14 votes

Your two-day shipping is causing potholes

23 comments

  1. [23]
    daedalus
    Link
    The heavier the vehicle, the more damage done to the road on an exponential scale. The average truck does over 400 times the damage to the road as the average car. 99% of road wear is caused by...

    The heavier the vehicle, the more damage done to the road on an exponential scale. The average truck does over 400 times the damage to the road as the average car. 99% of road wear is caused by large trucks, but they only pay for 35% for tolls, causing the average US taxpayer to be subsiding private trucking companies.

    The author author offers train shipping as a much better alternative, solving most of the physical problems trucks have, as well as having a fourth of the greenhouse emissions. To truly combat climate change, I think we need to challenge rampant overconsumption and the need to have anything your heart desires in two days or less. But we will always need some sort of shipping infrastructure, and trains are vastly superior to trucks in almost every way.

    9 votes
    1. [16]
      parsley
      Link Parent
      Love trains, but they scale very poorly and trucks have a much easier time switching routes. I don't see them taking over smaller shipping until they solve industrial truck transportation. I would...

      trains are vastly superior to trucks in almost every way

      Love trains, but they scale very poorly and trucks have a much easier time switching routes. I don't see them taking over smaller shipping until they solve industrial truck transportation.

      I would guess it is also much easier to externalize infrastructure costs using up common roads than dedicated railways.

      4 votes
      1. [15]
        Thra11
        Link Parent
        The trucks which are the subject of this video aren't doing smaller shipping. They're ferrying goods between regional warehouses ready for delivery vans to do the small-scale last mile delivery...

        Love trains, but they scale very poorly and trucks have a much easier time switching routes. I don't see them taking over smaller shipping until they solve industrial truck transportation.

        The trucks which are the subject of this video aren't doing smaller shipping. They're ferrying goods between regional warehouses ready for delivery vans to do the small-scale last mile delivery the following day. Also, railways scale up much better than road infrastructure if you invest the same space and money in them.

        I would guess it is also much easier to externalize infrastructure costs using up common roads than dedicated railways.

        This is just a problem with how the US has implemented (or failed to implement) railways. If rail infrastructure was the responsibility of state and federal government in the same way that roads are in the US, then they'd have a much better network. The author has another video on why the US's privatized rail network doesn't work, and continues degrading over time.

        9 votes
        1. [12]
          vord
          Link Parent
          "Thing we spend virtually no money on doesn't work compared to thing we spend billions on" -Everyone criticizing non-car transport in America. Maybe Americans wouldn't hate public transport so...

          "Thing we spend virtually no money on doesn't work compared to thing we spend billions on" -Everyone criticizing non-car transport in America.

          Maybe Americans wouldn't hate public transport so much if we funded it properly. I'd certainly take the bus more if it ran more than once an hour and was free at point of use.

          Everyone talks up high-speed transport between localish cities. How about some high-speed cross-continent rail? Would be a lot greener than fleets of jets.

          The transcontinental railroad was built inside of 5 years in the 1860s. How is it considered so impossible to do again with 160 years of technological progress?

          4 votes
          1. [6]
            Loire
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            It depends on the city and local culture. We've had this conversation elsewhere but I live in a city with a well-funded transit system, trains every 5-10 minutes peak hours, 15-20 off hours, buses...

            Maybe Americans wouldn't hate public transport so much if we funded it properly

            It depends on the city and local culture. We've had this conversation elsewhere but I live in a city with a well-funded transit system, trains every 5-10 minutes peak hours, 15-20 off hours, buses generally on a 15-20 minute arrival scheme, and some new fangled bus on demand system I don't fully understand. We aren't New York but you can get anywhere you want to go in the city with a at most 1 bus+one train+1 bus commute.

            Our citizens still refuse to take it. They hate transit for inexplicable reasons. This is car country.

            We spend billions a year on this transit system and its expansion. It's the largest single chunk of my property taxes. Spending more on it has not made our local citizens like it more.

            I'm not saying this is universal, but the idea that spending more money on it will make for more converts is not wholly correct.

            10 votes
            1. Thra11
              Link Parent
              I think part of the problem is that it takes orders of magnitude more money and effort to fix a problem than it does to design something the right way from the beginning. For example, a city which...

              I think part of the problem is that it takes orders of magnitude more money and effort to fix a problem than it does to design something the right way from the beginning. For example, a city which was designed for cars will tend to be much more spread out than one which was originally designed for a combination of public transit, bikes, and walking. You can retrofit a decent public transit network to your car city, but you won't necessarily end up with the same situation as the city that was designed with public transit in the first place.

              Suppose you want to leave your home in the suburbs, visit 3 different shops, then go back home...

