Carfree Times

      Issue 25

16 April 2002   
Praça Rodrigues Lobo, Leiria, Portugal
Praça Rodrigues Lobo, Leiria, Portugal
February 2002

News at

Carfree Cities Distribution

Carfree Cities continues to be available from Barnes and Noble, which usually offers a 20% discount and prompt shipment. Your local bookstore should have no difficulty obtaining the book. If ordering from outside North America, please visit the How to Order page.

Carfree Institute

Organization of the International Institute for Carfree Development, Ltd., continues. We almost have our final 501(c)3 designation, which means we will soon be able to accept tax-deductible contributions in the USA. A web site is being developed, and we are laying plans for a bricks-and-mortar institute with teaching, research, and media outreach as its principal tasks. Thanks to Doug Salzmann for doing the heavy lifting.

AGS Conference

Thanks to an invitation from Dr. Andreas Schafer at MIT, J.H. Crawford was able to present the carfree concept at the Alliance for Global Sustainability Annual Meeting in San José, Costa Rica, in late March. The high point of this interesting conference was a stirring speech by Oscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica and the man who brokered a Central American peace agreement under difficult circumstances. (It's holding, and they gave him a Nobel for it.)

Interesting contacts were made in Costa Rica, which is working hard to become a sustainability showcase for the world. (The country abolished its army more than 50 years ago, and many social dividends have flowed from the savings.) Environmental protection is taken seriously here, as is quality of life. There are some interesting projects afoot in Costa Rica, some of which may lead to the construction of the first large-scale carfree districts in the New World. Details as they become available.

Fuel-Cell Tram Proposal

J.H. Crawford has proposed the development of fuel-cell-powered trams to reduce the cost of installing greatly improved public transport in cities. This is only a slight extension of the existing application of fuel cells to city buses.


With this issue, Carfree Times celebrates five years and 25 issues of carfreedom. Please join us in being carfree, if only for a day!  


    The only real solution is to have people move by public transport rather than by individual automobile. Some propose high user charges in order to restrict automobile use: Tolls, vehicle registration fees, gasoline taxes, or varying road charges according to type of road and hour of the day. I have objections to such schemes: Charges never adequately cover the immense costs society pays in terms of road space real estate value; noise and air pollution; road construction and maintenance; policing; roads as obstacles to pedestrian life and danger sources for children. Road user charges may create a situation where a few upper income drivers have the street network all to themselves.

Enrique Peñalosa, Former mayor of Bogotá
"Urban Transport and Urban Development: A Different Model"
The Center for Latin American Studies, U.C. Berkeley
8 April 2002

Be sure to read the entire article - it's brilliant.

Bush & Co. Retire Oil Slick Award

Bush & Co. have retired the Oil Slick award. They've done more than any group in history to destroy our planet, and it's taken them barely a year.

Blue Meanie Award

The first award of this new prize is to Fairfax City Manager Robert L. Sisson: "We want to send a message that it is not okay to play in the street."


World News Notes & Comment

Out in the Cold

During the drafting of Bush's "energy plan," Bush & Co's Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, met eight times with energy industry executives, but not once with environmental groups. Now we know why the administration had fought the release of the documents so strenuously. Even though the documents ultimately released had been heavily censored, the story was clearly told just by the list of who met with the Abraham... and who didn't.

Abraham even had the gall to claim that the document release "will further confirm" that the administration sought out a wide range of views, including that of environmentalists, thereby carrying spin-doctoring to Orwellian heights. For example, the DoE released a copy of an NRDC report entitled, "A Responsible Energy Policy for the 21st Century," which the agency claims was "carefully reviewed by DOE staff and resulted in nine of 19 NRDC recommendations (47 percent) getting included in the National Energy Plan." However, Sharon Buccino, an attorney for the NRDC, said the DoE's claim is "an outright lie."

