Californians Continue to Purchase Less Gas

Dec 18th, 2012 | Posted by

Out of Gas 2

According to the State Board of Equalization, gas consumption has fallen again in California:

Continuing a general trend of year-over-year declines, in-state gasoline consumption in August totaled 1.26 billion gallons, down 1.1 percent from the same month in 2011, according to the latest statistics released by the State Board of Equalization.

July gas use totaled 1.23 billion gallons.

While hybrid and electric vehicles are on the road in increasing numbers, and other fuel efficient vehicles are joining them, that doesn’t explain the whole drop. As gas prices spiked over the summer (again) Californians were again confronted with the need to find ways to reduce gas consumption. Not everyone can rush out to buy a new car. That makes public transportation, including high speed intercity rail, a necessity.

Gas prices will only keep rising in the years to come. If public transit options aren’t available, then what you’ll see is people taking fewer trips. That’s not good for the economy, and rising gas prices will throttle economic recovery.

Californians are signaling they’re ready for those alternatives. Whether it’s a local bus, a streetcar, a light rail line, a subway, a commuter train, or a bullet train, California needs more of it as soon as possible.

  1. BMF of San Diego
    Dec 18th, 2012 at 22:15

    Californians are increasingly using alternative transportation, particularly rail. The shift in commuting habits can be attributed to a number of reasons. Gas prices is only one. Probably a small one at that. Likely having greater influence is the continued change among younger demographics to postpone purchasing private autos…. either related to shifting priorities after assigning greater mobility or independence with social media, or, the increasing cost of car owner shift and decreasing mobility due to congestion. Certainly additional factors are also at play.

    Let’s list the rail public transit providers in California that have seen ridership increases:
    LA Metro Rail
    Sacramento Light Rail?
    San Diego Coaster?
    San Diego Trolley?
    San Francisco Muni?

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Capital Corridor also has ridership increases

    Nathanael Reply:

    Metrolink (in the LA region)
    Sprinter (yes, really)

    Basically we’re into a can’t-fail period for passenger rail; any half-competent route will attract a lot of people.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not to worry, there are plenty of routes that fail the “half-competent” test. And even competent routes are often built out, and very hard to raise ridership on because of a) high construction costs for extensions and b) political resistance to upzoning.

    In the 2000s, the only US cities that saw large increases in transit mode share – in both cases about 3 percentage points – were New York and Washington. The rest either increased much less, or didn’t move at all.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    To clarify, I’m talking about absolute increases, not relative ones. Some cities did see large percentage increases but started from such a low base that it worked out to just 1 percentage point of total commuters.

    See data here. Yeah, it’s New Geography, but it’s Aaron Renn writing there, and the numbers are sound. (I think once I even used Demographia numbers for London rail ridership, in the absence of a trustworthier source. And Aaron is not Wendell Cox, not even close.)

    joe Reply:

    Looking at the link I am unimpressed. I guess So What?

    “If one were to guess the #2 city for transit commuting, another older, pre-auto, centralized city on the lines of New York (say Chicago) might be the obvious guess. It would also be wrong. It’s actually Washington, DC that has the second highest transit commute share among large metros at 14.8%. Here’s the complete top ten:”

    DC is a pre-auto city – it has billions pump into the Metro and DC has such a high concentration CS jobs and the metro area has this pentagon-thingy.

    Also – DC has had fantastic job growth due to Homneland Security and defense spending. NYC has this wall street thing going on too. The two cities that have industires most resilient to the GreAT Depression.

    And we get this awesome context free analysis of their transit systems.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    It’s really easy to explain. Congestion is a bitch and getting worse. Parking is scarce, expensive or both. … I’ve been turned away from a parking garage in Manhattan because it was full. It wasn’t the first one I had tried. The rate was $25 for the first hour. Highest price I’ve seen worked out to $47 for the first hour, on the Upper East Side. IIRC $25 for the first 15 minutes, 15 for the second 15 and 7 per half hour after that. Max of 90 for 12 hours. Surcharge if you wanted to park overnight.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Washington is not a pre-auto metro area at all. It was not part of the prewar manufacturing belt, whose southern end was Baltimore, and it’s had immense growth in the last few decades; most US metro areas with these characteristics are in the Sunbelt and have trivial transit usage. But in Washington the central parts and inner suburbs developed at higher density because of good TOD and transit investments, like Vancouver but with somewhat worse results (15% vs. 21% share).

    And the excuses you’re making for why New York and Washington are special don’t hold water. Washington is recession-proof, but so what? The business cycle doesn’t influence long-term transportation mode choice. (New York isn’t even recession-proof; the finance industry is extremely recession-prone, and New York’s per capita income growth numbers in growth years vs. recession years bear this out.) The federal government is a big employer, but it also crowds out private employment, since Washington job density has a sharp cap coming from the height limits.