              Public transit city: You get the bus or train into the city centre. All 3 shops are within reasonable walking distance of the train/bus station, and it's pleasant to do so. You get a bus/train back home. Assuming services every 10 minutes, you spend a maximum of 20 minutes waiting for the bus/train.

              Car city with public transit added as an afterthought: The suburbs are further out, so you need to travel further to get into town. Because the suburbs are more spread out, you probably either need to walk further to get to the bus/train stop, or even need to get a connecting bus. After visiting your first shop in the city centre, you need to get public transit again, because the second shop is in a mall on the outskirts. Same again for your 3rd shop. Also, you're now on the wrong side of town, so your journey home requires you to change at the central station. Assuming same frequency of services, in addition to the extra distance travelled, you spend up to 70 minutes waiting for the bus/train.

              6 votes
            2. [3]
              Rez
              Link Parent
              Part of the issue is that Americans basically see public transit as being for the poor. You'd have to get people while they're young. Teach high schoolers and the like, especially in the...

              Part of the issue is that Americans basically see public transit as being for the poor. You'd have to get people while they're young. Teach high schoolers and the like, especially in the high-income areas. Get them exposed to the experience at least once. Otherwise if you've been driving a car for 20 years and have never used public transport, the idea of having to catch one bus to catch another bus can be daunting in terms of the unknowns, in that you have to learn a lot of routes, timing, and then sit around waiting with the possibility of missing your connection to arrive on time to somewhere you actually want to be - when you could just get in your car and go and have much less worry.

              2 votes
              1. pallas
                (edited )
                Link Parent
                There is certainly that problematic cultural perception. I know Americans who insist that taking a car is the best way to get between Heathrow and central London, which makes very little sense...

                Part of the issue is that Americans basically see public transit as being for the poor. You'd have to get people while they're young. Teach high schoolers and the like, especially in the high-income areas

                There is certainly that problematic cultural perception. I know Americans who insist that taking a car is the best way to get between Heathrow and central London, which makes very little sense except in very unusual circumstances. It is less comfortable than the more expensive trains, is slower, and is much less reliable, in addition to being more expensive.

                But unfortunately, outside of perhaps a few cities on the East Coast, I think this perception has also influenced system design and implementation, such that public transport in many parts of the US is for the poor, or, more specifically, is primarily for people who are too poor to be able to afford a car.

                This can change the priorities of a system considerably, especially from certain political perspectives that one might describe as paternalistic conservative progressivism. You're not competing with driving. You're providing transport to people who likely have no other option, in some cases so that they can pull themselves by their bootstraps out of their unfortunate circumstances, through suffering and hard work, and buy a car. Reliability and speed are not are not particularly important. Consistent dedicated bus lanes, for example, become rather pointless: they're expensive and hinder car traffic, and all they do is help make buses faster and more consistent than an alternative, driving, that your target customers don't have; similarly train speed and reliability isn't very important. Accurate real-time information is not a priority, just having transport eventually get there. High frequency on the most potentially needed routes is less important than having a broad network of low frequency routes; your target customers have no choice but to work around your schedules, but have nothing if you don't serve an area. People who can afford not to are not going to use public transport, so it's best to put stops and stations in areas you see as impoverished: besides, affluent communities probably don't want you there (except for planning regulation scams), or if they're really urbanites, can be given bikes instead (I can recall situation where activists pointed out that a specific city's history of racism and segregation could be surprisingly precisely seen in the locations of its fixed-station rental bikes). Payment options that are convenient for people with high levels of access to technology and conventional banking systems (eg, credit card and device contactless, etc) are less important than ensuring that people without access to conventional banking (a separate problem in the US...) are always able to pay, and that cut-rate or free options are available. Transport doesn't need to be pleasant, it just needs to have a basic level of safety: keeping people from sleeping on benches is more important than having seating and shelter, and hiring a collection of brutish gangs like the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (I mean this literally) to police the system is fine.

                I can't say with certainty the extent to which these choices are explicitly made by US systems, but I have certainly heard them implied by officials and politicians. I can recall a mayoral debate, for example, where the candidates were asked how often they had taken public transport in the city, and essentially all of them answered that of course, they had taken it, and supported it, but that in their jobs, with their need to go to so many places reliably and quickly, they really had no option but to drive; taking public transport would be an unreasonable burden on their time. Public transport in European cities, on the other hand, is quite often directly competing with driving. High-speed trains in Europe are often competing with flying, and in that competition, they aren't competing on price. Both are perfectly possible, if you have a serious system that makes the choices needed to compete. With reliable, sufficient-frequency service, good real-time information, and dedicated, clear routes, you can offer something that's consistently the more efficient choice than driving: if for example you have trains coming exactly every 5 minutes, for a trip will take exactly 45 minutes, and driving will take somewhere between 40 and 90 minutes, then driving seems enormously risky or inefficient by comparison. If you have a well-maintained and reliable high-speed train, then you can cut pre/post-trip times so much by comparison to planes, and offer so much smoother and more comfortable a ride than a plane or car, that you can sell yourself as both the most comfortable and most efficient option.