"Energy secretary got an earful from industry,
met no environmentalists, documents show"
27 March 2002
"Environmentalists Given 48 Hours to Comment on Energy Plan "
12 April 2002
"Energy Task Force Courted Industry, Excluded Green Groups"
26 March 2002

Frankly, I'm shocked. Oh, not that the energy industry dictated terms to Cheney's task force - that had already been bought and paid for. No, what shocks me is that Abraham was so sloppy as not even to talk to at least one token environmentalist, so he could claim that all groups had been consulted. This is, however, is fully in keeping with the brazen attitude of Bush & Co., the weakness that will ultimately be their undoing.

Water in Your Boots

Melting glaciers could raise sea levels dramatically in this century. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated that glacier would cause a rise of between 1 and 23 cm in sea level by 2100. However, using recent data from North American glaciers, it is estimated that glacier melt could cause a rise of between 23 and 46 cm during the same period.

When combined with other factors, such as ocean warming, sea levels could rise as much as 89 cm (about three feet), which would be expected to cause the average shoreline to retreat by 100 meters.

Maybe not a good time to buy that house on the beach.

More Water in Your Boots

The partial collapse of Antarctic ice sheets 14,200 years ago caused a large, sudden rise in sea level, an event that current global warming might cause to recur. At the end of the ice age, sea level rose 70 feet in just a few hundred years. The rise was triggered when two huge ice sheets became unstable and melted rapidly, causing the sudden rise. During a single year of this event, the rise was greater than the sea level rise of the last 100 years.

Today, it is feared that the West Antarctic ice sheet is unstable. If it collapses, sea level would rise nearly 20 feet. The larger but more stable East Antarctic ice sheet would raise sea level by 200 feet, should it ever melt.

Geoscientist Peter Clark said, "We can't say at this point whether the recent breakup of part of an ice shelf in Antarctica has any relevance to this type of huge meltwater event that originated from Antarctica thousands of years ago. We don't know yet how important these ice shelves are to stabilizing the larger ice sheets of the continent." However, the spike in sea level occurred during a period of increasing temperature, rising sea level, and higher CO2 levels, not unlike what is occurring today.

"Antarctica Key To Sudden Sea Level Rise in The Past"
2 April 2002
as originally reported in
"Ice Sheet Collapse and Sea Level Change"
1 April 2002

Europe Will Ratify Kyoto Accord

Finally, some good news. EU environment ministers today accepted the EC's proposed ratification of the Kyoto accords. If most other nations also ratify the accord (the USA will not), it may still have enough support to come into force at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

Romano Prodi, EC President, said, "Today is an historical moment for European efforts to combat climate change. Once again, the EU is exercising leadership in addressing this global environmental problem, as we have done in Bonn and Marrakech last year. We can only tackle climate change effectively through a multilateral process. I urge our partners both in the developed and in the developing countries to also ratify the Kyoto Protocol soon."

The EU continues its call for the USA to take steps to limit climate change. Although the Clinton administration signed the accord, Bush & Co. have since repudiated it.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, Bush & Co. are preparing to burn more coal, the worst fuel there is from the standpoint of greenhouse gas (and other) emissions. Sic transit gloria.

Now, Where Did I Put All That Oil?

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that world energy demand will increase by 60% during between 1999 and 2020. Increased energy consumption will increase annual CO2 emissions by some 3.8 billion metric tons, a roughly proportional increase. Most of the growth is expected to occur in developing countries in Asia and Latin America, but the US transport sector is also expected to grow sharply. Oil is projected to continue to account for some 40% of global energy consumption.

The EIA predicts that natural gas usage will nearly double over the next two decades, increasing its share from 23% to 28%. Nuclear power generation will stabilize, with some increases in the developing nations. Many US nuclear power plants are receiving license extensions that will permit them to operate for decades longer than expected, so only a very small reduction in US nuclear capacity is anticipated.

The EIA's vision has renewable sources actually declining slightly in total market share even while total capacity increases by 53%, mainly in the form of mega-hydro projects such as China's 18,200 MW Three Gorges Dam.

The demand for oil arises mainly from the transportation sector. The report says, "transportation energy use is expected to continue robust growth over the next two decades, especially in the developing world, where relatively immature transportation infrastructures are expected to grow rapidly as national and regional economies expand."