    If anything, San Francisco has a much more transit-favorable geography, because of the choke points across the bridges, and does not have the downtown height limits. So it’s worth asking why the Washington Metro has much higher ridership than BART and why Washington’s transit usage grows faster than San Francisco’s.

  2. StevieB
    Dec 18th, 2012 at 23:59

    California gasoline usage continues to decrease even as California’s population grew last fiscal year by 256,000 residents due to natural births. In a new report from the state Department of Finance California had 503,000 births last fiscal year, 234,000 deaths and a net migration of 13,000 people who left the state.

    Peter Reply:

    Wow, I didn’t realize we still had a 2:1 birth:death ratio in California.

    Eric Reply:

    It’s the Hispanics, immigrants and children of immigrants. The mostly-white established population who most of us probably hang out with probably have a close to 1:1 ratio.

  3. D. P. Lubic
    Dec 19th, 2012 at 04:34

    We have a declining car usage from a combination of factors despite an increasing population base (at least in California), a part of our economic woes stem from our over-reliance on driving and its attendant oil consumption, we have a variety of environmental concerns in which our driving is also a factor, and in addition to all this, all these transit and rail systems have had increasing ridership, and yet the chattering political class and certain others still fight this and other rail projects?

    Are those people that delusional? Oh, wait, one of their more prominent members–Karl Rove–right on the eve of the last election predicted his candidate would win at about the margin the actual winner had. Talk about failure to check the (poll) numbers!!

    Hmmm, how do you deal with a fairly large portion of the population that is in such a state of denial? Especially if that portion of the population is either very rich or very well armed–and in some cases, are members of your own family?

  4. StevieB
    Dec 19th, 2012 at 12:08

    Hotel News Now reports Hotel developers eye high-speed rail hubs.

    While the development of a high-speed rail system in the U.S. is still in the beginning stages, the project—once completed—is likely to enhance connectivity, grow the economy and increase travel, sparking interest from hotel developers who will be looking to accommodate the inevitable influx of travelers across the rails.

    Hotel executives see enormous opportunities locating hotels at high speed rail stations.

    Nancy Johnson, executive VP of development at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, said high-speed rail would be responsible for the “evolution of hotel locations,” connecting airport locations and high-speed rail stations to urban centers and suburban or rural locations along the track.

    On top of the rail yards north of Union Station in Washington, D.C. is planned the 3-million square foot Burnham Place project, which will include 500 hotel rooms as well as retail, apartments and offices, as a 20-year initiative and will be built in multiple phases. David Tuchmann, VP of development at real estate development company Akridge explains the company reasoning.

    “It will take a couple of decades; we’ll be building a neighborhood,” he said. The plan also allows for further growth, including high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor. The project is expected to generate $14.3 billion in economic benefit to the D.C. area over the next 15 years, according to an Akridge news release in July. “One of the major reasons we’re invested in this project is because we believe that rail travel is not only one of the most convenient ways to get around but will continue to grow,”

    Hotel construction is just part of a mixed use equation.

    Tuchmann said to maximize the value of their development and its impact on neighborhoods and the city, “you want to have a mixed-use program.” The synergy between office space, apartment, retail, food-and-beverage outlets, as well as hotels is attractive to tourists. A hotel, “which provides an 18 hour a day environment energizes the whole place,” and makes the other outlets, especially retail, more viable, he said.

    High speed rail is seen as a way to revitalize urban cores that have lost patronage.

    Johnson, who blames urban sprawl for infrastructure inefficiencies in city centers, said high-speed rail “would be changing the prime location for a hotel. The infrastructure of the city would be much more concentrated and more efficient. You would see more concentration into a major city for the hotel industry.” It will “pull travelers back to urban areas and city centers,” she said. “There’s a recentralization of communities and more people are headed back to metropolitan areas.”

    joe Reply:


    Gilroy’s HSR ENVISIONING PROJECT recommended a Downtown alignment and envisioned significant landuse changes such as a hotel and other high density development.

    One type: “New Mixed-Use Development: Convention Center, Hotel, Office.”

    It displaces single story shopping centers.

    See Slide 38.

  5. Jeff Carter
    Dec 19th, 2012 at 15:54

    Robert writes: “According to the State Board of Equalization gas consumption has fallen again in California”

    More people are using public transportation…

    How is this possible?

    Remember increasing gas prices have very little to do with increased transit ridership, just ask Richard Mlynarik or ask Caltrain.

    BMF from San Diego Reply:

    I’d agree, gas prices have a small effect. I said as much above.

