix Opera in the month since I’ve been here. Even though I walked frequently in Ann Arbor, I am doing even more daily walking here. (And of course, the weather is much better…)
We’re pleased with our choices. People seem to be pretty satisfied with the mix of the ways they get places. About 60 percent of you said you were happy with your transportation mix. About 24 percent said they’d like to change it, and the rest said they would like to change it, but couldn’t for various reasons. Continue reading
Honolulu once abounded with streetcars. Now, public transportation is in strong demand across Hawaii. Photo: Honolulu Star-Bulletin Archives
In this two-part report, Curbing Cars intern Matt Varcak lifts us out of the weather doldrums and takes us to Hawaii, a surprising hot spot for public transportation.
By Matthew Varcak
If you visit the Hawaiian Islands, you will likely enjoy beautiful weather, pristine bodies of water, ancient grounds, delicious food and happy people. I was lucky enough to be one of these people this past summer when I visited the Island of Hawaii (The Big Island).
What struck me the most — beyond that — was how affordable and extensive the mass transit was. Hawaii once had streetcars, and it soon will get a light rail system. Meanwhile, the main way people get around is on buses.
At roughly 4,000 square miles, the Island of Hawaii is the state’s largest island, but it is the second-most populous island behind Oahu. Its major cities are separated by long stretches of winding highways wrapping around Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two of Hawaii’s volcanoes, which stand at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level.
With a general fare only costing $1, it soon became clear that it would be much more affordable to ride the Hele-On Bus, Hawaii County’s Mass Transit system, rather than drive myself everywhere. Continue reading
Anne’s 1998 Honda Civic. Will it stay or go?
By Micheline Maynard
We had some wonderful responses to our request for Advice For Anne. She’s a Curbing Cars reader in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who asked for help as she figured out what to do about her 1998 Honda Civic.
Anne has read your suggestions, and here’s her message for everyone.
“Thank you to all the wonderful comments from the Curbing Cars readers. They provided very helpful perspectives on going Car Free and very thought provoking ideas and experiences.
I am going to keep my car for now, but not use it except on rare occasions where a car is helpful – picking my friend up at the bus station, going to an appointment out of town, going to a friend’s house after the buses stop. Continue reading