Notwithstanding huge increases in consumption, the EIA thinks that fossil fuel prices will remain low, dampening interest in renewable sources. The price of oil is not expected to rise above current levels.

"Report: Oil Will Dominate Growing Energy Demand"
28 March 2002
The full report is available at
International Energy Outlook 2002.

This all assumes that nothing is done to limit (let alone reduce!) CO2 emissions. However, the work of M. King Hubbert makes it seem very unlikely that oil production will ever increase much beyond current levels.

Page 25 of the report states, "Because history has shown that only about one-fourth of the oil estimated to be 'ultimately recoverable' has actually been produced, rough calculations would place the likely peak in worldwide conventional oil production at some point beyond 2020." This seems like very dangerous thinking, and even by their logic, it's probably not very far beyond 2020.

The report predicts a breathtaking further 60% increase in US consumption of oil, primarily for transportation. This at the same time that consumption in Western Europe is projected to remain essentially static.

And then the big scare: "The reference case projects that about two-thirds of the increase in petroleum demand over the next two decades will be met by an increase in production by members of OPEC rather than by non-OPEC suppliers." The remaining one-third would have to come from non-OPEC sources, which are now poised to diminish, not increase.

The EIA claims 1105 billion barrels of proven reserves, 730 of "reserve growth," and 939 of "undiscovered." Now, there is rough agreement between the EIA school and the Hubbert school as far as proven reserves. The Hubbert people do not think that large reserves remain to be discovered. There's a lot of accounting trickery with "reserve growth," which we won't even get into.

If the Hubbert folks are right, we're pretty close to peak world oil production today. Their data shows most oil-producing nations already past the peak of production (the USA by 30 years). While their data show Saudi Arabia, the biggest producer, still about 20 years from peak production, they think it most unlikely that global production can be significantly increased from today's levels. The Hubbert camp forecasts a world peak only about five years from now (and it might already have passed, in 2000). The next few years should bring some very interesting clarity on this.

An Oilman's View

Shell's Dr. Yoram Shoham says that today's total world energy consumption is about 110 million barrels of oil-equivalent per day (MBDOE). He expects this to rise to 150 MBDOE by 2010. At the same time, production from existing sources is expected to fall to 80 MBDOE by 2010, leaving a shortfall of 70 MBDOE that must be made up by new sources during the next eight years. He does not foresee any difficulty in achieving this.

Dr. Yoram Shoham
Vice President for External Relations,
Technical Applications & Research
Shell International, Houston
addressing the AGS meeting in
San José, Costa Rica
21 March 2002.

Frankly, I can't imagine how we are going to develop new sources of energy on this scale in eight years. The amount of new energy production required is 7/8ths of the world's total petroleum consumption today. Put another way, it's 9 MBDOE of new energy every year for the next eight years. Is this scenario even remotely possible, or is it time to pull our heads out of the sand?

On a Very Slightly More Encouraging Note...

UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson said, "The time for action is now." He made the comment in response to figures showing a small a increase CO2 emissions over the past two years. Significant reductions had been made during the 1990s, according to data published in "Energy Trends." The culprits? Increased coal consumption by electric utilities coupled with colder winter weather.

Wilson continued, "All sectors of the economy need to contribute to more sustainable use of energy. We need greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy. The government has now created an economic and legislative environment in which the renewables industry can flourish." The UK government has made modest commitments to help spur development and installation of renewable sources.

The Hills Are Alive... With the Sound of Trucks

A disastrous fire closed the Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy in March 1999. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Chamonix Valley residents noticed that 2000 heavy trucks a day had disappeared from the tunnel approaches. They noticed the return of the butterflies. They noticed that their children grew healthier. They noticed that white snow replaced the dull gray coating in the lower valley. The noticed that the smog was gone, and along with it, the stink. In short, life got a lot better. Traffic on the other Alpine crossings increased, however.