                But public transport in the US usually doesn't do any of this. It just doesn't feel serious. It doesn't try to get you somewhere efficiently, comfortably, and reliably. It either just tries to get you there, half-heartedly and eventually, assuming you have no alternative, or, in the case of Amtrak, at least outside of Acela, perhaps tries to market it to you as the novel experience of taking a train (I was once on a focus group for Amtrak where I think they tried to get a wide cross-section of casual occasional users and instead got pretty much only serious regulars; the gap in perspective was almost comical). This isn't something that just educating high school students on how to use public transport will help over the short term, because even when you know how to use it, it's worse than driving in almost every way but cost, so, unless you were taking it for stubborn and privileged ideological or personal reasons, like me, why would you? If you need to get places reliably, you'll need a car anyway, or be willing and able to afford to call an Uber/Lyft/taxi whenever your train or bus doesn't show up, in addition to having enough experience or knowledge of information sources to know whether it's actually going to show up in a reasonable amount of time or at all, which can sometimes be quite hard (Amtrak station staff, for example, in marked contrast to their excellent conductors, seem to be either oblivious or shamelessly dishonest). And if they're in high-income areas, it's quite likely that they have worse, or no, public transport options, because it isn't meant for them.

                I don't really know what the solution is, unfortunately: to be honest, I gave up caring much about public transport in the US, or local politics in the US in general, a few years ago, after finding it enormously disheartening.

                3 votes
              2. j3n
                Link Parent
                Part of the problem is that public transit is for the poor. At least in California, I've never had a positive public transit experience. Public transit vehicles are always utilitarian, ugly and...

                Part of the problem is that public transit is for the poor. At least in California, I've never had a positive public transit experience. Public transit vehicles are always utilitarian, ugly and uncomfortable at best. Scheduling is never convenient. Unless I'm going somewhere like San Francisco, where I don't actually feel safe parking my car for extended periods, driving is 100% better in every way except for the environment.

                1 vote
            3. DrStone
              Link Parent
              Bingo. I've commented about this on Tildes twice before, about how even fantastic well-funded public transport still kinda sucks and how in those same situations, despite higher costs, people...

              the idea that spending more money on it will make for more converts is not wholly correct.

              Bingo.

              I've commented about this on Tildes twice before, about how even fantastic well-funded public transport still kinda sucks and how in those same situations, despite higher costs, people still choose cars if they can.

              1 vote
          2. [5]
            cfabbro
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            Safety standards and working conditions have improved dramatically since then, which slows things down and dramatically increases costs. Safety and working conditions weren't much of a concern in...

            The transcontinental railroad was built inside of 5 years in the 1860s. How is it considered so impossible to do again with 160 years of technological progress?

            Safety standards and working conditions have improved dramatically since then, which slows things down and dramatically increases costs. Safety and working conditions weren't much of a concern in the 1800s though, especially when it came to immigrant workers. See: Building the Transcontinental Railroad: How 20,000 Chinese Immigrants Made It Happen

            6 votes
            1. skybrian
              Link Parent
              Also it's much harder to build when people are already living there. The eminent domain process is slow, especially when people fight it.

              Also it's much harder to build when people are already living there. The eminent domain process is slow, especially when people fight it.

              3 votes
            2. [3]
              vord
              Link Parent
              Yea, but I'm fairly certain that 100 workers, safely operating machinery, can work a lot faster and safer than 1,000 near-slaves. It is a lack of will, not a lack of ability.

              Yea, but I'm fairly certain that 100 workers, safely operating machinery, can work a lot faster and safer than 1,000 near-slaves.

              It is a lack of will, not a lack of ability.

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                cfabbro
                Link Parent
                Physically, that's likely true. But it's not necessarily true overall, since as @skybrian mentioned above about eminent domain, delays these days are unfortunately caused by more than just the...

                Physically, that's likely true. But it's not necessarily true overall, since as @skybrian mentioned above about eminent domain, delays these days are unfortunately caused by more than just the labor aspects that I brought up. I suppose those potential issues could also be solved with enough "will" but that might require rather authoritarian behavior (ignoring/modifying current law and legal precedent) to accomplish.