    Joe Reply:

    Study showed asymetrical switching between car/gas and transit in response to price increases.

    Increases in gas price pushed drivers to switch to transit. Decreases in gas prices dud NOT result in a full return to pre-increase car use. People stuck with transit.

  6. Reality Check
    Dec 19th, 2012 at 16:43

    In case anyone’s interested, Caltrain has posted the November JPB meeting presentation on CBOSS:
    Communication Based Overlay Signal System Project Status

  7. Paul Dyson
    Dec 19th, 2012 at 18:59

    Heard yesterday from a reliable source that PTC will cause a thirty minute turn round at a terminus while the system is reconfigured and satellites are locked on. How many platforms will Caltrain need at San Francisco?

    Peter Reply:

    Pretty sure they won’t be getting satellite service 30 feet below the surface in SF. Somehow I find your reliable source’s information unlikely. Not saying that CBOSS will NOT have stupid limitations like this, but there has to be something else in place for TBT and DTX.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    They can always stack the station and build 6 + 6 with a full-length mezzanine. If it works for East Side Access, it’ll work on this coast.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The LIRR is only building 4 over 4. ARC was going to be 3 over 3…

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought ARC was 2 over 4?

    But yeah, ESA is 4 over 4. Never mind that; let’s do 6 + 6 + 6 at Transbay. What could possibly go wrong?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    IIRC they started out with 4 over 4 and decided that 3 over 3 was adequate considering that Water Tunnel 3 will be completed in 2020 and the rail tunnels don’t reach capacity until 2035-ish. They reconsidered because 34th Street isn’t wide enough for 4 over 4 and they would have been encroaching on foundations of buildings. Macy’s Basement if you will.
    Connect up with the tail tracks on 37th street and run through…
    If it had been built, I speculate that it would have been a repeat of Midtown Direct and their projections of when they would reach capacity would be wildly long. ( Would have cut 5 minutes off NEC and NJCL trains and 15 off M&E trains scheduled run times. Who knows what one seat rides from Bergen County would have done )

    joe Reply:

    I have no idea what is meant by “reconfigured” or “and satellites are locked on”.

    Precision Ag has a solution.
    I know studies that established these precise systems to do precise field ecology and resample/measure individual plants.

    So put one or more in the TBT tunnel

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Paul Dyson:

    (I heard that a) PTC will cause a thirty minute turn round at a terminus while the system is reconfigured and satellites are locked on

    We’re still 3 months out from April 1st Mr Dyson. If anyone is seriously suggesting a design where walking the motorman’s handle to the other end of the train requires a full reset of the onboard PTC system, along with the inability to perform any of the current turn-around tasks while this reset occurs, then they don’t know what they’re talking about.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Quite. But, unfortunately, it’s all too plausible that “they don’t know what they’re talking about”.
    Remember BART AATC?

    Personallhy, I think using a GPS-based system, designed for long, low-traffic-volume, single-line freight rail networks, on the short, double-tracked (minimum) Peninsula is _silly_. ETCS Level 1 could have been up and running for less than half the CBOSS contract cost — if anyone who “knows what they’re doing” was involved. Example: Auckland’s ETCS contract with Invensys (formerly Westinghouse Rail Systems) cost !$70M.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    There’s absolutely no call for GPS or DGPS or anything remotely related, above-ground or under-ground.

    A simple ETCS (or ETCS-like) passive balise transmitting a few dozen bytes of data costs well under $1k.

    (And in fact for low-traffic lines the balises aren’t so much transmitting new data to the on-board systems as they are providing positive confirmation that the on-board database and odometer are functioning correctly.)

    One could deploy passive local-fixing balises every few dozen feet for less than cost of CBOSS.

    If anybody — and that means the outright, unambiguous crimiinals responsible for the CBOSS program of systematic and deliberate fraud — is suggesting that secure satellite positioning is in any way necessary for secure and safe operation of a tiny little regional 80km regional shuttle line with negligible levels of traffic and negligible numbers of passengers well, then … they’re guilty of outright, unambiguous, systematic and deliberate fraud.

    joe Reply:

    AND…that Fraud or possible fraud should be reported to the GAO which is actively investigating the CAHSRA.

    eport Federal Funds Fraud
    How to submit allegations:

    Fill out a FraudNet form
    Call toll-free: 1-800-424-5454 (an automated answering system)
    Fax: (202) 512-3086
    GAO FraudNet
    441 G Street NW
    Mail Stop 4T21
    Washington, DC 20548

    What information to submit: Provide as much detail as possible. You do not need to provide your name.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Would you report Bush’s Iraq War lies to the GAO?

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