There has been an unusual series of Alpine tunnel disasters that have made it extraordinarily difficult for truckers to get from Italy to Western Europe. The reopening of the Mont Blanc tunnel has been repeatedly delayed by safety concerns and has led to friction between French and Italian transport authorities. All of this has set the stage for what may be a seminal conflict between the rights of truckers to haul their loads and the rights of residents to a reasonable quality of life. The conflict has actually been brewing for years, as Switzerland resisted the increasing truck traffic crossing between Italy and the rest of the EU. Another conflict is brewing, between residents living near other crossings and those in Chamonix - if Chamonix says "non" to the trucks, that will increase the burden on those living near other tunnels.

While Switzerland has committed billions to improving the flow of goods across the Alps (by rail, of course), the EU has resisted the large investments needed. However, EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio recently supported efforts to move freight off the roads and onto trains, and ground will soon be broken for an $11 billion trans-Alpine rail freight link.

"Alpine Gridlock "
20 February 2002

This may be shaping up to be the mother of all transport conflicts.

Red Ken Hits 'em in Their Wallets

London Mayor Ken Livingstone plans to charge motorists entering the eight-mile-wide central London zone between 07:00 and 18:30 about US$7 a day for the privilege. Some 40,000 vehicles enter central London each hour, and officials hope the fee will reduce this by 15%. Critics want better public transport first, less traffic second (nobody seems to be saying "never"). Livingstone said that parts of the city had become "unlivable" as a result of pollution, congestion, and noise. The average speed of traffic in London: 9.9 MPH. The approach has also been adopted in Singapore, Melbourne, and Oslo. The measure is slated to become effective on 17 February 2003. All the funds will be used to improve public transport.

London drivers to pay UK's first congestion tax
Planet Ark
28 February 2002
"Motorists to pay London toll"
26 February 2002

Go, Ken, go! Notice that this rather stiff charge is only expected to cut traffic by 15%. People really want to drive. If you'd used British public transport recently, you'd understand why. (Privatization, don't you know?)

Out of Bounds!

Daniel and Becky Conway liked to play basketball in the street, like many other kids around the world. Their game is over now. Fairfax City Council ruled that playing shall not be allowed in public streets. Period. The police are charged with stopping it. Said City Manager Robert L. Sisson, "We want to send a message that it is not okay to play in the street."

Post writer Peter Whoriskey wrote it up like this: "And so it goes. In communities across the country, street games that just a generation ago were a fixture of childhood are fading under rising fear about traffic, the proliferation of homeowners association rules, and neighbors who simply dislike the noise and hubbub."

Gone are the "children at play signs" that once warned where street games were likely to be in progress. Virginia traffic engineer Hadi Quaiyum said, "Our experience is that the signs provide a false sense of security - that it is okay to play on the street. The street should be strictly for cars." Dan Conway, father of Daniel and Becky, said, "It's truly a different world from the one I grew up in. These kids just don't have as much fun. It's a different world, and I rue it."

Me, too.

Feature Article

Zermatt, Switzerland: Carfree Town in the Alps

By Petr Kurfurst


A main street in Zermatt
May 1998

The town of Zermatt has approximately 5500 permanent residents (16,000 including tourists) and lies at an altitude of 1620 meters in the Swiss canton of Visp. It is an internationally-known ski resort and starting point for climbing the Matterhorn. The town‘s population swells to 30,000 in the peak winter season. Zermatt is a living example of a town that abandoned efforts to build enough roads to accommodate the projected volume of car traffic. More than thirty years ago, Zermatt opted for the other solution - it built an effective system of public transport and reserved its streets for pedestrians and cyclists.

The town has been closed to cars since 1966. The reasons were technical as well as safety-related and aesthetic. In the first place, the town did not have adequate road infrastructure to carry the load of incoming traffic. Second, the local politicians believed that traffic growth would have terrible negative effects on street life and the safety of pedestrians, and they feared that traffic would degrade the town's friendly, comfortable atmosphere.