                2 votes
                1. vord
                  Link Parent
                  Just like Congress! \rimshot

                  ignoring/modifying current law and legal precedent

                  Just like Congress! \rimshot

                  1 vote
        2. [2]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          I would be surprised if we even got freight going by rail to large retail stores. It doesn't seem to be a consideration in the US at all? You don't see new big box stores built on rail sidings,...

          I would be surprised if we even got freight going by rail to large retail stores. It doesn't seem to be a consideration in the US at all? You don't see new big box stores built on rail sidings, that I've noticed

          Does it happen in Europe? Anywhere?

          I think maybe someone who knew logistics could tell us when it's worth doing or why it's not a thing.

          1 vote
          1. pallas
            Link Parent
            If I recall correctly, Europe has much less freight travel by train than the US, and a much higher petcentage of truck-based freight, in part because most of its rail networks are focused on...

            If I recall correctly, Europe has much less freight travel by train than the US, and a much higher petcentage of truck-based freight, in part because most of its rail networks are focused on prioritizing passenger services, in many cases with rails exclusively for passenger use.

            By contrast, in the US, freight usually has priority and passenger trains share the same tracks as distinctly less important users; this is why regardless of Amtrak's timetables, their trains are often at the whim of whatever freight trains decide to do, even when this means a huge inconvenience for the passengers for what seems like an insignificant gain for the freight trains.

            4 votes
    2. Rez
      Link Parent
      The U.S. train rail freight network is actually pretty much top in the world already, beating out countries in Asia and Europe. We just politically choose to prioritize cargo over passengers for...

      The U.S. train rail freight network is actually pretty much top in the world already, beating out countries in Asia and Europe. We just politically choose to prioritize cargo over passengers for our train lines - it's an important distinction whether we're talking about freight or passenger trains. But since we aren't riding those trains, the average person isn't really aware of that dynamic.

      4 votes
    3. meff
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      FWIW the US has a world-class freight-train network and is one of the only countries in the world that relies heavily on freight to move goods and natural resources intranationally. Building...

      FWIW the US has a world-class freight-train network and is one of the only countries in the world that relies heavily on freight to move goods and natural resources intranationally. Building distribution centers and retail businesses along train tracks would be a massive undertaking as there's little prior art. Train cars optimized for these routes do not accelerate and decelerate in the safer ways that passenger rail does, though with PTC that might not be as much of an issue anymore. Because loading and unloading these trains is a bespoke process, there's no guarantee that freight cars would be at grade with folks loading and unloading freight, and indeed any modifications needed to load/unload at grade would probably require expensive infrastructure improvements that would both be borne by retail businesses (which means they won't be able to/want to pay for it) and have to be approved by code in what is mostly a commercial area (and given zoning restrictions in the US, I doubt a commercial zone would easily approve of the modifications necessary.) Not to mention the costs/uproar with acquiring the RoW, laying down the trackage, etc.

      Much more impactful, IMO, would be to mandate that freight trains in the US are electrified. Right now mots of them run diesel locomotives and have little intention to electrify because of the costs associated.

      3 votes
    4. [4]
      Nivlak
      Link Parent
      Do you think drone shipping would be a suitable replacement? I really don’t know anything about them. Was just curious.

      Do you think drone shipping would be a suitable replacement? I really don’t know anything about them. Was just curious.

      1. krg
        Link Parent
        Think about how many packages a truck can carry vs. a drone. I feel like the sun would be blotted out by drones delivering packages (though I accept this feeling can be quelled by some cold hard...

        Think about how many packages a truck can carry vs. a drone. I feel like the sun would be blotted out by drones delivering packages (though I accept this feeling can be quelled by some cold hard compelling facts on air drone shipping).

        5 votes
      2. [2]
        vektor
        Link Parent
        They might actually synergize with trains reasonably here: Parsley above makes a good point that rail infrastructure isn't abundant enough to make train shipping reasonable. Sure, companies could...

        They might actually synergize with trains reasonably here: Parsley above makes a good point that rail infrastructure isn't abundant enough to make train shipping reasonable. Sure, companies could rely more on rail, but until we get some serious innovation there, that's just not feasible.

        Compare though a rail-based warehouse that dispatches trains of goods to towns: Every town gets a car full of boxes, which are then distributed within the town using drones. Drones might become a viable last-mile delivery option, imo. Certainly better than 3-ton trucks stopping at every home.

        3 votes
        1. Greg
          Link Parent
          Also worth adding that last mile drones can look like this, which is inherently more energy efficient than the quadcopter most of us probably initially imagined.

          Also worth adding that last mile drones can look like this, which is inherently more energy efficient than the quadcopter most of us probably initially imagined.

          4 votes