Electric taxis in Zermatt
May 1998

The present local transportation act has been in force since 1990. It begins with these words:

This regulation aims to ensure the safety of pedestrians and vehicles, namely by limiting car traffic to a minimum level. Zermatt is a spa resort for pedestrians and the use of streets and roads is reserved primarily for them.
The regulation sets conditions for individual modes of transport and expressly forbids cars from entering the town. No special permit is needed for pushcarts, sleighs, or bicycles, and they take priority over motorcars. The town grants special permits for the use of motorcars (only small, slow electric vehicles are allowed) in the town. Permits are granted to taxis and hotel owners (for electric cars owned by the hotels and used to shuttle their guests between the railway station or parking place in the neighboring town and the hotels). Hotels are only granted permits if they meet the following criteria: minimum 31 beds, minimum 4000 guest-nights a year, and a parking space for the car within the property. A permit to transport freight on a lorry is only granted when no other possible means to transport the load exists. All permits have limited time validity and expire whenever conditions change on the part of the vehicle owner. Every motor vehicle that enters the town must carry a visible sticker. The maximum speed limit within the town is 20 km/hr. Parking on public streets is prohibited.

The town‘s inhabitants own 2040 normal passenger cars, which are parked in privately owned garages at the edge of the town, where the incoming road ends. The canton road ends at Taesch, where visitors must leave their cars in one of the 1300 garage spaces or 1800 surface parking spaces near the train station. The road between Taesch and Zermatt is only accessible to Zermatt residents and entrepreneurs. There is frequent train service between Taesch and Zermatt.

Public transport in Zermatt is provided by eight electric buses that run on two circular lines. Line 1 (Bergbahnen) is 4.5 km long and has operated since 1988. It connects the town‘s center with the lower terminuses of four cable/cog railways, operating every 15 minutes from 0700 to 1830. Line 2 (Winkelmatten) is 5 km long and has operated since 1991, serving the outskirts of the town every 40 minutes from 0700 to 1900. The fare for Line 1 is SwFr 2.50 and for Line 2 is SwFr 3.20. [A US$ is worth about 1.67 SwFr. Ed.] Tickets are sold for individual rides, for 15 rides (for price of 10), weekly passes for visitors, and six-months and one-year passes for residents. Both lines also accept ski-lift passes as tickets during the winter season.

Line 1 is run with five low-floor 50-seat buses, Line 2 with three 27-seat vehicles. The batteries in the larger buses are recharged once a day, the shorter ones twice a day. The town, unfortunately, has no data available on the performance of the public transport system or its modal share, but the town says that, during the winter, all the buses are full.

Freight is transported within the town by hand carts, horse-drawn carts, hand-towed electric carts, and small electric lorries (trucks) that require a special permit. There is a small utility area at the northern edge of the town where freight is transshipped between road vehicles and electric urban vehicles.

Zermatt is by no means the only carfree alpine town in Switzerland. Bettmeralp, Riederalp, Saas-Fee, Rigi, Stoos, and Wengen also prohibit private cars from entering. Most of them are overrun by winter sports enthusiasts, and their cars simply could not be tolerated in the landscape. The towns operate Internet sites which advise tourists to come by train. If they must come by car, then they should leave their cars in the bottom of the valley and take public transport for the rest of the journey. There are no roads coming to Bettmeralp, Riederalp, Stoos, or Wengen, only cable railways.

Saas-Fee (1700 inhabitants) has a policy similar to that of Zermatt - its residents and guests park their cars on the edge of the town, and it has three bus lines.

    Petr Kurfurst

    Petr Kurfurst is a freelance translator and interpreter for Czech environment and transport NGOs and Car Busters local outreach coordinator. Between 1998 and 2001, he ran a program for transfer of foreign transport experience and research for Centre for Transport and Energy, a Prague-based NGO. He authored brochures on "How motorways (do not) help regional development" and "Transportation Demand Management and Traffic Generation." He gave several public lectures on these topics and co-organized an international seminar for urban planners on TDM. He is the moving force behind the Czech version of Car Busters Magazine.


Der offizielle Webserver der Gemeinde Zermatt
Written consultations with the township of Zermatt (Mr. Marcel Kronig)
Crawford, J.H., 2000. Carfree Cities (Utrecht: International Books)

I've twice had the pleasure of visiting Zermatt briefly. It's a lovely town, and the train ride up from Brig is awe-inspiring. I'd love to be able to spend some time there. Ed.

Feature Article

An Introduction to VTPI's Online TDM Encyclopedia

By Todd Litman

The Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI) is an independent research organization dedicated to developing innovative solutions to transportation problems. It was founded in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1995. The VTPI web site has numerous information resources addressing a wide range of transport planning and policy issues. Foremost among the offerings is its TDM Encyclopedia.

What Is TDM?

Transportation Demand Management (TDM) is a general term for a wide variety of strategies that result in more efficient use of existing transportation resources. TDM addresses many of the transportation problems facing society, some of which are virtually insoluble without TDM approaches.

Most individual TDM strategies have modest impacts, usually affecting just a few percent of total travel activity in an area, with the result that they are often dismissed as unimportant. But most TDM strategies provide multiple benefits, and the impacts are cumulative and synergistic. As a result, a TDM program that includes a variety of complementary strategies is often the most cost-effective transportation investment.

For example, a TDM program may not be considered the most cost effective way to reduce traffic congestion, address parking problems, improve air quality, reducing crash risk, or improve access for non-drivers. Various other solutions are often considered more effective for addressing individual problems, but a TDM program can address all of these problems simultaneously, and is often the most cost-effective overall approach.

Online TDM Encyclopedia - A Resource For TDM Planning

The VTPI Online TDM Encyclopedia is a unique service to planners and community members seeking to identify, plan, implement and evaluate TDM options. It provides a full range of TDM strategies in an easy-to-use format and is available free at the VTPI web site.

The Encyclopedia has detailed information on dozens of TDM strategies, plus sections on TDM program planning and evaluation. It contains more than 100 chapters, more than one thousand pages of text, and thousands of links to on-line references and resources. This information is regularly expanded and updated.

The following information is provided on each TDM strategy:

  • A description
  • How the strategy can be implemented
  • Travel impacts
  • Benefits and costs
  • Equity impacts
  • Applications (where it is most appropriate)
  • Stakeholders
  • Barriers to implementation
  • Best practices
  • Case studies and examples
  • Information resources
Each strategy is rated according to its ability to achieve various transportation improvements (congestion reduction, road safety, consumer choice, environmental protection, etc.), its travel impacts, equity impacts, and appropriateness in various geographic and organizational situations. These ratings help users decide which strategies are most suitable in a particular situation.

The Encyclopedia also contains technical information on evaluation methods, transportation price elasticities, land use impacts on travel behavior, economic impacts, equity analysis, safety impacts, and sustainable transportation issues.

Major Topics in the TDM Encyclopedia Index

  • Overview
  • Solutions to Specific Problems
  • Improved Transport Options
  • Incentives To Use Alternative Modes
  • Parking and Land Use Management
  • Policy And Institutional Reforms
  • TDM Programs and Program Support
  • TDM Planning and Evaluation
  • Reference Information

    VTPI also provides consulting services.
    Contact information is on the VTPI web site.

I have found myself referring more and more requests for information to the TDM Encyclopedia resource, which is why I asked Mr. Litman for this brief introduction. It's a great resource. Ed.

Department of Further Amplification

Mr. Tsourlakis has provided this follow-up to the discussions in two recent Feature Articles, one in Issue 23 (Vlastos) and the second in Issue 24 (Tsourlakis, with a reply from Vlastos). Ed.

A Reply to Mr. Vlastos's Comments in Issue 24

Readers of Carfree Times, having followed the viewpoints expressed in the two recent articles, are now in a position to understand the widespread skepticism of the Greek people regarding the administration's intentions.

Regarding the attitudes of citizens, it must be pointed out that these attitudes are not given a priori but shaped by statements and information offered by the administration. We must always bear in mind that ordinary citizens are not traffic engineers. It is the duty of academics and politicians to correctly inform the public regarding traffic issues, especially if we rely on social pressure to improve the current situation. Ordinary citizens are actually the victims of irresponsible decisions, and should not be blamed when bad decisions are taken by the authorities. Rather, those who decide to turn the last open spaces in the city center into underground garages, to build fences against pedestrians, or to push motorcycles onto sidewalks and into pedestrian areas, should be blamed instead.

It should be noted that metro is certainly a positive project, in that it at least does not promote car traffic. But what is happening to the space freed up by it on the surface? Will it be used as pedestrian space or for more car traffic. I am afraid that the latter is the more likely outcome in Athens.

The case of Athens deserves close attention, because it offers some lessons as to what should be avoided when attempting to follow a sustainability paradigm. Athens, unlike most American and many European cities, has largely escaped sprawl, with most of the population living in a rather densely populated areas ideal for public transport service. Yet walking conditions are pitiful, and the oppression of pedestrians is intense.

Two such lessons are clear from this discussion. First, the detrimental effects of promoting motorcycles are perhaps even worse than promoting cars. And second, fine words and pleasant festivities count for little but can cover much cynical action when politicians act irresponsibly. It is useful to keep these points in mind when designing carfree days.

K. Tsourlakis


Book Reviews

Passenger Terminals and Trains

John A. Droege

Kalmbach Publishing Co., Facsimile edition, 1969
First published 1916
by McGraw-Hill

410 pages
Many drawings and illustrations,
including station track layouts
Out of print; $19.00 - $65.00 used

This book isn't for everyone. In fact, it's not even for very many, but for those who need it, it's a treasure. The book is useful for two very different purposes:

  • As a guide in thinking about rail passenger terminal design and operation, although the replacement of steam with diesel and electric locomotives has radically simplified the design requirements.
  • As a social history of railroad operations and community relations at the high-water mark of US passenger railroads. The book was completed just as the grandest passenger terminals were being finished, such as New York's Grand Central and Penn Stations and Washington's Union Station. Railroads expected passenger travel to continue its rapid expansion, but this was not to be. The book was also written at the height of the City Beautiful movement, which expressed itself partially in the construction of palatial rail terminals.
I have to say that I found it a fascinating book notwithstanding its limitations. It provides a good view of passenger operations and how the required levels of service were provided. There are also interesting, and probably still relevant, discussions of operating safety. At the time, US railroads had poor safety records compared to European railroads, a condition that probably still applies today. The author seemed to think that the problem lay with the rather undisciplined nature of US operating personnel; he seemed to find the militaristic style of German rail operations to be nearly ideal. Whatever the case may be, it seems clear that safety on the German railroads was very good.

Considerable attention is devoted to both the architectural and operational design of various terminals, and floor plans and photographs of many prominent US terminals are included. Some attention is also paid to European terminals of the day. There is a quite interesting and still somewhat relevant discussion of electrification, which was just coming into use on main-line railroads.

The book considers baggage handling, signaling, and scheduling. It also delves into such arcana as delousing sleeping cars, à la carte vs. table d'hôte dining car service, train indicators, ferry terminal operations, and so forth. It is, in short, a remarkably thorough treatment of its complex subject and quite fascinating on many levels. For a book of its kind, it's also quite well written.

Reviewed by J.H. Crawford



Events are now listed on their own page.

Hot New Links

The links below will open in a new browser window:

Urban Transport and Urban Development: A Different Model by Enrique Peñalosa - a must-read article.

Nikon Salingaros interviews Léon Krier "The Future Of Cities: The Absurdity of Modernism" (in the wake of the September 11th attacks).

Rebuilding Manhattan Without Skyscrapers in Katarxis.

Maul of America by James Howard Kunstler.

UN Carfree Days.

UN Carfree Days - The Fremantle Effort.

"SUVs Should Be Driven Into a Truck Lane: Big guys on the right, little guys on the left. It has a nice ring, doesn't it?" in the Los Angeles Times(!)

The Man Who Loved Bicycles The Memoirs of an Autophobe.

The Impact of Transport Policy on Children’s Development Mayer Hillman, Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute, London, UK

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